I missed posting an interview last week so time to rectify that in style today. As you probably put together with the title, I´ve had the pleasure of interviewing Argentinian artist Juanjo Surace. Juanjo resides in Barcelona and every few months creates one of his frightening yet vulnerable characters on the streets. It´s a real delight to share this interview with you all, enjoy!
Hi Juanjo how are you? Tell us a little about yourself…
I was born in Argentina in the late 70s, and in 95 I started to paint as a self taught, then, in 98 I moved to Barcelona, the city where I live actually. Here I developed most of my artistic activity, combining my work as an animator and character designer. Right now I am teaching in 2 universities, where I teach topics related with digital and traditional animation.
When did you ﬁrst start spraying on walls?
My first contact with spray paint was at the end of 2017.
What was the original inspiration for grabbing a spray can for the ﬁrst time?
To be honest it was a random chance. They invited me to be part of a street art event together with other artists. I had already painted some walls with acrylic paint, but it was the first time that I have fond myself playing with spray. I enjoyed the experience, learning a new technique was nice. I also enjoyed the feeling of painting in the street. When you speak with the people around you there a special atmosphere. I appreciate the different interpretations coming from people of every age, nationalities, political beliefs or social class. I love that the Art is something for everybody and not just in galleries and museums.
Do you like to work with a sketch or just freestyle?
Usually, I work with some draft pretty much finished that defines the color palette, even if sometimes I had to improvise and adapt to the specific wall. I think that the two options offer you different experiences to enjoy.
What’s the inspiration behind your work? A never ending list of things right?!
I do not believe in the idea of inspiration as a magic moment, something that hits you. I see it as a more rational result of work, I think a lot about what I want to convey and how I want to convey it. From the moment that I know that I want to talk about a topic, I investigate it and get information about it, starting to plan on paper. Year after year I tend to change topic, technique and estetique, in order to touch subjects that I am interested into or somehow affects me, as an individual and as part of a disfuncional society.
Is a piece ever ﬁnished in your eyes or could you keep going back to touch it up?
It is never over, I could always get to another level of quality. it is also true that in this obsession there are times that you can be wrong and the piece loses the freshness that it had. You need to know when to stop, and I still need to learn.
Do you prefer legal or illegal painting?
Mostly I paint legally. I think that untill there is a full opening of the Arts in the streets, illegal painting is necessary and accomplish a social funcion. Illegal Street Art must exist without any doubt.
You recently collaborated with Ru8icon on a wall in Barcelona for Arnau Gallery. How was that as an experience?
It has been good and easy to work together. With Rubi we shared an artistic residence in the Kensington neighbourhood in Philadelphia, a project created by him and Claudio Ethos with the help of Mural Arts Philadelphia, where also Simon Vazquez participated. But except that experience, we never collaborated before. With the wall at Arnau Gallery everything was very organic since the first moment. We were linked by the passion for painting and the Kensington experience. So we started to work in this direction: we worked on a short movie that Rubi had shot while we were in Philadelphia and that felt like a good postcard of the neighbourhood. I like his work, we know each other’s way of painting, the direction that the artwork had to take was clear and the conversations about it pretty constructive. A great experience.
I know so many of you artists have such a great feel and are able to just freestyle and work together but surely for a wall this detailed you came together and mapped out some ideas ﬁrst?
The process was pretty crazy, I was in Argentina and Rubi in Barcelona, so the real preproduction was when I came back, just 3 days before painting. We did a line mapping on the old mural and a color draft as reference. On the whole it took totally another direction.
Your creatures look both terrifying and vulnerable at the same time. I have to ask you, where does the inspiration behind your characters come from?
I always try to have the first impression of my art be more accessible, leading the viewer to get a deeper message, occasionally more hidden. The creatures in the artwork from the Arnau Gallery represents the death of the people as a life companion. A sort of imaginary friend who appears in different dimensions depending on the different moments of life.
Do you have any crazy ideas/projects that you’d love to do one day?
I have some projects started, but I do not talk much about them. I am restless and always generating ideas.
What do you like to do with your non-painting time?
I like Nature, to travel, to eat and to enjoy my beloved ones. I also enjoy to get to know new things in general: movies, literature, art shows etc.
What’s the ideal soundtrack to a day’s painting?
It depends on the day and the state of mind, it could be Beatles, Astor Piazzolla, Charles Mingus, Pixies, Primus, Pink Floyd, Hermeto Pascoal, King Crimson, Miles Davis, Frank Zappa, Nine Inch Nails, etc… I like a lot of music and I tend to listen to a lot of different ones.
If you could have one super power for the day what would you choose?!
None, I do not prefer the superheroes. I do not like somebody who plays with some sort of advantage. I like those who fight knowing that maybe there is no possible victory…But flying would not be bad.
What’s next for Juanjo?