Giorgio Celin, "Pajaros del Atlantico 1", 80 x 90 cm, oil on linen; "Traicion", 80 x 100 cm, oil on linen; "Nostalgia caribe", 100 x 100 cm, oil and oil stick on canvas; "Figures 24", 80 x 115 cm, oil on canvas; "The waves", 100 x 88 cm, oil on canvas; "La Soledad de Personaje Personaje", 60 x 90 cm, oil and oil stick on canvas.
Q: Is the medium you use important in portraying your identity as an artist?
A: Yes and no. No, because great work can be born out of every technique, a masterly approach or a completely naive one. If recent art history has taught us something it is precisely this: technique doesn’t really matter in the construction of a great work of art. On the other hand, yes. Oil painting is a very ancient and respected form of art. It is one of the highest forms and very representative of the great Western traditions, whatever that means. Generally speaking, an immigrant like me, coming from a working class/low-income kind of family, is not supposed to follow an art career. That’s never an option for us. Somehow, it ends up being a political choice: using a visual language that belongs to the elites, to the institutions, to the great museums, to the tradition of the white colonial powers, means something to me. It’s like saying “we belong to this space too” and “we can tell our own stories and they are important too”. Where I come from is very important in my identity as an artist.
Q: Does being unclothed naturally give sexual connotations to a person in a portrait?
A: A naked body will always be sexualized whether it’s a conscious response to it or not. It’s impressive for me how much we still react to a naked body, which is our natural state if you think about it. I did a lot of work on the naked body: stripped away from our clothes we are, somehow, very similar. That’s where the expression “naked as a worm” comes from: naked, we are very similar to one another, with the same fears and the same loneliness. Even if nudity is not necessarily linked to sexual intercourse (which in my work was often the case), it immediately takes you to a more intimate and vulnerable state of the human being. A more honest one. Recently I started to put more clothes on my figures for the same reason that I took them away before: clothes and fashion say a lot about who we are and the space in which we move inside society.
Q: If you as a maker look at the portrait you made, do you see a reflection of yourself despite another person in the image?
A: My motto is “everything is a self-portrait” so yes, definitely. Everything I make, even if it’s the portrait of someone else, is my creation, a picture that I have imagined and constructed. I never paint reality, otherwise I think I would have chosen a different medium. I use a visual language that resembles reality so I can communicate the story I want to tell. It’s a language that everyone knows, and anyone can read, no matter their social position or art education.
So, the image of that person is used to tell that specific story and, ultimately, mine. I guess I just didn’t want to use my face over and over like Van Gogh did.
Q: In addition to the representation of the figure in the image in (a) (your) particular style, do you also choose a theme?
A: I tend to work on series. I choose a theme from the discussions within myself that I think will make for interesting images and I develop it on multiple layers. Eventually the series just ends naturally when I feel like I explored enough, like I resolved the questions I had within myself with the work I made.
In my latest series “Pajaros del Atlantico” I explore what it means and what it looks like to live and make paintings from the context of the Latin American diaspora: the nostalgia and the sense of belonging (or not) to the country where you were born but you had to leave for some reason.
Q: Should a portrait be timeless, or should it have everything in it to be dated in the long run, and therefore, just testify to the 'here and now'?