17 DECEMBER 2017
BANAIZ: The Art of complementary contradictions
Jon Jauregui Zubeldia, aka BANAIZ, was born in 1976 in Urnieta, Gipuzkoa, in the Spanish side of the Basque Country, and he defines himself as a militant creative is all aspects of his life: personal, artistic and professional.
A married father of two beautiful daughters, his artistic life straddles various fields. In music, he released four records with his pop-rock band MATERIA, but since fatherhood he has left the live concert circuit to start a solo project. He also wrote an unpublished novel but is in 2012, with the fortuitous arrival of a soft pastels case, that were in fact for this four year old daughter, that he discovers the world of painting and its extraordinary possibilities.
Ever since, his career is snowballing with more than 300 works and 100 paintings sold in the last five years, and a number of group and solo exhibitions, and internationals festivals and art fairs under his belt.
From the very beginning, BANAIZ feels the attraction for two very different currents in painting: the realistic portrait and abstract expressionism.
Within portraiture, he attempts above all to master techniques and the use of various materials and tools, and encouraged by small but continuous successes he enters the deeper world of abstraction.
He strives to reach the expression of the subject in the most conceptual way possible, leaning on a sober and rather stern realism.
He realised that realistic portraiture does not equip him with the tools required to embark the conceptual themes he is really interested in, and so he started to distinct separate projects with the intuition that these will rejoin in the future to further enrich this philosophical universe he aims to show.
The concept of paternity and the idea of returning to the future through the education of children is a main topic of inspiration. To relive, even reformulate that essence that traps us in our childhood, through our children.
To create a sort of apnoea and encounter again, in the depths, all that universe build in the innocence of childhood. BANAIZ ‘Return to the Future’ series is where he begins to mix figurative and abstraction, starting from elements related to his own daughters.
Another core theme in his work is the concept of ‘spam’ understood as a byproduct of our current lifestyle of excessive consumption, spam email, fake news, rogue advertising, the epidemic of social media, endemic overpopulation, cancer, etc. A full amalgamation of ‘conceptual rubbish’ accumulated by excess production and consumption.
Prevailing topics of his works are also: infinite loops, 3D Geometry, chaos, chance, and human expression (gaze and hand movements) as the reflection of the soul.
Finally it needs highlighting his keen interest in the co-existence of opposites within each work (yin-yang). Hence he doesn’t hesitate in combining contradictory concepts, forms, techniques, and materials in the same piece, to generate a tense dialogue amongst such elements and between the work and the viewer.
How does your music, and your writing informs your paintings, and vice versa.
Everything is born of a common place: creativity. There is a need to create, and all languages are valid. Any form of expression can be used to express my truth. Each discipline brings different and enriching shades.
How to you balance figurative work with abstraction? Do you envisage this to be a lifelong equilibrium or is this just a phase?
When I started painting, I opened two very different paths, deliberately. On the one hand, the figurative portrait, to work the technique and the use of the materials in the more academic sense. And, on the other hand, also started to create my own universe: the abstract, where I unleash my imagination, with the aim of finding myself as a human being, without limits. Anyway, my goal is to unite the two styles in one only. I always ask the same question: how do you paint your mother, for example? Simply painting her face is impossible to capture all the emotions that connect you with her. The artist has to explore more abstract concepts to express these deep emotions. I believe that a mixture between figure and abstraction brings us closer to the absolute truth of reality.
How to you chose the subjects of your portraits?
Most of the portraits I make are requests. In these cases I don’t have to search for subjects. But when I paint other portraits, I try to find people who transmit force in their eyes. Normally are universal characters from the world of art: Frida Kahlo, Woody Allen, Andy Warhol, Herman Hesse etc. Sometimes people ask me to portray children. It is a very difficult task. They have very soft features, and it is very difficult to paint these innocent faces. I have a tendency, because of my way of painting, to harden the factions very much, and that is why I look for characters that transmit force. They enhance my way of painting.
