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Photography Gonzalo Resti

Visual artist Gonzalo Resti on mutation and metamorphosis

The Buenos Aires-based creative opens up about the non-binary identities and disruptive universe they photograph

No matter how closely you zoom into the fascinating mutations and radical make-up displayed in Gonzalo ‘Gon’ Resti’s provocative photography, the line between the real and the digital is indiscernible, indelibly blurred. Are those extremely long sharp talons really coming out of the bridge of the model’s nose? What is that strange liquid splattered on that model’s face? Not sure, but it’s like all your favourite AR Instagram filters have come to life (elf ears included) scrolling down the visual artist’s feed. These models are part of the same supernatural universe and, assumedly, transformed with the help of paint, prosthetics, and Photoshop, the result of Resti’s constant collaboration with an eclectic range of friends and international make-up artists.

“When I develop a concept, I start with the textures and continue with the colour and the mood, then the choice of a model with the stylist,” the Buenos Aires-based creative explains. “Then I meet the working group – make-up artists and hair stylists – who I pass references to and define the type of work to be done.” Inspired by the freedom and experimentation of artists like Jesse Kanda, Nan Goldin, and Matt Lambert, who the 26-year-old discovered while studying fine art and photography at ISEC (South American Institute for the Teaching of Communication), Fernando Castillos is a constant collaborator, as is Shaúl Rivas, Jazmin Calcarami, Pola Amengual and many more. “Collaborating with make-up artists led me to discover new creative facets in myself and rethink what ‘beauty’ really is. I have several projects coming up, many of them involve new beauty concepts that I am investigating such as digital make-up and the inclusion of 3D environments.”

The main takeaway from Resti’s work is that it’s hard to define, reflecting the creative’s own evolving identity. “Recently, I began to identify as a non-binary person and that marks a huge change in my life,” they explain. “The constant search to create new identities and challenge the current ones determine who I am now and who I will be from now on. Why be one when we can be many aesthetically-speaking? I am determined to help and make different identities visible, and also to create new ones, not only corporeal but digital too.” A career highlight is “Destroyer”, a work that came about because the artist wanted to adapt the cover art of the latest TR/ST EP. With Robert Alfons’ permission, they worked with Daphne Künstler and Ana Sanchez on the costume and make-up which the founder loved. 

Here Resti dissects their creations and artistic approach, revealing the hidden meanings and feelings lurking beneath the surface.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and where you grew up? 

Gon Resti: I grew up in the conservative suburbs of Buenos Aires and I’ve been stuck here ever since. Being born here allowed me to be more socially conscious from a younger age and I’m able to transfer that to my art. My mother submerged me into the world of sci-fi by showing me Blade Runner, now one of my favourite films, when I was young. I remember feeling amazed and kind of in love with the robot-like replicants. Everyone who saw that film will remember the beautiful Pris – that hair, that make-up, it makes my skin crawl. I’m a kind and sensitive person but also a grumpy and anxious one.

What is it you do and why do you do it? 

Gon Resti: I always thought of myself as a visual artist and photographer specialising in giving birth to new identities through the concept of ‘beauty’. In my work, changing looks are changing states of personality and identity within the same photoshoot, letting the model(s) and viewer experience a metamorphosis. Then in post-production, I work on changing the identities further using different image software for many hours. My style and work is improving with practice and evolving as I understand new concepts related to gender identity, sexuality, intersectional feminism and my privileges: being born in a twisted and oppressive society with those who are not born white and ‘male’.

How did you get into it? 

Gon Resti: I spent my days drawing different impersonations of what or how I wanted to be and feel as a kid. When I was 15, my grandma bought me a semi-pro camera as a present from her trip to New York. I was shocked because it was one of my dreams and biggest fears: having the opportunity to create art but not being good enough. 

Nowadays I don’t really give a damn about being good or bad, male or female. I do what I feel and what I like with some help from my best collaborators: my friends. I’ve never stopped creating. If you have something in your head that you want to transmit, find those who can help you make it happen. It is very important to see your projects grow and be realised, to learn from the environment around you and those you collaborate with. 

What does beauty mean to you? 

Gon Resti: My concept of beauty begins with identity. Build it, break it, rebuild it and so on. I see it as a way to break down barriers and stereotypes but not only in terms of gender and sexuality but as a protest in every way, breaking with absolutely everything established. Great make-up accompanied by a great photograph can generate great changes. It’s freedom, a socio-political statement. (The future of beauty is) digital, organic, and obviously intersectional.

Talk us through some of your works and how you created them. 

Gon Resti:  The idea for “Cold Sweats” with Fernando Castillos is very simple and literal; we wanted to do wet make-up based on wet dreams. Castillos had the incredible idea of ​​using sexual lubricant; the logic was that when it comes into contact with heat, it changes from a thick texture to a liquid one. So if we reacted quickly, we could have two beauty looks without modifying the make-up.

Last year I made a series of photos around the idea of birth and metamorphosis with my colleagues and created some of my most beloved portraits. From gloss imitating afterbirth fluids, and a cocoon made of x-ray film, to wet clay in the hair as a reminiscent of earth and birth. Some weird shit happened in “Molluscum”. Consu Tapia made the glossy beautiful mess and the concept here was metamorphosis and transitioning. Kamil Quintero designed the clothing which changed shape as the session passed. One of the models cancelled so Quintero had to model and it was the most incredible thing that I saw that year. It had a very beautiful reception and I was moved by an unexpected like from Doña who doesn't even follow me.

Juan Gasparini and Jesica Baez helped me to create “Fever World #1”, this sick world with a creature living its last hours before mutating to a new body. I chose Gasparini and Baez, because they know each other very well and they mix their old school knowledge with the new. There were about 20 artists (working on this) and it took us about 12 hours to do the whole session – the make-up alone took about six hours. It was beautiful and many people were impressed to see so many artists working together. Matt Lambert sent a gratifying “wow”. Thanks to the response, we are in pre production for “Fever World Vol.2”  which is coming soon.

What are you trying to communicate through your work about beauty? 

Gon Resti: Nothing is determined and you can be whatever you want to be. We are in an endless state of rebirth. The main themes in my work speak clearly on non-binarism, diversity, the relationship with the environment in which we live, and the birth of new identities. Topics important in my life. You are immersed in another world, everything classic is adapted into something different but familiar, so you’re surprised by how strange the reality is, but you feel safe and comfortable in that environment at the same time. You can appreciate my works separately or understand them as a single work in constant evolution. 

Finally, who is your beauty icon? Why?

Gon Resti: Every time FKA twigs shows up, she blows my mind. She has always broken barriers when it comes to beauty but in her latest work (“Magdalene”), she took us on a beautiful walk between the mundane and the spiritual, readjusting the horrors of religion into something beautiful, delicate, dark and strong. It was terrible what she went through (fibroid removal surgery), a clearer example of rebirth and strength could not exist. I see her as a beautiful shape-shifting creature that never ceases to amaze us. Her performance at the Valentino Men AW20 show was stunning.