Interview for Swide, Dolce & Gabbana online magazine,
by Marcus Kan:

S: What was the main reason why you wanted to be a painter? What would the other option be if you didn't pick painter as your career? 

M: I began to draw obsessively when I was five years old. Painting came much later, spontaneously, but in the beginning I didn’t take it very seriously. It was when I visited the Prado Museum that I felt painting with in a more complex way. On this occasion I felt a profound respect for painting that I had never felt before. I was fascinated with Hieronymus Bosch and the “black paintings” of Francisco Goya. The truth is that I don’t imagine myself doing anything besides art, but if I were not a painter, I would be a musician perhaps as I play the guitar. 

S: How would you describe your drawing style? In your opinion, do you think your works represent the dark side of humankind?

M: My drawing style is self-taught; it’s the same that I’ve always done: I simply let my intuition guide me. I have also been inspired by old German master drawings and classic English illustrations. And yes, what I intend in my drawings is to represent, with humor, a mirror or photo or chronicle of the dark side of humanity and human nature. It’s something that prevails in these days, when a global economic agenda is being imposed on people, not for the people. At the same time we’re seeing the environment being more degraded every day. It’s difficult to abstract oneself from this evident and catastrophic reality. 

S: Your paintings remind of the retro comics and I am just wondering what were some of your favourite comic books you read back when you were a teenager?

M: One of my most important references is the Chilean illustrator Coré (Mario Silva Ossa, 1913–1950), whose illustrations I learned to read and write with. Coré possessed a similar style as the animations of “Merry Melodies” or “Silly Symphonies” but with a lighting and color treatment that was so special that Walt Disney even tried to contract him for his mastery, but apparently he never accepted to leave the his tranquil life in Chile. Television was also an important influence in my first drawings—that’s where I saw classic and Japanese animations. The covers of records and music also exercised a strong influence in my adolescence and in my actual work.

M: I read from an interview that you are attracted to black spotted eyes and that’s why your characters have this special feature. What about the sausage nose? Does that particular feature have a specific message you want people to know about? 

V: The sausage noses aren’t just one thing; they represent many things. It all began with Pinocchio and the lie. Later it derived from different references until it become red noses that remind us of diabolic clowns. My idea is that the noses are playful and perverse at the same time, and that they remind us that we are surrounded by lies, basic instincts, and secondary intentions.

M: I realize most of the characters in your paintings are children and I want to take a guess here - are you trying to bring out a message that children are the purest forms of humankind and they are also the easiest group to be influenced by evil? 

V: Not really. I think that children are cruel by their own nature. Have you seen children playing? To see children being cruel with other children, with animals, or their parents, many questions come to my mind. Is evil inherent in man? Are children the product of their societies? Or is there something crooked in human nature from birth? I also think that many times adults act like children, and that the unconsciousness or ignorance of certain people, groups, or societies can be very infantile.

S: Devils and crosses have also been showing up quite often in your works. Are you using your paintings to bring out a message about religion? 

V: Yes, especially about the Catholic religion even though I think similarly of all religions. I grew up in a Catholic environment in a country that is profoundly Catholic in so much that it is the most observed religion. My critique is direct without being obvious: I don’t believe in religions, which are superstitions that are dangerous most of all because they take us away from reality and the truth. Two-thousand years of lies is enough, and there are enough religions in the world for all of us to hate each other. 

M: Speaking of religion, do you believe in next life? If so, what do you think you would be? Why?

V: There is no proof or reasoning that makes me believe in life after death. I think most probably to be alive is one opportunity, and there is no second chance, so that when one person takes the life of another, he or she is robbing that person of a unique chance to live. It’s abominable if you think about it. I agree with the scientists that say that when the brain dies, everything is over, and we are alone in the infinite darkness of the cosmos; that there are no gods that will protect or come to save us. We are stardust, and that’s where we’ll end. They are probably other extraterrestrial civilizations that exist, but that’s another story. 

M: I know a lot of your work’s titles are based on song titles, so what song are you currently addicted to? If you could do a painting based on it, what kind of imagery would it be?

V: I love music, and I’m always listening to different things; I don’t have one favorite song—I have many. But I can say that in current work psychedelia is beginning to have more presence, especially after preparing a few pieces for a group show that invited artists to reinterpret well-known record covers at Warner Brothers Records. Since then I have given more attention to the aesthetic that accompanies bands and psychedelic images that, for me, seem to represent a special form of creative freedom.




