Sebas Velasco is a Spanish-born artist with a proclivity for capturing the ebbs and flows of our contemporary life. It's not confined to the urban though, he manages to encapsulate all sectors of society, from white-collar workers to burned out cars. His paintings are contemporary snapshots of our complex lives.
The artwork itself is deeply expressive. His figures are like ghostly apparitions that have found themselves unexpectedly fully formed. Full of blood and bones, wrapped tightly in flesh. They're there, but without our attention being turned onto them. They might as well be invisible.
Velasco's depictions capture the people that don't make the headlines, rather the ones that buy the paper. They're the barista with the name you'll never know who makes the great coffee. They're awkward introductions that are necessary. By painting them in such a way he is able to bridge a gap that society has widened into a chasm.
His worlds exist on walls as well as canvas, although the technique rarely changes. It's interesting then the effect that context can have. On canvas, they naturally feel more thought-through and reflective - such is the nature of painting. On the wall, considering their legality and life expectancy, they feel more immediate and hard-hitting. Walking by one of his portraits is to feel something living beside you. Although these may be real people, they feel enough like composites that we can all relate to them. Their faces are looking for something. They ooze a willingness to be found. They're alienated in a time when we're better connected than ever before.
It's not just people that are able to convey the 'state-of-things' language that flows from Velasco's thick brush-strokes. Another common motif is the car. Cars, as an object, are a means of getting from one place to another. If they're sitting still, stagnant and unmoving, it says as much about the car as the owner. If the cars going nowhere, neither will the owner be.
This sense of stagnation, entropy and decay pervades the work. The cars themselves look run-down, and when they're painted on walls they have the physicality of a car stilted up by bricks after the wheels have been stolen or burned out in fields after joyriders have had their fun.
Reflective of their environment, the murals (people or otherwise) are raw and gritty. They're housed in places that lack reflection. Life is a motion that will continue to move even if you don't take part. It goes by fast from your window, from your car, from a park bench. The people moving are the people living and working. The rat race has ensnared many and stripped them of the ability to meaningfully exist. It's in these housing estates that his works often live. In the places we are least likely to stop and think, Velasco gives us a reason to.
Housing estates, particularly the brutalist aesthetic of the former Soviet Bloc interest and inform Velasco. In a show this year, Nobody's Home, he borrowed the title from a book by the Croatian writer Dubravka Ugrešić. Ugrešić's work explores the idea of home and exile. She looks at the reasons why we feel at home (or don't) and what we mean by that strange word, 'home'.
It's through her lens that Velasco further probes into such notions. An obsession with former Yugoslavia has led him to research the area and the cultural cornerstones that are associated with it. It is through this unique geopolitical curiosity that he was able to develop his thoughts. It was one country that has now fractured into many. Are the identities stronger now? Were they frail before, held up simply by a charismatic leader? It's difficult to know the facts, especially when we are dealing with issues like 'home' that are so deeply imbued with emotion. What he chose to do was depict as faithfully as he could the everyday life of the people. It's a spring-board for our own thoughts to form.
In choosing to look at their identity this way, there can be no blurred lines beyond the ones created by his emotive hands. The body of work looks like blurred photographs of a time that many romanticise and many revile. The sad and ironic banner than flies over most of his paintings seems to be 'progress' and the question of what that really means. If we are alienating our fellow people and destroying our cities - has anything actually moved on? It's this strange flux of our modern lives that Velasco has dedicated his life to understanding. The biggest question that now hangs over his head must surely be - if there has been such little progress yet so much change, what will it take for things to actually move forward?
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