art: Diego Lorenzini
Diego Lorenzini is a young Chilean artist who now lives in London after a nine month stint in Berlin. We'll let he and his pictures speak for themselves. He currently has an exhibition at the Johanssen Gallery in Gormannstrasse 23, Berlin Mitte. www.johanssen-gallery.com
You're from Chile and living in Berlin right now. Is there a large art scene in Chile?
Chile is better known for its poets rather than its artists. Actually there are more than a few cases of very good artists who have considered themselves poets. Even so, I certainly believe that there are a lot of very talented people working within the art field in Chile, but the problem is that you can still feel a big gap between the interesting art and the art that makes money.
Obviously art is not about money, but neither is it the love from a mother to her kids and she does need it to buy food and feed them. Besides, one thing is art and another thing is the art scene. There are still a lot of people who are scared of investing in a piece of art that doesn't look good in an apartment lobby, and therefore the common option as an artist is to get funding from the government programmes.
Those programmes are quite good, but it is always dangerous when you have just one option. Essentially because then everyone has the opinion that it doesn't feel very democratic. Well, there is always that old Chilean tradition of leaving the country and trying your luck in another place like Europe or USA. I think I belong to that tradition.
The only dilemma about it is that someone can come out of the blue and say that even though you are a Chilean artist and you make Chilean art, you don't belong to the Chilean art scene. Then I remember my mother, who is a poet, telling me that it is not good to talk behind someone's back and that means I can't talk about the Chilean scene. That's a curious lesson coming from a poet but it is not a big deal though because I'm not very good at it. Mainly because I don't know when to stop.
Anyway, I think the idea is to come back someday, but first I want to learn through living in different places. I consider myself a Romantic, but that is not as heroic as it sounds because nowadays it's not an option to live in a pure society without the influence of others, and I think I prefer to see it in the flesh rather than on the Internet. Actually I'm not living in Berlin anymore, I was living there for nine months but I moved to London at the beginning of this year.
Did you study art in Chile?
Yes, I studied Fine Art there in the University and afterwards I spent one year working with Eugenio Dittborn in his studio in Santiago. I had good teachers and he was one of them.
Is there a particular sort of style that is prevalent there?
When I was in the University it was very difficult to draw without being underestimated. It seemed very irrational to find a closer connection of that kind of work with the drawing tradition in the art history before categorizing it as blank design or childish illustration. It was very unpopular, kind of an adolescent thing to do. That was because the art school where I went is very conceptual and that is a reflection of the national dominant style. Obviously the conceptual art is not a Chilean invention, but there was a particularly strong use of it there under Pinochet's regime. At that time, the confusing codes of conceptual art were the perfect weapon to say things without being discovered and thus being arrested, etc. The problem is that such a big school of creating in an intricate way was inherited as the prevalent style until today even though Pinochet left the power in 1989. We like to call these years the transition period. Thus, it is still common to find a lot of intellectual exhibitions filled with encrypted messages in Santiago. Some of them are very good but others feel a little bit pointless. Mostly when the messages are about social problems that could be resolved faster if they were more accessible for the public.
I suppose Berlin was faster in that sense because their wall fell at that same time but to draw is already very trendy there. Nonetheless, it is not a surprise for me to see how alike our female presidents look.
Now in Chile the art students and the young movements seem to be more spontaneous and committed to their own craft. But as we all know, the trends always move slower academically and that means that probably the things are still conceptual enough in the Universities to make the ones who draw look elegantly rebellious. I would happily go back to study now.
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When we talked earlier you said that Berlin had had an influence on the images we see here. Has it been something specific in technique or more a change of mood?
Well, I would say that it was more a change of mood. I went to Berlin without speaking a word of German and that can definitely change one's mood. I read an article in English about the exhibition where the author said that I didn't speak a world of German because he typed the word word wrong. Well, it felt kind of like that: a beautiful world of word mistakes.
There are a lot of artists in Berlin. Do you think you feed off the general atmosphere of creativity or are you mostly working from inside yourself?
Berlin is definitely full of artists indeed, and that is a very nice consequence of how cheap it is to live there. I met some but none of them were German. However, a friend had already told me that the best way to know Germans is going anywhere except to Germany. She told me this when I was living in Buenos Aires and curiously she was from Hamburg. Nonetheless, I’m quite sure that is not exclusive to Germans because it has been very easy to meet a lot of Chileans in both Germany and Argentina.
The people that I used to hang out with in Berlin were mostly waiters and waitresses, and, despite the fact that I spent most of my time there working in the kitchen of a Peruvian restaurant, it has to be said that I didn’t try very hard to meet new artists. It was a very conceptual thing to do though, because in the end, the very best new ideas are always encrypted within the catering field.
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