Have you ever thought about what your inner demons look like? Characters who besides hurting us, protect us from the threats we can’t see. Catalan artist and communicator Pepo Moreno dialogues with them directly, after putting a human face on his impressive drawings inspired by art brut. “It is good to embrace them and try to make peace with them,” he explains. He now presents his first solo show, Dimoni, at the Galerie Charraudeau in Paris, until February 6, inspired by his own story as a queer individual. Demons arising from failures with which we can all feel identified one way or another.
Pepo, for those who may don't know you, could you first introduce yourself briefly?
My name is Pepo, I’m 35 years old, and besides many other things, I paint and work with brands.
From music to marketing and fashion communication, your work is not limited to a single creative discipline. Lots of skills grouped under the umbrella term ‘interdisciplinary’ or ‘multifaceted,’ which in your case began to take shape from your childhood in artistic surroundings. What was your dream when you were a child?
Definitely, I wanted to be an artist. I drove towards fashion and communication, which still is one of my passions. I think that creativity always finds its way.
Born in Tortosa, Catalonia, in the '80s, a decade that marked a before and after in Spanish history (and aesthetics), you moved to Berlin in 2009. It was there that you connected with a wider sense of freedom. How was this experience? What did you do during this time?
I love Berlin and I feel like home there. I got in contact with a scene that was difficult to find anywhere else, I think. It was definitely also the youth and the madness of the moment, no doubt about it; but it was extremely special.
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And it was precisely in this city where you experimented more in-depth with drawing and illustration, defining what your personal style would end up being. Did you do it as a hobby, or pursuing the goal of dedicating yourself to it professionally?
Never! I started my own blog (we still had blogs by then) and began sharing a bit of what I was doing there, under the name of The Furry and the Young. I was also collaborating with brands that were very keen on illustration and art, and I started to play with drawings and printing t-shirts for my friends or auto-editing fanzines at home. It was extremely naive and fulfilling, and I guess this made it double special.
5 years ago, you moved again. On this occasion, to Paris, where you currently live and from where you answer us. Why did you make this decision?
After Berlin, I started working for fashion brands. I wanted to drive my creativity in something more structured, and one thing took me to another. There was a good job opportunity in Paris and I moved there after a quick stop in Barcelona in 2015.
Half a decade goes a long way. What have you been doing during this period? In which vital moment are you?
Working non stop! I worked for several different fashion and beauty brands while developing my own core work. I think that having this creative oasis on the side, helped me a lot dealing with stress and anxiety. It also gave me the opportunity and the tools to look back to my own personal story as a queer individual.
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Now, you present your drawings for the first time in an exhibition held in Paris. Dimoni, your new project, is an exhibition of queer art in which, through pieces reminiscent of art brut, you fully immerse yourself in the LGTBIQ+ community. From the innermost fears to the most widespread cliches, you show some of the problems we are all concerned with. When and in what way did you start working on this exhibition?
I think the first pieces came out around October 2019, but it was during the first confinement when everything started to make sense for me. I had no space left in my room, which used to be my full-time studio, and started putting the pieces in the walls in a pretty natural, unconscious way. The result was fresh and pretty disturbing to me, and I realised that it was a moodboard of my own demons.
Dimoni talks about your personal experience as a cisgender gay man. But, in turn, the issues addressed can be extended to the community as a whole. Trauma, rejection, and even self-denial. Does it arise in response to an urgent need with no other claim than personal liberation, or do you pretend to convey a concrete message to the audience?
I can only talk about my personal experience. I think Dimoni is very about me and my persona. However, these demons are present in the community in a way or another, and I am sure that many people will identify with them.
If we have a look at your Instagram profile, turned into the platform par excellence for artists and creators, drawing has always accompanied you. But since April, when the lockdown was declared, you have started to share your work daily. Has the pandemic been a turning point in your vision of art? How has it afectad you?
I think that it was a creative momentum for many people, not only for me. I guess that having so few social interactions allowed me to look into my own past somehow, and the way I built myself up over the years.
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From naked well-toned torsos to smiling emojis included in colourful T-shirts and disfigured portraits. In addition to an exhibition, Dimoni seems to be a large-scale moodboard, in which feelings emerged from a long personal process converge. What can you tell us about your creative process?
There is a lot of absurd on the process. It does begin with a sentence I see that moves something in me, an image (mostly porn or soft erotica from the ‘70s) or even a meme. It doesn’t really matter, my sources are very varied. Regarding the technique, I guess it does begin with a failure: I don’t have art studies so I tried to embrace failures and see beauty on them.
A little while ago we talked about the huge internal fears we all have, which limit us many times when it comes to making decisions and being free. But there are also fears caused by others’ attitudes, even by members of the community itself. Do you think that the gay community is a space of support and mutual understanding, or on the contrary, a hostile and judgmental territory?
Life is too short not to be kind. I love Nina West’s Kindness is Queen motto, and I do try to apply it every day. It is magic. However, let’s not misunderstand sassiness with hostility! Let’s keep it fun.
Words such as ‘gay’ or ‘fag’ make an appearance in some of the drawings exhibited. While there are people who prefer not to speak publicly about their identity, considering it something personal, others advocate an inclusive discourse with which they try to normalise certain words, attitudes or lifestyles. What do you think about it?
I can only speak for myself. I think that those are words of empowerment for the community now. They have been used to hurt and criminalise us. For me, it has been liberating to use them openly, and also to remember that many people are still living under the burden of injustice, fear and shame today because of these words.
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Why have you opted for Dimoni (demon in Catalan) as the title for your first exhibition? Do you refer to the demons we have within ourselves or those who try to harm us?
It does make a clear reference to my own origins and my childhood, and it is understandable in many languages (almost). Demons hurt you, but also keep you safe at night. It is good to embrace them and try to make peace with them if you can.
Your work is characterised by the variations of acrylic painting techniques, irregular brushstrokes and saturated colours. What artists, periods or movements inspire you?
I am very into the abstract movement of the ‘20s onwards, the surrealism of Miró and anything that is art brut. Also, vintage homoerotica (it doesnt matter the decade, but mostly ‘70s), fashion editorials and comic (mostly grunge ones, like Hate).
What memory would you like someone visiting your exhibition to have?
I want people to feel moved with the message behind the kindness. That’s it, I guess. Also to have fun, we all need a bit of this right now.
And what can you tell us about your next projects? Are you working on any upcoming exhibition?
I am preparing my own website, working on a project with a young fashion brand for pride and, yes, thinking about the next exhibition. I would like to work on the Barcelona canalla of the '70s and its iconic characters.
Dimoni is showing at Galerie Charraudeau, 3/4 Rue Bonaparte, Paris, until February 6.
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