Cloaked in a gleaming taffeta Yankee’s jacket and blue snapback, the eyes of Pope Innocent X stare out at the viewer. His look seems to scan the audience distrustfully and perhaps with the intent of disgust and aversion. The Pope seems to pull away. Jafet Blanch’s version of the famous Velazquez painting is a perfect example of Blanch’s use of classical iconography amalgamated with contemporary representation and style.
Using key figures, and recognizable symbolism, Jafet Blanch hopes to encourage his spectators to look beyond what is visually represented into the depths of what is philosophically represented. His paintings provide a lush, hazy environment where elucidation and observation flourish. The lavish tints, golden-filigreed details, and rich patterns of historical concepts set the stage for a world that begs the viewer for profound understanding and interaction.
Your work seems to, at times, blend old world, traditional paintings and new world colorful ‘kitsch’ art…where do your inspirations stem from and which artists do you admire?
Abstract art is a universe with a great variety of creative resources. On the other hand, realism is limited to express itself only using real images. To expand its limits, I propose to endow it with a conceptual dimension that needs the gaze of the spectator to be resolved. This is the main feeling of my work.
I mix the icons of the imaginary collective itself – shocking images, on occasions traditional paintings that have become big hits – and I reinterpret them to be able to explain efficient stories with few elements. I admire an infinity of artists, amongst them writers, Musicians, people in film, photographers, designers, and of course, painters and sculptors. Some for their pieces and others for what they represent. Inspiration is born from all of them, and I always have them present. Despite everything, I believe that the point doesn’t always reside in what inspires us, but on what numbs us, or what should we get rid of in order to be capable of creating. I’m referring to the influence of publicity and stereotypes, for example. The contemporary world is so functional and programmed that creative minds, which require a certain chaos and room for contemplation, run the risk of succumbing to the banal.
Sensuality, fecundity, and luxury emanate from you work, but also introduce some morbid, strange, and cryptic characters. Many artists have a fascination with sex and death. Why do you think that is, and do you choose to portray those things on purpose or are they a natural byproduct of your taste?
I once had the opportunity to chat with a film director that assured that a movie needed to have sex or death scenes to attract the audience. I don’t believe showing tits and violence in a gratuitous way to be any guarantee of success, but I do share the idea that, in general, people feel a strong attraction for the morbid, and this Byzantium door is an irresistible provocation for people like me.
Sex and death are the two biggest weaknesses of the human being. From there it’s possible to twist our will. A clear example is in the church, when it told us what we wanted to hear about death, promising us the paradise of eternal life and making us unworthy for being what we are, sexual beings. I’ll give you peace in exchange for your identity. The ways have currently become more sophisticated, but they preach the same: I’ll give you security in exchange for killing in your name. I’ll give you a mortgage in exchange for your servitude. I’ll give you a canon of beauty in exchange for your self-esteem. I’ll promise you fame in exchange for your values; etc… Daily our conditions have, as their last consequence, sex or death. That’s why this theme fascinates many of us.
How do you navigate the art world? Has social media been a hindrance or a help in spreading your art to unfamiliar territories?
I’m not sure of the benefits that one can accomplish through social media. You know, being famous on Instagram is like being rich in the game of ‘Monopoly’. At a given moment, Instagram, Facebook or Twitter are positive tools for my work. Thanks to them I’ve had the occasion to deal directly with collectors, meet foreign galleries, and have contact with publications such as yours. One of the biggest satisfactions is the support I receive from my followers. I don’t always dispose of the time to establish a conversation with them, but I try to at least keep up to date with expressing my gratitude towards them.
You have stated that you are interested in depicting “hidden elements”…what does this mean for you? How does this reflect your world view?
I have a curious view, I define myself as a voyeur. When I begin a new project I try to keep myself flexible and give value to the unexpected, to the casual that appears during the creative process. And as such, the idea of showing that which isn’t always comfortable seduces me. Occult or disturbing elements, in a way that the spectator can feel at ease observing them. When this happens, it’s as if the artist caresses our intelligence. It’s very subtle. For that, one must be elegant and careful.
Is it possible to be a person without politics in this day and age?
It’s possible to believe that one is at the political margin utilizing abstention, but even from that position, even from indifference, one keeps exercising politics. I understand that one must organize at a social scale and that ideals don’t exist. So there’s no other option than to sit down to dialogue to resolve, at least the lesser evil. But the political class, just as we know it, doesn’t seem to be the most qualified to carry out this task. Groucho explains it very well in this phrase: politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it, make a fake diagnose and apply later the wrong remedies.
As an artist, have you ever had to make any sacrifices or take any risks for your art? Do you agree with the romanticized, commonly manic, personality usually associated with artists?
To take initiatives, build an individual opinion or leave the comfort of routines bears sacrifices and risks. But not to do it carries worse consequences, as there is no worse destiny than the prison on which we lock ourselves to not see ourselves fail. To create is to coexist with dissatisfaction. During a time of my life this dissatisfaction worried me till a point that I decided to recur for therapeutic help and, even so, I always returned to the same departure point, until I understood that dissatisfaction is the engine of my restlessness and that, due to it, I am privileged. Many people suffer trying to appear what they’re not, since nobody has told them that their weaknesses and their virtues are two sides of the same coin.
When it comes to clichés that are associated to artists, I wouldn’t know what to say; there’s a bit of everything. What is for sure is that they’re hard workers.
What does the future look like for you?
Now, I’m working on my first individual exposition, which will take place in Barcelona at the end of autumn under the sponsorship of Galeria Contrast. For this event, I will present about twenty five pieces among which I’ll introduce, as a novelty, sculpture. This past year I have been able to see in different fairs the fantastic work of several sculptors and the idea of bringing to life the protagonists of my paintings has captivated me. In fact, the obsession that I have goes beyond that. My wish for this exposition is to present a personal universe in a way that to design each one of the pieces, I work parallel to a short film. I center the effort on staying just with the essential and what best represents me.