Hypeart Visits: August Vilella Paints a Haunting Jazz Symphony

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Hypeart Visits: August Vilella Paints a Haunting Jazz Symphony

August Vilella paints dreamlike scenes filled with imaginative creatures. His decade-long practice in contemporary art features serendipitous encounters, intuitive brushstrokes, and a seamless fusion of surrealism. His compositions are interlaced with diverse influences drawn from literature, music, and profound philosophical musings. From the surrealistic cues that permeate his works to the haunting echoes of his Heavy Metal roots, each brushstroke resonates with a symphony of visual elements.

Venturing beyond the confines of Barcelona, August found solace amidst the enigmatic atmosphere of Tokyo. The Japanese capital also serves as both muse and canvas for August’s explorations. At the core of August’s practice lies an intuitive and automatic approach, reminiscent of the surrealist masters who came before him.

The artist is set to conclude his latest exhibition ‘Echoes of Silence’ in Villazan Gallery’s New York City outpost. Across the works presented, he offers a reflection of the myriad facets of the human experience – an invitation to embark on a journey of introspection and exploration, guided by the haunting melodies of his surreal symphony.

For our latest ‘Hypeart Visits’ spotlight, we connected with August to discuss his creative upbringing, influences and latest works from ‘Echoes of Silence.’

“I believe painting and I were destined to find each other in this life.”

When did you start painting?

This year marks exactly 10 years since I began with painting. So it’s a very special year for me in many aspects. These have been wonderful years where many of my dreams have come true. I still remember my first brushstrokes… I felt like a whole new world was opening up before me. The first time I felt the brush caressing the canvas, I felt like I would dedicate myself to it for the rest of my life. It was an instant connection. Love at first sight. I believe painting and I were destined to find each other in this life because it’s a means through which, even though I never received any academic training, I could express myself and create paintings from day one.

Besides being a painter, you are very passionate about literature and music. How have these different artistic disciplines contributed and helped you to create your body of work?

Certainly, due to the intuitive process of my work, we can see the influences of my past passions in it. In these cases, literature could be reflected in the philosophical or metaphorical sense of many of my works as well as their multiple readings. In the case of music, perhaps we can see it in the melancholy transmitted in the characters’ gaze. However, all of this is mere speculation since, being a process in which my will plays such a small role, it is difficult to decipher the real origin of where the reason for the elements that appear comes from. To some extent, it is a mystery that precisely gives it part of its charm and beauty.

“I don’t choose the characters in my works, but to some extent, they choose me.”

In your paintings, you usually depict characters with big eyes in the middle of an apparently deserted landscape. What do these characters represent?

That they have the characteristic big eyes, I suppose, is partly because the eyes are the mirror of the soul, and through them, we can express any kind of emotion. That’s why many of my characters don’t require more facial features, as only through their eyes can we establish a deep communicative and emotional connection with them. Their eyes are a kind of portal between our earthly world and the dreamlike and spiritual world. As for who they are… it’s a mystery even to me. Why don’t you try asking them yourselves when you see them live?

As a painter, what other influences do you draw upon, aside from surrealism?

Actually, I don’t feel very influenced by other styles or artists. Those who know me well know that I’m not very fond of visiting exhibitions or museums. Since I’ve always preferred creating to observing. My true influence is nature and above all life itself with all its beauty and mysteries. Everything that surrounds me exerts an influence on my soul and consequently on my work. For example, since I’ve been living in Japan, since I’m in much closer contact with nature, its elements have become much more present in my work. Some new ones have even appeared, like insects. As I often say in my shows: – “I don’t choose the characters in my works, but to some extent, they choose me.”

You started your art career in Barcelona, but what made you move to Tokyo?

