In a world where art and soul intertwine, Gerardo Labarca emerges as a beacon of resilience and innovation. From the bustling corridors of the restaurant industry to the tranquil corners where canvas meets brush, Labarca's journey has been nothing short of extraordinary. Within the labyrinth of lines, colors, and shadows, Labarca masterfully explores the depths of human emotions, captivating audiences with his riveting portraits that echo tales of strength, vulnerability, and the sublime nuances of the human spirit. In this intimate conversation, Labarca unveils the journey that molded him, the passion that fuels him, and the horizons that beckon him. Embark on this artistic odyssey and witness the beautiful symphony of life and art through the eyes of Gerardo Labarca.
Retro Kolkata : Gerardo, could you share with us the unexpected encounter that led you to switch careers from the bustling restaurant industry to the serene world of painting?
Gerardo : I've always loved the arts. Painting has been a hobby all my life. I painted to unwind from my work in restaurant business. My goal in life was to retire from this industry - this profession which had been very good to me - and to keep painting in all the free time that retirement would bring. Unfortunately, things didn't work out that way. For reasons beyond my control, I had to shut the doors of my last restaurant, Mezcla, at the height of it's success. Despite all the hardships I was facing, I didn't let myself get down. It was at this point that I decided to pick up my brushes and start painting, but this time not as a hobby, but to earn a living. I knew I had potential, and I was always confident that I could exploit that ability. Once I started painting professionally, I haven't stopped. Today, I live entirely off my art.
Retro Kolkata : As a self-taught artist, how did you nurture your skills in portrait painting? Can you share any practices or routines that helped you develop your craft?
Gerardo : In almost every aspect of my life, I've always managed on my own - for example, working my way up from busboy to business owner. The same applies to my art. From an early age, I had a talent for painting portraits, but I'm always looking to perfect my technique by observing how other portrait painters work. I look for mistakes in proportion and lighting, correcting them to improve. I often practice by sketching potential subjects that I could turn into a portrait. I give myself the freedom to try techniques in which I have weaknesses, so I improve much faster in all aspects of painting. Working in mixed media, nothing is off limits, and certain techniques can appear and disappear depending on the work in question.
Retro Kolkata : Your portraits have been praised for capturing the essence of your subjects. How do you approach this task of bringing their souls to life on canvas?
Gerardo : When I paint a portrait, I paint someone for whom I feel a strong connection. The most important thing when I choose a subject to paint is that they speak to me, that they make me feel an emotion, which gives me the motivation I need to bring them to life on canvas. Many of the portraits I paint are of people I've always admired. I find out as much as I can about them, so that I can portray them as cherished characters in my life. I overwhelm myself in every aspect of their being, and try to express that feeling on canvas. I go into as much detail as possible to achieve as much realism as possible; I don't want to miss any detail, so I become more and more precise in my brushstrokes. Portraiture is one of the areas in painting where it's most important to have the right proportions, to have every element in the right place. There is no forgiveness, especially when the subject is cherished by many other people as well.
Retro Kolkata : In your journey as an artist, you've dabbled with different media. Which medium did you find the most challenging to work with and why?
Gerardo : Yes, I've dabbled in several mediums, my favorite being acrylics, but the one I've had the most trouble with is gold leaf. The sheets are fragile and tear very easily, so you have to be patient and meticulous when applying them to the surface of a canvas - you've got one chance to get it right, as the adhesion is instantaneous, and if you get it wrong, the work can be ruined.
Retro Kolkata : How does your past experience in the restaurant industry inform your current work as an artist? Are there any skills or perspectives from your previous career that you find particularly useful? Gerardo : Of course, I consider fine dining to be an art in itself. I've always used my creativity to give customers the best possible dining experience, both in the kitchen and at the table. Discipline and constant creativity are still part of my life as a visual artist, that part of me has been a constant.
Retro Kolkata : We sense your joie de vivre through your works. How does your personal outlook on life influence your art?