Interview in Untitled Magazine, Power Issue #3,
"It's a Wild World" translation by Ethel Seno:

E: Do you find that people who know your work are surprised when they meet you?

V: Sometimes that happens. People think that I’m a dark person or something like that for my paintings, because they are a little tenebrous or even satanic, they say —

E: A pleasant surprise. Well, we’re thrilled you’re here and can talk about power and conspiracy, which is this issue’s theme. Do you think your experience is different from those who grew up in the United States — how did growing up in Chile under a dictatorship influence your vision?

V: Of course my experience is different ... While the people growing up in the US in the seventies lived one of the best times, in countries like Chile it was the opposite, very poor and tightly controlled. When you live the reality of a dictatorship, you quickly realize that something is not right.

E: What wasn’t right?

V: Chile was a place without culture, where there was fear,
where you couldn’t express yourself freely, where you could even disappear for opposing the government — this is something really intense. And you realize that the government conspires against you. When you are under the power of a government that keeps you down, with violence and censorship, it’s easy to grow up believing that institutions are a farce, and you are alone.

E: So that is the grand disillusion that you’ve spoken of.

V: Exactly: what is supposedly there to take care and protect you, finally, is there to enslave you. There was a moment during the dictatorship when they asked me in an intelligence test if I thought where was an international conspiracy. I was only ten years old, and they were asking this in school. For me the question itself reflected that there was a conspiracy; it was suspicious. They wanted to know what our parents were telling us, and if we said yes, they would probably arrive at our house. It’s like George Orwell’s book 1984 — the dictatorship was a little bit like that. With the censorship they burned books and destroyed artworks by artists considered Marxist. And on TV during this time the government had ads saying, “We are good, and tomorrow better!”

E: Could you tell me more about what you feared?

V: I started to feel it when I was in middle school; that’s when I started to experience the violence of the police. I feared them because they did what they wanted. There were times they detained me for walking in the street — many times on my way home they asked me to pay them money so I didn’t have to spend hours in a jail cell. In general they were aggressive and always insulted and hit you. So, it was authority I was afraid of, the uniforms.

E: Do you think that people in Chile have forgotten this traumatic past?

V: Actually in Chile right now they are questioning the legacy of the dictatorship.

E: So you don’t feel like it’s your work to remind them of it?

V: No, because I don’t want to talk about the dictatorship in my work. In the end, with time, I realized that the dictatorship didn’t just happen in Chile but it happened in many places. Chile was a copy of what was happening in other parts of the world. So what
I want speak of is about a more general plan.

E: You’ve compared your work as an artist more to that of a musician than an intellectual.

V:  Well, that’s for various reasons. On one side, I studied art, and the impression I had was that it was trying to mould me all of the time; I felt very repressed. From there I managed to create a kind of distance from theory and the intellectuality of the institution because I felt that instead of encouraging me, it limited me. Faced with this reality, what I did with rage perhaps, was to take a more rebel posture, and to assume that art, like I always thought as a kid, was something more natural. It doesn’t interest me to make complex art for theorists and intellectuals; it interests me to make art that anyone can understand.

E: If what you’re exploring is human nature, don’t you feel like that through human history there has always been a dark side?

V: Yes, absolutely. I think that brutality has predominated in society despite the fact that there have been great artists, scientists, intellectuals … What has predominated is the interests of a few, and instead of creating a society with a sustainable future, that has made us a society heading directly toward collapse.

E: “Hell is around the corner,” you mentioned, Tricky’s song lyrics. So ultimately what you show in your paintings with regards to power does reflect your vision of reality.

V:  I feel that the world is a marvelous place that has been corrupted. You know, that it’s an incredible place to live, and life is beautiful, but the social system is corrupted and perverse. There is no power without conspiracy. In fact I think that we all conspire directly or indirectly, and we are responsible for what is happening through our actions and inactions. For example the war — it’s one of the biggest most terrible conspiracies, and I share the view of Noam Chomsky when he says that in this country, if all the citizens stood up and said no to the war, it wouldn’t be possible to invade other countries.

E: After growing up with the “side b” or nightmare of American foreign policy in Latin America, has your critique of the US changed since you first visited in 2009 and since moving to Los Angeles last year?

