Artist Statement

Marcelo Suaznabar

My paintings follow the tradition of allegory and didacticism of painters like Hieronymus Bosch. I also engage elements from the Surrealist tradition although my images are not automatist. They have more in common with surrealism as access to the subconscious or dream world. However, my conscious intentions are to comment on the looming environmental catastrophe that becomes increasingly unavoidable due to the structure of human society, with all its greed and temptation for the soul.

As a Bolivian artist, I experienced a colourful, cross-pollinated version of Christianity, filled with miracles like the Virgin of Candelaria. It is poignant for me now to use the Biblical theme of the Apocalypse as a foil to express concern about the environment. Phantasmagorical creatures line these limits between Earth, Heaven and Hell, exhorting redemption or providing temptation.

I grew up in the city of Oruro on the Altiplano region of Southern Bolivia, which is desert-like but paradoxically retains a sense of the magical. My father had a farm there so I have an instinctive affinity with animals and the landscape. Some of my paintings make use of desolate settings that hark back to this region. I combine animals with humans in hybrid forms. They also become items of furniture, stretched out like couches or limos.

My painting style is naive realist and this helps me introduce humour, transforming and making unusual allusions. Thus, a tree stands uprooted on a table. It is comical but also indicates that the tree died so the table could live.  Furniture is used as a prop to present absurd ideas, like a four poster bed so high only a giraffe could reach it while harlequins from the circus ride tall monocycles in darkened settings.

I also use text on banners so that language is transformed into a physical, poetic substance and pours out of mouths like ribbons. This convention was popular in the Renaissance. I have developed a lexicon of symbols that I use in different paintings: thus the egg, symbolizing the fragility of life or the cube which represents the constructed or manmade. Clocks express teleological urgency. Chequerboards of black and white squares take the place of landscape in many works, indicating human colonization of nature. The mechanical nature of human invention invades the natural order of things. The bar code represents a dehumanizing presence, as we become just numbers.

Marcelo Suaznabar