Gerardo : I try to see life from the most optimistic point of view possible. I give a great deal of importance to little things that bring happiness to myself and others. Within my work, I seek to produce strong sensations, and also sympathy and understanding for the people depicted. When I paint, this allows me to express my emotions, both positive and negative, and I reach a state of euphoria during the creative process - the world around me disappears. Through my work, I try to convey my point of view on life. It's a medium of communication. But it also creates a connection between me, and all the people with whom I share my work.
Retro Kolkata : You've mentioned your love for illustrating the intensity of feelings in your subjects. Could you walk us through your process of digging beneath the surface to expose these emotions in your art?
Gerardo : To begin with, I work in a completely serene atmosphere, which allows me to enter into direct communion with the subject I'm painting. For me, art is an ideal medium for observing and taking stock of our emotions. A work of art cannot be conceived, created and exhibited without the artist's spirit conveying a message. This same work of art arouses emotions in those who contemplate it, with an interpretation, intensity, and affective relationship specific to each individual. My artistic approach draws on all available emotions. I try to capture the emotions around me and let myself be intentionally guided by my own emotions to produce a work that is the fruit of my techniques and my own sensitivity.
Retro Kolkata : Who are some timeless icons you've portrayed in your work, and why did you choose these specific individuals?
Gerardo : Charlie Chaplin, silent film genius. Chaplin put all his talent at the service of an ideal of justice and freedom.
Marilyn Monroe, a muse for me - I can convey many of my moods through her portraits.
Nina Simone, associated with the civil rights movement for black Americans and women, is above all a free spirit. She fought, at the risk of her life, armed only with her music and her authenticity, to make the voices of minorities heard.
David Bowie. He had a real appetite, a real curiosity. He ventured into rarely charted territory, visited by others before him, but he knew how to inhabit it in a totally new way.
Retro Kolkata : How has your style evolved over the years, and what aspects of your magnificent personality do you believe are reflected in your painting techniques?
Gerardo : Initially, for me, style in painting was only linked to artistic movements. I thought an artist had a style when he painted in the manner of an artistic movement (impressionism, expressionism, cubism, etc.). But as I've researched, I've discovered that style is much more personal, and goes far beyond a particular way of painting. I mirror myself in every character I paint, and many of the feelings you can sense through my work are reflections of my current state of mind. I have canvases that are minimalist expressions, others that burst with rich, gold colors, and other paintings that are composed of wildly varied techniques, collages etc. I feel that my work evolves alongside my emotions. Looking at my work, you can clearly see an evolution in my art. There's been a lot of learning - I've mastered some new techniques that have strengthened my practice. Contemporary references and influences have also played a major role in the evolution of my art over the years, as I become more involved in the art community.
Retro Kolkata : Finally, what new horizons are you exploring in your artistry, and what can your followers expect to see from you in the future?
Gerardo : More and more, I'm working with art galleries to promote my art, within Canada and elsewhere in the world, which has given me visibility in areas outside social media. I also continue to learn and develop different techniques to express my creativity, refusing to limit myself to what I've found success with in the past.
As we delve deeper into the mystic realms that Labarca brings to life, we can't help but be swept away by the symphony of colors, textures, and emotions that dance gracefully across his canvas. In this brief yet enchanting encounter, Labarca invites us to not only witness the artistic masterpieces he creates but to experience the vibrant pulse of life that resonates within them. From the silent whispers of Charlie Chaplin to the captivating allure of Marilyn Monroe, each stroke encapsulates the raw essence of the icons that have touched and inspired many.
As Labarca continues to transcend boundaries and explore new horizons, the world eagerly anticipates the magic that will unfold. A beautiful blend of past experiences, unwavering resilience, and a ceaseless pursuit of artistic excellence, Labarca's journey is a testament to the transformative power of art. As we bid goodbye, we remain enchanted, with our souls adorned with the radiant brushstrokes of Gerardo Labarca, a true maestro in the vibrant symphony of life and art.