V: Not my vision of the government or history or the influence of this country, but yes, my vision of Americans, of the people who live here, has changed. I’ve found that there are people who are against the perversity we talked about or that there are people who are simply innocent of what is happening. The coup d’etat in Chile in 1973 was the opportunity for the US to impose the economic theories of the Chicago school, which we know today as neo-liberalism. It affected the whole world, and it is now collapsing in Chile and even in the US. I also find that there is a very rich culture, and in her best moment, the US has enabled the growth of a lot of popular culture based in commerce, like in music, and film, and in art as well — really admirable things have happened. It’s a country that’s impossible to describe in a sentence, that’s full of contradictions.

E: In other interviews, you’ve pointed out “blindness” as a theme.

V: Yes, ignorance is a form of blindness —

E: Is that why you don’t paint eyes in your paintings?

V: It’s not an idea that I arrived at right away, but when I was looking at caricatures from the forties and fifties, with the big eyes made with simple black spots, I was attracted to the idea of the mask, of the absence of eyes like of somebody without awareness. And I began to use it more and more until it became my own stamp. I was able to sum up a lot of things in a simple image of a smiling face with a big Pinocchio nose that’s also a sausage, among other things, and also like a clown’s — and these eyes that don’t see.

E: What about lies?

V: For me, in some way, everything is a lie. When you go to the supermarket, the whole design of the supermarket or the mall is made to seduce you, to manipulate you. It’s the same on TV, in magazines, and with all advertising. I think that people are realizing that their lives are being degraded: they have to work more, they don’t have security or insurance like they did before, and all of this because a few people with power swindled the system. They say crisis, but it’s not a crisis, it’s a fraud, a robbery. It’s not that there isn’t money, but that it’s concentrated in a few sectors. And the people that provoked this continue in their positions so the same logic continues.

E: Marshall McLuhan wrote that “the job of the artist is to upset all the senses, and to provide new vision and new powers of adjusting and relating to new situations.” Do you relate to that?

V: I never took that position so consciously. I started with frustration and anger, and disillusion, but in a certain way, yes, I agree. A colleague once told me that my work is important because I show how we are. And when I started using it, humor attracted me a lot as a way of demystifying, to remove the veil from a lot of concepts that we take as facts but that are in reality farces. For example, when you go to the newsstand and see all the magazines with everyone smiling, I find it delirious.

E: Could we go back to the moment that you felt that everything was diabolic?

V: That was many years ago, before I left Chile for Barcelona, when my reality as an artist in Chile collapsed — finally a moment arrived when it was confirmed for me that all the world was conspiring, everyone was tricking each other, and I couldn’t trust in anyone. It produced a kind of paranoia that I was able to counter by traveling, and by getting other perspectives, knowing other people and cultures. I think I was exhausted from living in a country that never really left the dictatorship. I couldn’t grow as an artist there.

E: Even the animations you watched, which were supposed to entertain you, did you feel that they were evil?

V: Yes, especially the older animations where the prejudices and racism were more evident. Now it’s not really like that because society has evolved; it’s more open. But in the old animations you could see the clichés and stereotypes. Even in Walt Disney, in the comics that arrived in Chile, you would see Uncle Scrooge or Scrooge McDuck traveling the world in search of wealth, and they would arrive in a place with indigenous people with a lot of gold, and he and his nephews would take it and be happy. For me all of this is a form of cultural colonization.

E: Is there any painting in particular that represents with symbols or other ways your idea of power and conspiracy?

V: One of my favorite paintings is of two Victorian girls with flags, very patriotic, smiling in a small cart that is carrying missiles (Suplica a mi madre). I was inspired by a photograph that I saw
of some children in Israel writing on missiles, “From Israel, With Love” — something that seemed to me terrible. This image of children celebrating death inspired the painting of kids celebrating patriotism, armed and ready to do damage. In other paintings, I’ve used the inverted cross to touch on the theme of religion as a conspiracy.

E: The subjects of your paintings are children, and you’ve said that you never paint adults, though in one of your more recent paintings there is a man whose face is covered with sausages.

V: I find it much more entertaining to paint children as a reflection of who we are. Adults for me are already completely corrupted. That’s why if you see adults in my work, it’s like the old animations of Tom and Jerry where you never see the faces of the adults, maybe only their feet. It’s a little bit of this idea that the child world and adult world are different universes. In this painting (Written Forgotten), I was inspired by the idea of indoctrination — the guy is reading a book, a black book that could be the Bible or a history book or a book on good customs. I think a lot of these books that teach children what is good always hide something; they are part of indoctrination. I distrust institutions so much that I think even education can sometimes be a part of manipulation!

