Keke Vilabelda

Keke Vilabelda

These gorgeous architecturally-inspired pieces are the work of Mexico City-based artist Keke Vilabelda, whose practice spans photography, painting, and installation. I love the image transfers onto panels, sometimes made of concrete, which are then painted on, or stacked with other materials. A great interview below, and more information at the links afterward!

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First, I'd love to know some more about you! You are originally from Valencia, Spain. Are you based there currently? 

I was born in Valencia in 1986. Currently I'm based In Mexico City, I moved here 5 months ago looking for new experiences and opportunities. This city is so inspiring, and I have just found a great, cheap, nice located studio, so I might stay here for a while!

When you were a child, what did you dream of being when you grew up? What first interested you in making art?

I always had a creative impulse on me, so I dreamed of being a crazy inventor. As any child, I enjoyed drawing for hours, and that enjoyment have never ceased. When my dad explained me that drawing could be a profession I couldn't believe it and eventually I made it my way of life.

What has your art education been like, informally or formally?

Before my university studies, for several years I attended 4 days a week an art academy, which was a very intense task. I also remember, during my graduate studies, the great work of teaching and criticism made by several teachers, and especially the side-by-side work and constant feedback of my classmates. During these years, I rent my first studio where I spent most of the time, before and right after class, Saturdays and Sundays, I used every minute I could to build up my career. 

Following my degree I decided to travel abroad as much as I could, and ended up doing an MA at London's Central Saint Martins. After the previous stage of intense work and study in Spain, it was very encouraging to see how, in a few months, it was possible to move forward by simply exposing myself to a completely new context and new ideas. Since then I have been spending short periods in and out of my home country. Learning is a never-ending exercise!

Much of your work relates to concepts of the urban, or built environment, and modern architecture. Do you have a background in studying architecture? What interests you in buildings or cities?

My eldest brother studied architecture, so I guess thats a big influence on me. 

I have been working around architecture as a pretext to discuss the individual's relationship with urban space. Through my practice I am asking questions about how we look, we live and interpret the places we build. I'm interested in combining the tradition of landscape painting with representations based on digital technologies. Through hybridization of painting and photography, and the use of materials such as cement or methacrylate, I have tried to recreate the image of these scenarios, displaying their materiality and experimenting with their formal aspects.

You work in a variety of media, combining photography with painting or video. Do you have an interest in one medium specifically, which you branch out from, or do you like to experiment?

From my point of view, everything can be painting, and that's my main interest. Painting is not a medium, but a way of looking. I try to play with its limits, experimenting with new materials and technologies, but in close relation with the classic conception of painting. 

Can you tell me a bit about your process? How do you get started on a piece? Do you work with a series in mind, or one at a time?

The process of each body of work is determined by a previous idea. Sometimes I know exactly what I want, but don't know how to materialize it, so I have to get there through experimentation, and that's where happy accidents occur. I work around concepts that give form to different series. When I feel that I'm repeating myself I'm in the need of moving forward, so I close that series and start all over again.

What is your studio like? Do you have any routines or rituals there?

I need a lot of space to move around freely and work in several pieces at the same time, so I feel very lucky that I have always managed to find a good studio. While I'm away I'm keeping my "headquarters" in my hometown, Valencia. It's a big industrial space, that I'm sharing with a few friends.

As I mentioned earlier, here in Mexico, I have just found a nice studio for my own, with hight ceilings, lots of natural light, and right in the historic city centre. I do not have any special rituals, but staying here everyday and having as much fun as I can.

What do you do if you find yourself in a creative rut?

Work work work! Crisis can get the best out of us, so I try to stay positive and do not stop working. Also, going out with friends, travel, reading and visit museums are helpful.

Is there any advice you've received over time that you find yourself revisiting or using frequently? Is there any advice you've gotten that you're glad you didn't take?

SIMPLIFY. So easy and yet so difficult. I feel we tend to make things more complicated than they are, and usually the simplest option is the best.

An advice I didn't take… a teacher once told me "Art is like a sailboat, you should be where the wind blows". I remember I found it disgusting…perhaps he was right, but I like to think differently. Sooner or later wind blows everywhere! I'd rather keep working on my own ideas than change them just because they are not "fashionable".

What do you consider the most challenging or difficult part of pursuing art as a career?

Well, pursuing art as a career means to deal with lots of stuff that is not necessarily related with the studio practice. Artists today need to be capable of building a web, write statements, document the work properly, apply for funding…just to mention a few. Also, connecting with agents and market can get tricky...

What do you consider your biggest "success" so far, and what does success mean to you as an artist?

Success for me, is doing what I like everyday, and so far I can't complain.  My biggest success is being full time dedicated to my career.

Do you have any upcoming exhibitions or other projects you're developing right now?

For first time in a long period I have no commitments upcoming in the near future, which feels good, but also a bit frightening… something is arising, but it is too early to talk! Right now I'm entirely concentrated on developing a new body of work, influenced by my surroundings here in Mexico.

Anything else you would like to add?

Just a big thanks for the opportunity to show my work ;)

Find more at kekevilabelda.com and on Instagram @keke_vilabelda!

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Shai Yehezkelli

Shai Yehezkelli

Ivan David Ng

Ivan David Ng