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After over six years sharing artistic adventures with our dear friend Arturo as Director and founder member of Chrom Art, we are delighted to finally have the opportunity to interview him as an artist. Following his many international successes in recent years, he is presenting his first solo exhibition in London, on show at Chrom Gallery until the 26th of September.
Madrid born Arturo Garcia de las Heras remembers drawing and painting from an early life, however it was not until 2001 when he started receiving illustration and airbrush lessons with the prestigious illustrator Carlos Díez, famous for his pin-ups. From 2004 and for a period of two years, he trained in the oil technique with two Madrilian masters. Later in Barcelona and then in London, he began to explore other techniques and materials, including engraving with Hermann Orduña and Fran Garnica at Studio-Gallery “La Rueda”. Ever since, his life have been a non-stop stream of local and international exhibitions at galleries, festivals and art fairs. He is a committed social entrepreneur, a panellist judge at Gemini Art Prize, an avid and discerning collector, and a well known face in the London urban art scene. Always dressed as the gentleman he is, his art encapsulates all the charm and positivity of his warm and energetic persona.
Arturo has exhibited internationally in Hong Kong, New York, Miami, Los Angeles, Munich, Luxembourg, Madrid, Barcelona and of course London where he is based. His artworks are displayed in private collections all over the the world.
How and when did you start producing art and when did you decide to become an artist?
I started early… If you see my old schoolbooks and notepads, you’d find portraits and cartoons of pretty much all my teachers, comic alike drawings, sketches…. I always loved drawing and painting, but my interest increased when I was about to purchase my first apartment in Madrid… I wanted a piece of mine hanging in those walls. I started taking art lessons in different techniques (oil, airbrush, etching…), and little by little I got into different show opportunities that fed my interest in becoming somehow a professional artist. However, it was not till 2015 when I got involved in the foundation of Chrom-art when I started getting deeper and deeper into the arts scene here in London and afterwards internationally.
Could you tell us what are your main stylistic and artistic influences?
I would say illustration, modernism, pop art and street art or new contemporary are definitely my main artistic influences. However, I like to think I’m doing something different, maybe a mix of all that, so people in social media call it “Urban Colourism”, “Illustration Chic”…
You have managed to build a large follower base on social media and this seems to have helped you progress your artistic career. Can you tell us about it?
Thank you for this, but still a very low profile compared to some consolidated artists I follow and admire. However I’m happy to see I’ve just gone through the 10k threshold, and growing. I believe it helps to get closer to your audience, responding their comments, answering their questions in private messages… Also sharing my own collection has connected me to a number of collectors, bringing their attention also to my own artwork. All this together, I guess is helping growing my follower base on social media an therefore giving more exposure to my work, helping me progress my artistic career. I like to see it as a virtuous circle in which both elements feed each other.
How did your ‘People’ series originate?
That’s an interesting question!! When I started painting I always said I would never paint people, because sometimes I feel uncomfortable when a portrait is staring at me, and I thought that could be the feeling for most of the people. However I’ve always been fascinated about people in general, and crowds more specifically, so little by little I’ve developed three different lines of work related to the people, but you may not see one of my characters with their eyes open staring at you, ha, ha… I love showing the power of human being in my “Movement” series (Jump, Spinning, Ascending…), or the inner person in my “Portraits” series (Feel the Sun, If Life Gives You…, Relax on the Grass, etc), while I’m conscious, at a deeper level, of the complexity of human being and all the parallel lives running together while in general we just think about ourselves and our closest circle, and an example would be my “People” series (People in Canary, People at the Station, People at Oculus, etc).
One of the defining elements of your work is the exceptional level of detail and complexity. What techniques do you use to achieve this?
Thank you! My artwork is always based in my own photographs (with very few exceptions). I’ll give you an example… for my “People at Station” piece, I took around 20 to 30 photographs from the top level of Liverpool Station in London during peak time, and then I did a composition using different people from different pictures, to make it up to the right level of crowdedness, balanced direction of the people walking (not all moving away, but also in and through), races, gender… Once I had the final composition, and I did it the old way, printing the photos, cutting, moving the people around, pasting… then I copied freehand, one by one all the people I had there, so the people in my work are actual people. Once I had the drawing done then I added details like clothing brands, fabric prints, logos, mobile phone screens, etc. Most of the time I just made it up, because the photos are not that detailed, making my artwork even more defined than the original photo, ha, ha
Being a Spanish artist in London, do you feel the mix of cultures has influenced your artworks?
To be honest, I don’t know if it has or hasn’t influenced my artwork, but what I am sure about is that all that mix of cultures are portrayed in my artwork. As mentioned in the previous question, I try to keep a good balance on the people I include in my work, representing the best I can that mix of cultures you are referring to.
We hear your works are in high demand in California, is there anything specific you think is attracting the US audience to your works?
Indeed! I really don’t have a clue why, but it is true that many of my collectors are based in the US, mainly Miami, New York and Los Angeles. I must say the States is a vast country and therefore I guess is easier statistically to have a bigger impact there. My artwork is owned by private collectors based also in Hong Kong, Singapore, Melbourne, Munich, Holland, London, York, Dublin, Malmo, Bogotá, and Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Málaga, Toledo… So, at the end of the day, that concentration may only be a statistical trick, ha, ha
How does your creative process work and where do you take inspiration from?
I am in a permanent search for beautiful, nice, images suitable for almost everyone. In those images I seek for relaxation, admiration, surprise, or even a smile. Images that never generate discord, conflict, discrimination, rejection, criticism… I’m driven by aesthetics; I’m afraid I’m not the kind of artist who dresses his artwork surrounded by a profound philosophy or a deep interpretation of life, despite what I previously described as fascination for the human being.
You are an active collaborator in a number of art organisations. Tell us about your involvement on that front.
Well, fundamentally one, which is Chrom-art… My interest for the art world and helping others, jointly with the fact of being at the right time in the right place, led me to co-found Chrom-art (www.chrom-art.org) in 2015, which is a London based Social Enterprise (Community Interest Company) supporting talented undiscovered artists of all disciplines in our local communities, and promoting the education of creativity for the public benefit. Chrom-art is 100% volunteer run and operate a policy of applying all profits to their social objective.
Apart from this, to mention others: 1) recently I’ve taken part in the Background Bob initiative to raise funds for the Colchester & Ipswich Hospitals Charity; 2) I’ve also collaborated with Gemini Art Price as part of their jury panel in two occasions; and 3) last year collaborated with “Ideas Bien Contadas” during the worst times of Covid to help the most vulnerable people during those dark times, by donating a piece of mine for the cause.
What projects are you working on at the moment?
My solo show at Chrom Gallery has absorbed loads of my time lately, but I’m also working on a new piece for Corey Helford Gallery in Los Angeles for the annual group show “Art Collector Starter Kit VIII” opening in December, and a commission for a collector here in the UK, so… busy, busy, but looking for more!