E: Have you always titled your paintings with popular song titles?

V: I started about five or six years ago. It’s been about that long that I’ve been using music as a constant parallel in my work, almost as if the paintings were songs. The titles are a way to make a link to music because I really believe that paintings without sound or music — even if it’s just subliminal — are so boring. When I was a child and visited my uncles, they would show me their drawings and the records they had of musicians like Pink Floyd or Vangelis, and the music stimulated me so much because it was really visual. You listen to Pink Floyd and it has sounds of animals and ambient sounds, and a ton of others, that as a child it was like it’s own universe.

E: You’ve been cited as a “pop surrealist” artist for your references to comics and animations, but perhaps you feel more identified as a political artist?

V: I’m identified with Pop Surrealism because it was the movement that I saw on the Internet before I left Chile. I thought it was fascinating to mix comics and traditional painting — that’s the only real link I have to Pop Surrealism. I was on the other side of the world from where it was coming from, so my connection is very indirect. Also, I think there is politics in my paintings, maybe not directly but subliminally, and I don’t see that in Pop Surrealism. I think my paintings are of the subconscious and from there they are ambiguous — what they have is a sense of the sinister, of what’s there everyday but that we don’t see. Maybe I’m more connected to poetry than any kind of theory or discourse; my work is more like political poetry in a way.

E: What projects are you excited about now?

V: I am showing in a biennial in Lyon, France, and I have a solo show coming up in Hamburg, and in New York next year, but beyond that, what I have had pending for a while is to explore animation. There I can bring together all of my interests: sound, music, comics, and stories — one detail I haven’t mentioned yet is that all my paintings tell a story through an action or a moment, or a game. There is a lot of cruelty in my work, a cruelty that is for the most part innocent. Children are cruel without knowing it, and I think that many times we are the same. Animation would be a way to develop the narrative.

E: Anything else before we go?

V: Something important, yes. I never forget where I came from, for the experience that I have. I would never pretend not to be Chilean, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to talk only about Chile. I am conscious that my reality, my image, and my person as a artist is because I am Chilean, for what I lived — I lived thirty years there, and I’m never going to unlearn that. But I don’t see it as something negative any more; on the contrary, I think that the negative experience finally gave me perspective.

E: Oh, and finally, is it true that you never sign your paintings in front?

V: It’s true because I don’t think it’s necessary. I think it’s conservative, and I think it can even be a bother on my paintings. My signature is the faces, the eyes, the noses … and the light!



Interview for Juxtapoz magazine by Gwynn Vitello:

G: I appreciate art way more than I can make art, but always loved combining colors and shapes. Do you remember why you wanted to draw so much as a child?

V: I remember very well. It was the visits to my grandparents’ house, where there was a wall covered with drawings by my uncles, which I considered hallucinatory, that gave me the impulse to start drawing when I was very young. I would stay there contemplating my uncles’ drawings for a long time while listening to the progressive rock records they had. The day I returned with one of my own drawings and placed it with the others I felt a deep happiness. I spent all of my childhood and adolescence drawing without stop. 

G: Did watching cartoons reinforce the connection that you feel between art and music?  Is it part of the same vision?

V: Cartoons came afterwards. I made the connection between art and music very early, as I was fascinated by the illustrations and covers of rock bands. 

G: After the tragic Sandy Hook school shootings there many stories about how best parents and teachers could interpret children’s reactions to what they experienced.  A psychologist suggested that observing their drawings would be a good way to interpret their feelings. Do you agree? Did you tell your own stories as a child?

V: I think that you can understand a lot about the feelings, experiences and perspectives of children through their drawings. There is always something important there waiting to be deciphered. Personally, when I look at the first drawings that I made when I was five years old, I see a lot of violence from the television, things like explosions, wars, corpses, fires, robots firing laser rays, cities in flames, death. I don’t know if I could relate them directly—because I was so young and unconscious of the political situation around me—but during this time my country was living the horror of a dictatorship. 

G: Since you were born in 1973 when Pinochet came to power in Chile, how did the dictatorship affect your family, your perception of the world, and in turn, your art?

V: To live under a dictatorship means to be exposed constantly to fear, censorship, the most conservative Catholicism, the most brutal machismo, a lack of culture, a precarious education, not having rights, and knowing that the cruelest human instincts hang around with total impunity. In a few words it’s like a caverna or cave. When you grow up in an environment like that, you distrust everything; it’s easy not to believe in anything, and you even stop believing in the solemnity of art because you see that it’s limited to the elite. Nevertheless, all of these difficulties make one fight even more for what one wants, especially when you know that you want to dedicate your life to art. For this very reason I left Chile in the end, to be able to grow as a person and artist. 

