Working as an artist implies a delicate balance between constant evolution and holding on to the values that make you who you are as a creative professional.
The need to change, to face new challenges that keep your work fresh and exciting for yourself and for the others must go hand in hand with retaining that something special that separates your work from the others, and makes you recognizable among your peers.
This is made very clear in Carlos Cortes’ latest exhibition at GX Gallery. Storyboard includes new works where the dialogue between the artists and the external world is more patent than ever. This is, however, a conversation that takes place at different levels, ranging from the portraits of people he knows well to the ‘Emergency’ series, where characters he meets briefly on public transport take centre stage.
These works speak not only about the people they represent, but also about the image making process: painting understood as a dialogue or as a long-term performance.
Sometimes the artist will invite his models to choose a pose from a selection of Old Masters’ paintings. Then they create their own interpretation, using contemporary props and costumes. In some of them this is also incorporated into complex 3D structures, reminiscent of the altarpieces in the churches in his native Spain. The resulting works feature a combination of familiar settings with very personal stories and a certain irony, a sense of humour that while prevalent in most of his work has never precluded his paintings form conveying a deep sense of human empathy.
The ‘Emergency’ series, or mobile phone portraits are new point of departure. They embody a pictorial reflection on the impact modern technologies are having on the way we relate to other people. Using his mobile phone drawing-pad Cortes captures the fleeting features of people he briefly meets in a bus or the tube. A quick sketch is squiggled (followed when possible by a picture taken also with his mobile phone camera) before the subjects disappear in the urban jungle. Using a fully loaded palette-knife Cortes creates with rough brush strokes nearly abstract representations of these unwilling models, that then become part of his ongoing Storyboard.
Artists like Auerbach or Baselitz, among others, may seem like sources of inspiration for this work, but whereas these were concerned with exploring the formal qualities of paint, Cortes uses this technique as a tracer, a way of reflecting the way the encounter between model and sitter took place. These portraits are like a mobile phone conversation: The sound is distorted, the conversation brief. The opportunities to learn more about the person at the other end of the line are limited.
We will find also in this exhibition – for the first time in many years – a selection of Carlos Cortes’ drawings, and there will be a short dance performance on the opening night (Friday 8 May) where those who are familiar with his visual art practice may enjoy a glimpse of his international work as a choreographer.
Visual and Performing Artist
Exhibition 8-19 May
Find out more about Carlos’ ‘Free Dance’