Artist Interview: Emilio Villalba

Emilio Villalba Artwork

ME: The Next Day is a new and exciting direction for you. We notice the departure from geometric forms in favor of a more gestural alla prima approach. Can you talk about how you "loosened" up your style (for lack of a better term)? How has your more structured work over the last 5 years has been building toward this?

EV: Transitioning into this “looser” look was a result of a conscious decision I made to change my approach. I had a really tough month, emotionally, in the fall of 2014 and turned to art as a release. I needed a chance to express myself through design. I was inspired by musicians and lyricists that express their emotions or state of mind through music and words, and how confident and cool something sappy could sound. I thought to myself—Why not do that in my paintings? Before that moment, I was really focused on technique, composition, and design. I wasn’t consciously thinking about a narrative, or an emotion. When I did factor this in, it changed my approach to painting. The results are the portraits with a deconstructed look. There are areas of stability and structure, and areas of exploration. It was very much an investigative process. I was able to use the portrait as a vehicle to express my emotion through the facial expression, and through the surface and design of the paint. The overall painting process was a thrill for me, and I was instantly hooked. I felt the need to explore the concept further.

ME: This new series has been incredibly well received on social media so far. Can you talk about what it's like scaling to such a high Instagram following so quickly and the unique opportunities that have arisen as a result?

EV: Instagram is wild! I feel so blessed with the following I have, and all the really supportive comments. It really pushes me to work harder and produce more work at a higher quality. It’s incredible how quickly it happened. I started discovering fellow contemporary artists around the same time I started producing this new body of work. There are so many artists out there to discover, and so many artists that are so incredibly talented with little recognition. It really blows my mind that people are interested in what I’m currently doing. I hope I can keep producing work with the same enthusiasm that I have been this past year, and for many more to come.

I was recently featured as a guest curator on Paintguide, which was an Instagram dream come true for me. I was able to share art from people that have been a huge influence to my work and life over the years, including Mark Tennant, Alex Kanevsky, and Velazquez.


Emilio Villalba WIP and artwork

ME: There is an elegantly unrefined look to these works, realized through the confident brushwork and the abstract reduction of form. With this method of working, how do you know when a painting is done?

EV: My goal is to have a fresh look to the piece while still enjoying an investigative approach during the process. I ask myself if there is a focal point and a balance to the composition. The way I know a painting isn’t ready for completion is when I add a highlight to an area and it feels flat. That’s the test for me, I’ll then go back and repaint the area, and the same goes for adding black. I “jump the gun” in most of my paintings and add the highlights too soon, almost as a quick test to gauge how much more modeling a particular area needs, I’ll then paint over the highlight, and repeat the step.

ME: From some of the painting titles "It's Not Your Face, It's Mine", to the almost caricatured and grotesque, carnival interpretations of form and figure. There is some humor in these pieces, no? Are they making fun of us?

EV: Haha, I don’t think I’m making fun of anyone with the concepts or titles, just trying to lighten up the art a bit. My pieces are very serious, and the process is very dear to me. Though, I do look back at some of the pieces when completed and laugh at the final product, particularly when I observe them from a literal perspective. 4 eyes, 3 noses and jumbled up lips? Haha… its freaky! I think of it the same as when I’m watching a weird sci-fi movie… there are moments where I can really be exploring deep in my head about a concept during the film, then after the flick is over chuckle about the overall idea. The pieces can be cerebral, and humorous as well! The titles help the balance I think. My friend Jason once told me, that titles to art pieces are a helpful tool for the participant or viewer to shift their perspective when entering or engaging with the art.

Emilio Villalba: The Next Day (detail)

ME: Do you have a favorite piece in the show, or one that was particularly challenging to work on, and why?

EV: I do have my favorites, but they aren’t always the ones that are the prettiest or easiest to produce. My favorites are the ones that pushed me to work out of my comfort zone, and really challenged me either with design or with the paint application. I think the pieces that I am most proud of, are the paintings where I had a “completed” painting and then decided to repaint the entire piece because I wasn’t happy with how an eye looked, or the overall shape of the head for example. It’s really hard for me to go back to a piece once it’s been sitting for over a week and just re-work an eye or a lip without repainting the entire piece. The goal for the look was to have more or less a fresh look to the pieces, but not necessarily produce them quickly. Some pieces took 3 or 4 days to complete and others took weeks, a few worked over months.

ME: The Next Day is also the twenty-fourth studio album by David Bowie. A coincidence? How has his music been an influence on these paintings?

EV: David Bowie has been a huge influence on my work and my life, since the age of 17. The title was a coincidence, but when I arrived to the title for the show, I immediately thought of Bowie’s album of course! The first time I heard Space Oddity when I was young, I knew he was the greatest! I remember watching clips of the Ziggy Stardust Motion Picture when I was 9 or 10, and asked my dad, who is that girl? Haha. I'm not too stoked on every track from his album “The Next Day” but in retrospect, it was definitely an obvious build up to the beautiful final “Blackstar” record he released before his death. If I could live on Mars and were only allowed one artist’s entire discography for the rest of my life, it would be Bowies! He's the golden boy. He’s not the only musician that inspires me, but definitely my top! His music can be groovy and cerebral. Not only has his music and lyrics inspired me, but his bold artistic changes from album to album has been something that I’ve admired. I, too have had drastic changes in my art, my personality, views, philosophies, etc. It’s part of life and progression. I love exploring an idea in my own work to the point of exhaustion and then progressing on to the next concept that sometimes means having a drastic change in the aesthetic or outcome. He is/was such a good designer in everything he did, including fashion, performance, physical appearance and presentation. He is the perfect example of a guideline or rule I once heard: “There are no bad ideas, just poor executions” (in art ha) but one could argue that being true in the real world as well.


Emilio Villalba: The Next Day

ME: What’s your daily life like? What are some things you do when you’re not painting?

EV: When I’m not painting, I’m thinking about painting! I assume very similar to a surfer daydreaming about being out in the water while at work, or a rock climber waiting for it to stop raining to head out to the mountains. It’s my addiction right now and crave it constantly. My “fun time” consists of rock climbing, which took over my life for about 3 years around 2012-2014. I enjoy watching all movies, good or bad ones, and love listening and reading about music/musicians. My girlfriend and I are obsessed with discovering new jams!

Collector Preview:
Please contact us by email for an advance online preview of the exhibition.

On View:
April 1–30, 2016

Opening Reception:
Friday, April 1, 6 pm–9 pm

Exhibition Info >

Emilio Villalba Exhibition Flyer

Bradley Platz
Bradley Platz