G: Was there much discussion about government in your family? Why do you think some people are attracted to obedience and conformance while some are questioning and rebellious?

V: I had and I still have many discussions about Chilean politics with my family because the dictatorship never completely left Chile; the same people that confabulated and took power by force continue to have power, sustaining a cruel political and economic system disguised as democracy. Of course this is only possible if the majority consent, so the best is to keep the people fearful and ignorant. It’s not a coincidence that the Chilean education system is one of the most expensive in the world, especially when the country also has one of the most unequal economics as far as the distribution of wealth goes. Unfortunately I see the same model being repeated everywhere. The concentration of wealth grows at the expense of the majority especially after this grand global crisis that I prefer to call estafa or fraud. I’m convinced that people who need to be obedient and conform are people with a profound fear of freedom, change, of what’s different, of fighting for one’s rights. In this way, we live in an ocean of cowards.

G: Was art and music encouraged in the schools, or did the educational system emphasize a classical approach, maybe in order to repress expression?

V: The education I received including in art school was in general conservative and really boring. I made the connection between art and music on my own, at a very young age, through my enjoyment of the records of progressive bands and their cover designs. Since then I have always loved music, and it’s hard for me to separate the image and sound.

G: What music formed and inspired you as a young man?  Is music still an important part of your life?

V: Yes, all my life music has been a great inspiration. I couldn’t imagine this world without music, without the birds singing, impossible! Music is essential. In fact I am a frustrated musician, and I see each painting as if I were a composing a song. 

G: How would you describe your experience in art school?  Was there an exchange of ideas among the students and teachers?

V: It was a traumatic experience. I never finished my art studies; I freed myself of all of that in time; they were destroying me as an artist. The professors and schools of art only want to mold you according to their own concepts because it’s a good business for them. For that reason I am convinced that art schools are dangerous for originality.

G: Tell me about your first impression of the Prado. The building itself and the surrounding gardens are imposing in themselves. How did Goya speak to you? Do you think most painters … 

V: I think the Museo del Prado is one of the best museums in the world to see painting. Before visiting there I saw paintings in another way, but after I encountered the work especially of Goya everything changed. Something in the way he uses light allows even that time without electricity, a period of dark and superstitious Catholicism, to breath. Goya shows the passions of his time masterfully and without censoring, visions that could speak of today’s world. For something many consider him to be the first modern artist. Another thing that called my attention is the expressive freedom with which Goya’s Black Paintings were made; it’s evident they weren’t commissioned paintings and that they expressed personal visions. Moreover they were done when the painter was almost blind, and they give the impression of being painted with dirty and old brushes, which give them a final savage and profoundly human touch. As if they were the end result of a lifetime of production. 

G: In painting your character’s eyes as round black spots are you portraying them as blind as in open or unseeing, or having been blinded by the world?  Or is it possible they are open to anything?

V: The principal idea is unconsciousness, which can also be understood as blindness, but I prefer to leave interpretations open. Some people understand the empty eyes also as ignorance and stupidity. In the end all these interpretations are related and reinforce each other. 

G: Are animals any more innocent or corrupt than humans?

V: Corruption is a characteristic that’s exclusive to human beings; I couldn’t imagine it in the rest of the animal kingdom.

G: Is the countryside more innocent, or are the powers of nature just as violent as the forces of man?

V: The forces of nature surpass man. A dramatic example is global warming, a product of unsustainable human activity and its impact. Everything seems to indicate that the forces of nature will take care in the not too distant future to exterminate the human race rather than follow humanity on the same road of unconsciousness, greed and lack of respect for the environment and nature that it’s on today. It would be a great lesson of humility for everyone.

G: Describe how you go about making a painting and the materials you use, starting with how you are inspired and how long it usually takes.

V: I’m not a friend of toxic paints, so the materials I use tend to be the most simple and water-based. The process of making a painting varies according to each case. Sometimes the paintings arrive in dreams, pass directly to the canvas, and it takes me a short time to realize them. In most cases it is the result of a constant search for images that I later manipulate to create a drawing or sketch, and from there jump to the canvas. The time each painting takes me is quite relative, and I can’t say how much it takes me on average to finish a painting—it varies from a few days to weeks.




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