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A Spanish artist who is most known for his innovative self-portraits, Eloy Morales joined InQuire’s Features Editor Tímea Koppándi to discuss his inspirations and methodology.
TK: Could you tell me a bit about yourself and how you got into painting?
EM: I have been painting ever since I can remember. My father used to paint every day after he came home from work. He used to paint and draw whenever he arrived home. This fact became a strong influence on me, even since I was a child. I was about four or five years old when I chose to pursue painting. And ever since then, I have worked towards materialising my goal.
TK: You are one of the only people in the world to paint a portrait of yourself covered in paint. Where did the idea come from?
EM: I have encountered this subject as the conclusion of the portraits that I have started doing in 2000. I used to work in a series because I felt that only one painting was not enough to fulfil what I was looking for. Once I started these series there was a new idea that emerged in my quest of trying to convey exactly what I wanted. Usually, when I feel like I have exhausted the possibilities of a series, I stop working on them. The idea of painting portraits of myself – with paint covering my face – came from a portrait of my brother ‘David’ with shaving cream on his face. This image had a deeply conceptual meaning to me.
TK: How strange is it to see your face exhibited in galleries?
EM: The paint acts as a mask and I’m hidden behind it. I don’t like to paint myself and I never did before these series. However, in this case, it’s more than a random choice to paint me as such. The series has a meaning only if the model is me.
TK: Do you feel overexposed with these auto-portraits, or is it more like a feeling of acknowledgement towards your work?
EM: I don’t pay too much attention to that. To me, the important thing is the painting by itself. In this case, the model is me but that’s all.
TK: Could you compare them with make-up, or do you find that they are inherently different?
EM: Yes, it acts as a mask, but it also symbolizes war paint. That is how I feel and have felt it my entire life. The paint has always been in front of me whilst I am behind it. I cannot split the painter from the person and the person from the paint. The paint is growing with me. I have painted ever since childhood and I am continuously painting. My paintings developed alongside me, as well as my style and ideas. I have never stopped painting. It guided the most important choices in my life and it still affects my everyday mood. Even my happiness. This is what the ‘Paint in my head’ series talk about.
TK: You deal a lot with portraiture. How do you choose who you paint?
EM: I find in portraits my ideal way of expression, something that doesn’t always work on other subjects. To me, the sight is a very important aspect of my portraits. Through a person’s eyes, you can see everything. I love this concept and that is what I try to capture in my portraits. Not just the resemblance of a person, not just the composition of a person’s image, but I want to reach the soul and even the emotions of that person at that specific time. It’s something very deep and interesting that attracts my attention.
TK: Your style of painting is very sharp, realistic almost photograph like. What is it that captures your attention when starting a painting?
EM: I disagree with that perception. I think many people have a wrong sense of what my paintings are, due to the way the internet portrays them. My paintings, when watched in real life, are not sharp. All the limits and edges are very subtle, even blurry and there are no visible details. The brushstrokes are visible, there is a present sense of the hand painting it, rather than photography where this sentiment is less evident. The illusion of reality is caused by the fact that I pay a lot of attention to colour and the value adjustment. I don’t think my paintings are photograph-like. They are realistic but only due to the paint codes. To me, copying a picture without putting your imprint on it, doesn’t make any sense. The subjects that I choose when I start painting are mainly ideas that emerge from certain things that have inspired me; however, I admit that I am not always capable of translating my thoughts into painting.
TK: Could you walk us through the mental and physical process of starting a painting. How difficult is the execution? Do you have a particular work ethic?
EM: I used to start sketching out random things in hopes of arriving at the best version of my vision. Sometimes it comes easy and sometimes it doesn’t. To me, it’s not the matter of ‘what’ I paint, but rather ‘how’ I paint it. I think that great painters do not need to be original in finding subjects. They are great because they transcend the subjects. They go beyond the surface and that is key to me.
TK: Did you have any specific painters who largely influenced your work?
EM: My absolute favourite is Diego Velazquez.
TK: Do you think that your nationality shaped your artistic style, or did it influence any concepts that you deal within your work?
EM: The first painters that had a strong influence on my work were Spanish since I grew up in Madrid. I used to visit El Museo del Prado very often when I was a child. Those were my first lessons in painting. I suppose if I would have been born in Holland, my inspiration would have been Rembrandt instead of Velazquez, who knows?
This article is part of our one-off edition of IQ Magazine, out from November the 29th 2019. Pick up the magazine on campus in our InQuire distribution bins in Keynes, Co-op, the Templeman library and other locations on campus.