Ivan Prieto´s "weird characters" made of emotions

Ivan Prieto is a Spanish artist currently based in a small town in the Galician region located in the North western tip of Spain. Ivan creates intensely crafted, glossy, surrealistic sculptures inspired by his life experiences. We wanted to know more about the background of his work.

Nomad: What is your main inspiration for your artwork and why do you prefer sculpture for your artistic expression?
Ivan Prieto: My inspiration is often my own biography. Each work contains a part of me and is a kind of self-portrait or representation of how I feel.  The people, objects and nature around me also serve as sources of inspiration. As do fashion and images found in magazines, newspapers or the internet.  Inspiration is always around.

The three dimensions and volume of sculpture permit a more real and physical connection with the world. In painting, for example, an artist must create the illusion of volume. For me, making a sculpture is almost like giving birth. You are actually creating a being that comes into this world and could start moving at any moment. In sculpture, the connection with the world and what surrounds you is closer in my opinion.                                              
I have always liked the idea of being able to touch, take and place an object in a space. A picture in contrast is more static ... you hang it and that is it. I think there is more complexity and points of view in a sculpture. There is mystery too, because each side is different and you cannot see them at the same time. So, if you want to discover that mystery you have to move your ass.
Nomad: Which mediums are you using in your work?

Ivan Prieto: Lately, I am working mostly in ceramics. Clay gives me a lot of freedom and I can create soft shapes by manipulating the material. For me, it is a more direct way of working. I can use different molds and then join the pieces with amazing results. I can also repeat elements more easily and attain very intense colors using different glazes. Using acrylic resin with fiber, which is a resistant and lighter material, I can produce larger sculptures. The ceramic medium both makes these pieces possible, but due to the unpredictability of the medium also makes it more complicated. 

Nomad: Your pieces have a very special shape, how do you achieve this?

Ivan Prieto: My work process comes naturally.  The core of each piece explores the concept of humans and their emotions and flows from that starting point. Clay allows infinite possibilities. You can add or remove elements easily. The fluid nature of clay permits a way to play with and create dialogue with the shape. It is like a piece of jazz, I start with a melody and improvise in different ways.
Your characters look isolated and melancholic. They have no facial expressions, and do not show any emotions. Many of your sculptures have closed eyes and are without sense organs like ears. Why?

Ivan Prieto:
Although at first glance it may not seem like it, there are actually many emotions depicted in my sculptures, and much more when I place the characters on a stage, such as an abandoned building or street. In these cases, the melancholy of the passing time is present and felt by the viewer.  As you say, the themes of solitude and isolation are frequently present in my sculptures. I am interested in all emotional aspects of human beings, but especially their fragility. Sometimes, my figures suffer some kind of emotional block affecting their senses. This is depicted in the figures with different elements on the head, eyes, ears or mouth.  These elements show how emotional obstruction can affect the mind, voice and or vision. However, imbued in each of these emotionally charged characters is a subtle humor often reflected in a secret smile  
You typically use very intensiv colors in your pieces, is this intended to balance the melancholy?
Ivan Prieto:
Of course it is. There is something of tragedy and comedy in my pieces. This is a very Galician trait. It is easier to face life with a colored mask. Humor can deflect feelings of  sadness or loneliness. However, behind the humor there is always a shadow of tragedy. The glossy finish and vivid colors of my pieces allow a certain playfulness and provoke different interpretations by the viewer. Through the color in particular,  I try to coax a smile from the viewer and engage him more deeply with the piece.

Nomad: After living in Berlin for several years you left the big city life behind and you went back to Spain to live in a small town. What provoked this decision and how has this decision influenced your art?

Ivan Prieto:
I am still connected to Berlin. I have my studio and I want to work there part time, but in the last year I decided to spend more time in a small town in Galicia, because I needed to be connected with nature. While Berlin is not one of the most stressful cities, it is still a big city, where everything moves fast. In Berlin, it is important for an artist to be on the spot, go to events, meet people, but there comes a time when what you need is time alone to produce art. This is easier in a small place, where there are fewer distractions and where it is easier to be connected to your center.

The past two years you had a lot of exhibitions around the world.  Are there upcoming events which we can look forward to? And where can we see your pieces at the moment?

Ivan Prieto:
Last year was very good. I was collaborating with different German galleries in Berlin, Mannheim and Nürnberg. My work was also featured in exhibitions in Denmark, France, Luxembourg and China.  I also participated in a large exhibition sponsored by the city council of Coruña, Spain. This year, I will focus more on projects in Spain where I have three upcoming solo exhibitions in Galician galleries, so a lot of work to do.


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