Through his paintings, Joseba Eskubi maps out a world of magic realism, contrasting intense colours and darkness to create dreamlike yet atmospheric images that simultaneously capture and confound you. His indistinguishable shapes and figures seem to move within the painting as if on a journey, caught isolated against the threatening backdrop of nothingness.
Tell is a bit about yourself.
I live and work in Bilbao. I studied at the Faculty of Fine Arts of the Basque Country, where I am currently a professor.
Did you always know that you wanted to be a painter?
I have always enjoyed working with images; many years ago drawing was my main activity. Later, I discovered oil painting and over the years this daily activity has acquired a broader perspective.
There is a darkness in your work, not in the least because of the dark hues and ghostlike figures, giving an impression of night-time. How do you feel when you are painting? What sort of thoughts and emotions run through your mind?
The deep dark backgrounds allow you to create a distance between the foreground figure and the context in which it is located. The central element is profiled on an atmospheric stage. The solid element is in front of a vacuum of still life where we fail to guess the main element, but we also perceive its presence as something inevitable.
The thoughts and emotions that I feel during the process of painting are very diverse and conflicting but almost always have some intensity and tension. Each work requires a concrete and specific approach.
Despite your use of dark colours, your work is still dramatically colourful. What draws you to this colour palette?
I like to contrast and clash highly saturated colors. Sometimes I have to modulate this to extreme tones because otherwise the composition crumbles. Finally, it's about finding a balance between this chromatic intensity and the perception of shapes and volumes. I use light as a resource that dramatizes the images, leaving some zones exposed and others dipped in shadows.
Your work is very abstract; it’s not always clear what the subject of the painting is which leaves it to the viewer’s imagination to decipher. What feelings do you want to evoke in the viewer?
Yes, these figures are open to multiple readings and analogies. I usually combine certain figurative readings with others that reveal the abstract sense of the work, trying to maintain a sense of ambiguity that allows for evocation around the shapes. The motion constructs a three-dimensional figure that is decoded simultaneously as purely material.
The painting is renewed in each view; fortunately, there are no two identical ways of seeing the same work.
I would say your style is quite distinctive and there are many similarities that have weaved through your work throughout the years. How do you personally feel that your style or outlook as an artist has developed from when you first started painting?
In my paintings, there are certain limits that I like to keep (a kind of composition, use of light). This central argument becomes more apparent over time with the internal changes in the figures, as if they have experienced a process of metamorphosis altering their qualities.
Your recent digital series seems, on many occasions, to portray the destruction of buildings and beautiful architecture. What were the thoughts behind these works?
Yes, architecture that loses its function and remains as a ruin, producing new structures and forms. This apocalyptic atmosphere turns buildings into something strange and disturbing. I like how something so stable and compact becomes fragile.
The technique also seems to resemble collage. How did you go about creating these digital pieces?
I use visual fragments from various fields: details of my own paintings, photos, etc. The final image is a hybrid, a mixture of different things: a collage that confronts different processes. The digital universe is vast; you can access and create numerous effects. In my case, I prefer to use a smaller number of them and so reduce the level of anxiety from this complex and labyrinthine technique.
You work with many different mediums: painting, collage, digital art and photography. How does your creativity differ within each medium and which is your favourite?
I feel that painting is the practice from which other mediums diverge. It’s a kind of loop where everything is linked and related to the same visual narrative.
Logically, photography and digital art have their own laws, but I don’t like to cause too many cuts in the process. With painting, everything flows in one direction.
Where do you look for inspiration?
I don’t believe in inspiration as something abrupt. I believe more in the insistence: this constant activity that you brood over - a curiosity about everything that happens daily in the studio. The process of painting always has something of adventure and discovery.
Are there any artists or movements past or present that you feel particularly resonate with your work?
I feel a special affinity for Baroque paintings: whirling figures, flesh, the luminous emerging from the vacuum...
What can we expect to see from you in the coming future?
I have two exhibitions coming soon. One intervention in the Oratorio of San Mercurio of Palermo, curated by Adalberto Abbate and an exhibition of my latest paintings in the Artdocks Gallery of Bremen with André Schmucki, curated by Uwe Goldenstein.