Jorge Charrua doesn't paint people's portraits as much as he paints how they're feeling. He conveys this not through the subject's enigmatic expressions, but through the overall mood of the piece.
If Jorge Charrua's portraits came with a soundtrack, it would be produced by Burial. The atmospheric and gritty urban beats would provide the required dimension for Charrua's portraits to walk away from their frames and live their lives - moody, stoic, lost.
The sense of nostalgia pervades Charrua's intimate portraits. He draws on his childhood, the 90s. Hip-hop and videos games permeate the paintings - in the style he uses and the style of the protagonists. Charrua's thought-process on art is, at the very essence, about making something happen.
He admires the video game music producer Yuzo Koshiro, of 'Streets of Rage' infamy. The earlier days of Koshiro's craft were dictated by limits. The technology available to make the sounds was a challenge, but the memory that computer consoles and memory cards had was the real limiter. What it created was a narrow space that would allow only the most creative, in ideas and in the way they were conveyed, to thrive. When Charrua wanted to start making the art that he desired, he realised that he too would have to make sacrifices, that he too would have to reconfigure things to work in his favour. He still lives by the idea that if nothing exists that he likes, he can re-build things to suit him.
This is most apparent in the way he uses the background of his images almost as another piece unto itself. The characters dominate the scene. The scale of the pieces are huge so their presence is foreboding, yet alluring. They would be a looming spectre on the pieces if it weren't for the background levelling it out. They are somewhat relatable - especially for those that, like him, grew up in the 90s.
Another unique aspect of Charrua's worldview is his complete re-negotiation of the significance of street and gallery. Sometimes we are at fault for our reputations and stereotypes - we box ourself into something and then make sure we can't escape. Instead of doing this, becoming a creator of work-for-the-street and work-for-the-gallery, Charrua paints the feeling and the form comes in a way that transcends any environment. He can paint it in a studio and take it out onto the street or vice versa. The emphasis must always be on the work.
The portraits focus on deep expression. Conveyed firstly by the main character and then deepened or contextualised by what features in the background (song lyrics, symbols). The portraits are melancholic, they drip with a sense of longing or forgotten memory, of a past that was never realised and is coming to fruition in the current incarnation of art. Sometimes the background adds to the characters pathos, other times it stands in opposition. This is Charrua's way of creating his own narrative - it's the story contained within a story.
Who are these people? I'm not the only one to ask Charrua or to wonder about it - he assures me that he's heard it before. The people are personifications of the melancholic nature of existence. They don't have an identity beyond what it is that they show us - what it is they make us feel. Inside us all are these characters, but also many more. He's given sadness a face that's urban, contemporary and relatable. We've all seen his portraits before - usually when we look in the mirror and see that version of ourselves.
When Charrua sees people, he sees them like this. Their scars stand out - the emotional ones as much as the physical. Their pervasive presence amongst his older peers growing up was a warning sign of young adulthood. You're going to be like us too, you'll develop your own scars. Charrua's way of dealing with this is through a head-on confrontation. He paints them, over and over and over - understanding them more intimately and maturely as he grows as an artist.
His work is a mixture of styles, his very own configuration. This means that he is able to explore new channels without the preconceived notions that would usually hinder an artists growth. Whatever he does though, he is certain that it has to be done with the intention of extracting as much meaning as possible. There's no excess flab here. If you can see it, you should read it. Charrua is a shy guy with a burning passion for his art. A youth spent immersed in video games has turned into an adulthood immersed in art. This total immersion is essential. To portray melancholia, one of the most powerful human emotions - this is the only way to be.
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