Art, // July 29, 2023
José Luís Aguilar — ARTIST
Interview with the artist Jose Luis Aguilar —
1. Who is José Luís Aguilar?
Born in Vila Nova da Barquinha on December 30, 1952, he began his first steps in painting and drawing at Escola do Arco in Lisbon, in the years 1997-1998-1999-2000. He returned to painting in 2010, joining the National Society of Fine Arts having completed the 4th Year of Painting. Between 2014/2017, he taught, Drawing and Painting at Senior University, Montijo. He was also co-author of the book 10 Years of Universidade Sénior Montijo.
He is a member of the National Society of Fine Arts and Artiset- Association of Plastic Artists of Setúbal and AAAGP Figueira da Foz. He already has several group and individual exhibitions, with several works in private collections, both in Portugal and abroad.
• Gold Honorable Mention 1st International Pocket Art Salon Setúbal November 2013.
• Bronze Medal at the Black and White Exhibition, Galeria Mário Silva Figueira da Foz May 2019.
• Creativity Prize 8th International Pocket Art Salon – Figueira da Foz.
2. Why Art?
Art appears quite early, still in adolescence. Much for the visits made to museums, particularly in neighboring Spain. Over the years I’ve been painting sporadically, more on the basis of cartoon dolls, which I offered to my admirers, at the time only family members. Later I was confronted with a severe illness. One of the biggest challenges of my life. I had a cardiovascular problem that required massive coronary surgery. Faced with a long period of convalescence, without being able to make great efforts, I had to try to occupy my days. I took advantage of what I had at hand: watercolors from my son’s school. That’s how I started a period as a watercolorist. I painted several drawings with which I decorate the walls of my house today. After recovery, I decided that art would be my second job. So I took advantage of my post-work hours, starting to attend an art school in Portugal, ARCO, with the intention of improving my drawing and painting technique. I started to take advantage of all the free hours to draw and paint. In drawing I spent hours in front of the mirror drawing my face. Then the bug grew so much that I immediately made a decision: as soon as the opportunity arises, I will dedicate myself full-time to the arts. That’s what I’ve done since 2010 when I left the pharmaceutical industry, where I worked for many years. I then started to attend the National Society of Fine Arts where I stayed until the fourth year of painting. From then on, I experimented with various techniques and styles, always looking for new challenges, which I still do today.
3. How do you work and approach the themes?
In the Portugal of my youth, we were limited, not to say prohibited, from culturally evolving. This is what usually happens in dictatorships. Much of the literature was censored and this prevented us from broadening our horizons on new trends in art. And for those who lived far from the big cities, as I did, even worse. Therefore, my first influences were given, in large part, by the art teacher of the first school cycle. It was she who showed me how she could explore the potential of creation. I started with visual forms that represented episodes of my daily life. Hence the fact that over several years he used a very figurative language greatly influenced by the mountain environment where he lived. Later, for family reasons, I moved to Lisbon and began to absorb the world of art. I started by visiting religious art museums that were one of the few allowed by the dictatorship. As I got to know the student environment, I became aware of clandestine places where I could buy books by great visual artists, such as Vincent Van Gogh or Pierre-Auguste Renoir. As for Pablo Picasso, not even in hiding. There was nothing to be found. To see Picasso’s work for the first time, I had to go to Spain. But Van Gogh started out as having a great influence. I was fascinated by the cheerful colors of the landscapes and interiors. For me, this was a new world. As he once said: “The painter of the future will be an artist of a type we don’t know and we don’t know what he will be.” At that time I didn’t know what kind of painter I was going to be, but I was sure that I wanted art to be a significant part of my life. Years later, when I entered my first art school, I abandoned landscape painting and began to embrace abstractionism. At that time, he was already heavily influenced by artists such as Pablo Picasso, Maria Helena Vieira da Silva, and Júlio Pomar. I was in love with abstract art and I started looking to draw things in a different way than the eyes presented to us. I wanted to modify them, transform them and distort them. Today I look for a more poetic language to explore the artifice of technique with bodies broken by the hours and bitterness of life. And at the same time with lively lines to transmit a good dose of strength and energy to those who observe them.
4. To what extent the experience of art was important for your development?
Art went far beyond entertainment. For me it was a form of development. Intellectual training. In addition to having influenced my creativity, it also served to be better with others and the world around me. I taught art, on a voluntary basis, for three years. It was a very rewarding period. And it gave me a great ability to appreciate and evaluate the art objects that my students created. Art also helped me walk and get up in some of the most troubled phases of my life, as it was in its magic and beauty that I found the strength and enchantment that led me to believe in my abilities as a visual artist. Being able to create artwork and show the end result to other people made me believe in myself more. When I get involved with my canvases, accompanied by a melody, I forget everything around me. There is only one world where only art and I inhabit.
5. How you work and approach the themes of your works.
Much of my work comes from within, naturally, in the various creations and styles I have worked on over time. When I was a kid I started creating small sculptures in wire and wood and I also painted cartoon dolls. My older brother wasn’t very good at the arts and he did the drawing work for him. It was a way to practice doing something I enjoyed. Later come the other inspirations. From different places. I have always been in love with the mountains and that made me start with visual drawing with landscape paintings in gouache. That part gave me great peace of mind. Also, aesthetics and female beauty have always attracted and inspired me. I took advantage of women’s fashion magazines to draw, especially faces. It’s been like that for as long as I can remember. See, feel and draw or paint.
6. What advice would you give other artists?
Art is present in everything. In every corner, in every line of life. Inside and outside of us. It had a great influence on the world since its beginnings, since the beginning of everything. The great social transformations have always been influenced by the arts, by artistic movements, and by artistic interventions. Today is not like my time. Art, for those who want to and cannot physically observe it, is just a click away. And in this pandemic period, social networks were also fundamental for artists to continue to show their art. My advice, work, innovate, persevere and never give up.
7. How do you see the future in (5 to 10 years)
The biggest challenge is to be placed on the market, which has not been easy, because financial insecurities force the right galleries to manage, in most cases, artists with a name in the art market. Whenever I hold an exhibition, I am careful to send invitations to be present at the inauguration or on a subsequent visit, but it has been a job without great results. Good publicity, well-done marketing, and taking advantage of social networks, are fundamental in the life of a plastic artist nowadays, but the excess offer has been another challenge to overcome.
If the country’s economic situation does not turn around, the coming years will continue to be quite disastrous for visual artists.
8. New projects.
Continue to perfect the figurative language between positive and negative, researching new forms of expression and continuing to diversify my art. I’m also experimenting with mixed media using digital photography. As I am attracted to sculpture, I hope to do training in this area soon. Finally, I want to finish what I started a long time ago: the book about my work.
Olivia Rodrigues daCosta