The creative Darwinism method that you follow to progress your paintings is truly interesting. How much credit does this method has in the exponential growth of your work in recent years?
This method is a fundamental pillar of my abstract work. It helps me find my truth, my most primitive part, which is what I’m really looking for. In addition, the method is very simple. Basically, I’ve created a universe where I am God.
Only I have the ability to create and destroy in this particular universe without limits in order to create an image where everything fits into my vision of perfection. I am solely responsible for the evolution of the work. The name of the method is DARWINIAN CREATIVITY. First, I took photographs of the objects that surround me. I make a selection of these items and I’m combining them together. Genre different digital prototyping (phase 1) and leave to stand. Among all the prototypes, I choose only one (eliminating the rest of prototypes) and return it to combine with other elements, created more advanced digital prototypes evolutionarily (phase 2). Repeat these steps as many times as necessary until a final image. One of the most interesting issues of this method is that all the evolution of the work is documented. After reviewing it, you can go back to work in previous phases to change the final result. The possibilities are endless. You have to follow your instinct to get something to convince you. You do not have to think. You do not use reason. This method forces you to dive very deep in the subconscious, because it forces you to decide before you act. In the end, once taken all the decisions, you can attack the canvas safely conveying a sense of freshness very close to POP ART.
You’ve won ‘fast painting’ awards, have you considered street art?
Yes, and I am very interested! I have a proposal to make a mural. Little by little, I’m doing bigger works. Paint a mural can be a very interesting option to do something really big.
I spend more time “feeling” a picture that painting it.
A topic you frequently tackle in your work is the concept of parenthood and the education of children. What can parents do to engage kids with creativity and art appreciation? What can society and institutions do?
It’s complicated. I think that creativity is something that can’t be taught. You can teach techniques, but know technique does not guarantee the ability to express feelings. I always say that in my case, I spend more time “feeling” a picture that painting it. The question is not to paint or write or play an instrument… the question is to express. For express something it is necessary to have experience. To be. That is not taught. Personally, fatherhood has brought to me a very powerful life experience that I try to express through painting. I have created a serial called “Back to the Future”, where explain the return to my own past through the experiences I have now with my daughters.
This economic system has made COMPETITIVENESS a dogma. And in art it is impossible to compete.
Another topic reflected in your work is the ‘Spam’ and the lifestyle of excessive consumption. How do you think this is affecting artists and creatives, and society’s appreciation of their work?
All the real and virtual waste is already part of our lives and I think it necessary to reflect it in my work. In this Neoliberal consumer society in which economic growth has to be continuous to sustain the capitalist system, advantageous to a very small percentage of the population, we are increasingly producing and destroying both real and virtual objects.
We have reached levels of consumption that struggle with the scarcity of natural resources, increasingly deteriorated. In addition, in the midst of all this great problem is also the exponential growth of the world population in the last century. Humanity is out of control. I believe that the solution to this great global problem is to virtualize consumption, in order to preserve the much needed natural resources. I’m talking about neuroscience and technology. Ciborgs. To create a virtual parallel world, etc. And in all this chaos, I consider it necessary to reflect on the “spam” and the combination of digital and analog elements within my work. In addition, this economic system has made COMPETITIVENESS a dogma. And in art it is impossible to compete. How you are going to measure art. Based on what parameters? Art is being distorted in part because of these policies of extreme competitiveness to which aggressive capitalism leads us.
Vivid colours are omnipresent in your work, very intense pinks and turquoises . What is the role of colour in your work?
I use color to attract attention. To catch the observer. I use a lot of white and black stripes to get volume and rhythm. And combined with these stripes I try to look for harmony and composition in the combination of colors with great force. In addition, recently I mounted a fairly large exhibition in which I have had to show very new works and others older. And I have noticed that the colors I use have evolved. I have sophisticated them in the search of a personal palette and adjusted to my needs.