Artist Aníbal Vallejo

The South American painter talks about his Hockney inspired work, the meaning of life and his violent dream job

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Colombian painter Aníbal Vallejo seems at the crossroads of Harmony Korine’s ‘Gummo’ and Spike Jonze’s ‘Where the Wild Things are’. The Medellin-based artist depicts everyday occurrences, in a child, teenager, or adult life. His pieces reveal a bittersweet innocence, a brutal, yet candid honesty at times, a blasé awareness at others. In a post-Hockney, 60s influenced manner, he focuses on a selection of elements and blanks other out – the former as innocuous as the latter. He then adds an element of fantasy, flora, fauna, or a bizarre prop, and sets the scene for a glorified, twisted mundane everyday, that he accepts yet eternally reinvents. Dazed spoke to him...

Dazed Digital: What is your art saying?
Aníbal Vallejo: I talk about my personal experiences, about everything that I read, live see . I could describe my work as a journal of my interests… That tells what I cannot say with words.

DD: Which painters do you look at today?

AV: It is hard and unfair to gather them all but I will name some… Even though they are not directly reflected in my work, I would say Velasquez, El Bosco, even closer Edward Hopper, Francis Bacon, Lucien Freud, and more recent ones like Neo Rauch and all the school of Leipzig.
 
DD: What themes are at core in your work?
AV: Normal things. The day by day. Some news that caught my attention. I almost always start from a word found or a text that pushes me to keep on looking. Generally I work in series, I mean, ten, twelve pieces under a same theme that I randomly choose, almost in a whim way.

DD: You originally studied fashion design. Do you still perceive elements of fashion in your work?
AV: I really first studied art and then moved on to fashion design to complement my search as a painter.  In Fashion I saw plastic elements that in a way I could introduce in my work: the cloths for confection, the embroiders, the bijouterie, the gestuality of the thread. Although I never worked as a Fashion Designer I still embroider the dresses in my painting.

DD: Hockney seems quite a big influence in your work, and is even directly addressed in pieces such as 'Hockney never did it'. Why is that?

AV: Hockney gives me a sensation of wellbeing; I am referring to his paintings of the 60´s … With his marvelous pools, his beautiful and silence houses… Almost as a small perfect world… In ¨ Hockney never did it¨, besides being a tribute to the artist himself (I wish I had painted ¨ A Bigger Splash¨) I wanted to place myself for a short time in that space.


DD: Is your work inherently Colombian, despite your exhibiting abroad?

AV: Colombia will always be present in my work by the simplest fact that my work reflects my most intimate thoughts. But there is no main element concerning to the region that identifies it itself. Maybe it is the fact that since little, my parents gave me a lot of information through literature, encyclopedias among others; made my mind to open a step further from the frontiers… A mental dislodgement.
 
DD: How is your work received in Colombia? And abroad?
AV: When I showed my work for the first time in Colombia the general comment was one of a refreshing work. That went a bit out of what already had been seen in the country. Paradoxically being considered as a ¨International Language¨ opened the doors of museums and local collectors to me.


DD: What would you do if you weren't a painter?
AV: A Sniper (seriously!).


DD: If your work was one song, which one would it be?

AV: ¨Golden Cage¨ by The Whitest Boy Alive.
 
DD: What is the meaning of life?
AV: Do only what you want to do, each one in his own way and without caring about anything else… Contrary to what is believed, life is too long and monotonous to spend it in boring things.
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