I moved to Tokyo basically for three reasons. The first reason is that most of my managers, galleries, collectors, and shows are in Asia. So it was much more convenient for me to live in Japan since from there I could coordinate my career much more effectively. On the other hand, Japan is a special country that has always attracted me, and I thought that starting to live in a new country would also inspire me in my art. Finally, I came to Tokyo in 2020 for a month for two exhibitions that were postponed due to the start of the Covid pandemic. Then my manager in Japan proposed to sponsor me to get the papers to reside in Tokyo, and I accepted immediately. It was a very unexpected and impulsive decision, as I arrived in Japan with a carry-on suitcase to stay for a month and suddenly stayed permanently.

“Tokyo has thousands of stimuli… it’s a paradise for the senses.”

What aspects of Tokyo do you find most appealing? Do you feel comfortable in such a big city?

Yes, I feel very comfortable. I live in a typical two-story Japanese house with tatami mats in all the rooms, a garden, and in a central but relaxed area. On the second floor, I set up my painting studio. Tokyo, despite being a very large city, is at the same time very safe, quiet, people are polite, and they respect each other’s space a lot, so it’s ideal for artists since you can be constantly focused on your inner world. Tokyo has thousands of stimuli… it’s a paradise for the senses. In the city, I also found a lot of inspiration from nature, which is very present everywhere, even in the middle of the city. Also, the seasons are very marked and beautiful, we have snow in winter, cherry blossoms in spring, in summer a great variety of animals and insects, and in autumn, beautiful colors. All of this is especially inspiring to me for my art.

There is a story about when you were working at the Sagrada Familia and a woman came to talk to you, and her words changed your life. Could you tell us more about this interesting event?

Before dedicating myself professionally to painting, I worked in tourism at Antoni Gaudí’s Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. At that time, I felt somewhat lost in life… Apart from my daily work, I had started painting as a hobby, I had two music bands, and I was writing a philosophy book, among other hobbies. I felt like I couldn’t handle everything and urgently needed to take a path in my life. One day at work, among the thousands of tourists we received, I saw a woman who kept staring at me from a distance. When she approached, intrigued, she asked me if by any chance my name was August and if I painted. When I answered yes, she began to cry and hugged me. She told me that she had just arrived that morning from Austria for a visit but because of her fear of flying, she spent the night on the computer, and by some strange coincidence, she ended up on my Facebook profile where she saw my artwork, which relaxed her and with which she felt a very deep connection. The curious thing is that at that time, I didn’t have any profile, website, or blog as an artist or painter on the internet. I had never shared my art anywhere. I had only occasionally posted some photos of my works on my small personal Facebook profile, which only my friends and family saw… so the chances of that lady finding me were almost zero.

For all this, in addition to the fact that she had no idea that I was from Barcelona, let alone that I worked at the Sagrada Familia, our meeting could not have been a coincidence. According to her, it was a predestined encounter in which she felt like a tool of the universe sent to push my dream… amidst tears, she told me that I had to make the most important decision of my life, and that I had to make it that same day without fail. And just as she said, I went to talk to my boss and quit that stable job, I also talked to the two music bands to leave them at once, and I decided to stop writing my book. I focused completely on my painting, created a profile, a website, and a portfolio which I began to send around the world until I was accepted for a 3-month artistic residency in Japan where I sold my first artwork, won the award for best international artist at the Tokyo International Art Fair, and from where my artistic career took off to this day.

Tell us about your current exhibition ‘Echoes of Silence’ at Villazan.

Although I have had many exhibitions in the United States, this is my first solo exhibition in New York, so I will present a very special series of paintings that I have carefully prepared during these months.

Is there a narrative or a common thread in the exhibition?

Each work is a world, a story, a life… unique and unrepeatable in itself. The narrative is a blank score that the spectator must fill with their own notes when viewing the work in order to create their own personal symphony. For me, paintings are like mirrors in which the observer sees themselves reflected in a metaphysical, philosophical, and dreamlike language. I don’t intend to communicate anything specific with my work; what I intend is that through my work, people communicate with themselves at a deeper and more spiritual level.

Photos courtesy of the artist and Villazan Gallery for Hypeart

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