august vilella exhibition artworks villazan gallery paintings contemporary art
august vilella exhibition artworks villazan gallery paintings contemporary art
Hypeart Visits: August Vilella
The Tokyo-based painter known for his surrealistic compositions filled with imaginative creatures.

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.’

august vilella exhibition artworks villazan gallery paintings contemporary art

“My intuitive painting process is very susceptible to all that happens to me.”

Can you talk about your journey as an artist, from growing up in Barcelona to now living in Tokyo? How have these different places influenced your art?

I grew up in Spain. In my childhood I was living in Reus, a small city famous for important Spanish artist such as Gaudi or Fortuny were born there. When I was eighteen I moved to Barcelona where I started to study Philosophy at University, at the same time I enrolled in several music bands and started to write a book about my own philosophical theories. However I always felt that I needed to find a more direct way to express myself, without any language and cultural barriers… and I have found it through painting. From the first moment my brush touched the canvas I fell in love with oil paint and the intuitive creative process… and instantly understood that is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. When I started painting by myself I was a member of two music bands, writing a book and working in tourism in The Sagrada Familia temple in Barcelona. I decided to quit my job and the rest of my hobbies and distractions to be completely focused on my painting career. One year after I had my first art opportunity in Japan where I had some shows, conferences, my first sales and I won the award as best artist in the Tokyo International Art Fair. A few months later, I had some more shows in Europe and at the end of that year I experienced the Chinese art market with Caelis Galleria in Shanghai, where my artwork was highly appreciated since the first day, having record sales and giving my career a definite boost. Following years were so busy consolidating my presence in all Asia and opening new markets such as the USA, Europe and Dubai. In spring of 2020 I went to Japan for a short stay just to attend a solo exhibition and Tokyo Art Fair… however suddenly, the Covid pandemic started and consequently my show and art fair were postponed. So, at that moment my manager in Japan of JPS gallery offered to sponsor me to stay permanently in Tokyo and I accepted immediately. The following years were very special for me because I could reach many goals and special projects like Art Basel Miami and Hong Kong, Dubai Burj Khalifa show, a solo exhibition in Barcelona Gaudi’s “La Pedrera” building and in Kudan House in Tokyo… etc. And now I find myself preparing my first solo show in New York with Villazan Gallery.

Of course all these different places have influenced my art changing and improving it thanks to my experiences. My intuitive painting process is very susceptible to all that happens to me. We can compare this with the dreams… elements and experiences that affected us during the day appear in our dreams unintentionally… The same happens in my artwork.

“In some way, I feel that my artwork helps people to communicate with themselves.”

Your art has been shown in many cities worldwide. How do you make sure your work connects with people from different cultures?

The eyes are the windows to the soul. Through them, we can express any feelings and emotions. It is the purest form of communication between living beings. However, as an intuitive painter, I don’t know the real reason why my characters have such big and expressive eyes, but I’m sure they are born with them for some reason. They can’t talk, so this is their way to communicate with the world. When people look into their eyes, they connect with themselves and with the depth of their own soul. Maybe this is why everyone tells me a very different and personal story and interpretation of my paintings, and each one of these stories is correct. In some way, I feel that my artwork helps people to communicate with themselves.

How do you paint? What’s your method like? Why do you choose to paint this way?

I create oil paintings using a surreal-intuitive method. Thanks to this process and without using any previous sketches or ideas, I try to give shape to my subconscious mind. The result of this practice evokes a dreamlike aura and a magical, metaphoric, and even philosophical language, which invites the observer to reflect. All this iconography is represented with a very refined technique. I work with very small brushes, apply many thin layers of oil paint and varnish, and play with lights and shadows. Consequently, we see a curious contrast between a highly technical and elaborate style, and a creative process that is completely intuitively improvised and unintentional, like a jazz painting. As I always say: “I don’t choose my characters; in some way, they choose me. And when we remove the will of the artist regarding his creation, each painting becomes a work of art of the world and for the world; a piece of art in which all people can find themselves reflected, and above all, a work of art with a life of its own that wants to be seen, to awaken, and to be felt.”

I never went to any art school or academy, so I learned to paint by myself. Before I became a painter, I used an intuitive method for writing my books and composing music. Consequently, I applied and developed this intuitive method for painting from the beginning. You could say that I skipped all the exercises and sketch processes and started painting directly. This helped me focus on my own style, allowing it to improve in its own way, instead of spending time on landscapes, portraits, and similar things. From the beginning, I felt very comfortable with my intuitive method because it fit perfectly with my philosophy and way of being. Additionally, I use intuition not only for my creative processes but also for the most significant and crucial decisions in my life. Intuition is a very important part of my life and myself.

“I feel like a Jazz musician improvising.”

Your art has been called dreamy and magical. Can you explain what themes or ideas you often paint, and how they come from your imagination?

The element that makes people recognize my art without seeing my signature is the melancholic, philosophical and dreamlike scenes and atmospheres with big-eyed characters. These characters normally interact with nature or other beings sending us some metaphorical hidden messages that we have to interpret. The main element of my artwork is the viewer… he is who gives sense and life to my art. My artwork is just an invitation to see inside ourselves using my characters as a spiritual bridge.

How all these scenography appears on my canvas is a mystery even to myself… My way of working remains immutable along the years. I just face a white canvas and without any sketches or ideas I start painting directly with the oil. In the process (especially in the first steps) I completely lose the control of my brush and the shapes of the characters start to appear naturally from nowhere on the canvas without my will. I feel like a Jazz musician improvising. This anarchic process is a big contrast with a refined method using very small brushes, putting many slim and transparent layers of oil paint and playing delicately with the lights and shadows to reach a deep atmosphere and vibrating colors. The result of all this combination is an artwork of depurated technique that, however, preserve its purity and spontaneity. It is the marriage of two worlds; the confluence of the technical and the spiritual world that generates an elaborated art piece that has no conditioning meaning or topic by me.

Your paintings are very detailed and precise. How do you keep this while also letting your creativity flow naturally?

To understand how I keep the balance between these two different ways to work we have to see me like a bipolar artist. In some way we can say that I can be two very different people during the creation of my artwork. In some moments, especially when I start the artwork, the painting process becomes very creative and intuitive. That Is when I lose the control of the brush, and in some meditative state unintentionally my characters and topics appear. However, after that it becomes more mechanical when I work on the details of these characters, for example when I paint their hair one by one. But, in the middle of this “more mechanical” process sometimes a brushstroke suddenly turns my mind again to the intuitive/meditative mood and suddenly my brush makes new elements appear on the canvas. In consequence during the painting process I switch between two very different and even opposite working methods… and the result is a very intuitive iconography represented with refined and detailed technique.

Why is light and shadow important in your art? How do you use them to make your paintings more meaningful or emotional?

I ́m not sure because it comes naturally for me, I guess using the lights and shadows help me to give my artwork a special dream-like and poetic atmosphere. If we had to choose only one word to comprehend all my art it would be “Melancholy”, all my creative world revolves around these feelings of extreme sensitivity that opens the doors of the soul for other realities… and the lights and shadows help to create the appropriate setting for it.

august vilella exhibition artworks villazan gallery paintings contemporary art

You’ve said that your characters choose you. Can you explain how this happens when you’re painting?

When I’m in front of a canvas, I feel like I lose control of the brush. In some way it is like meditation or a trance-like experience for me. Thanks to the textures and behavior of my oil paints the character and themes gradually materialize on my canvas. Similar when clouds in the sky sometimes morph into elements that are recognizable. Suddenly some characters and themes start to appear from nowhere… I only know what my painting will look like when I do the final brushstroke.

For me the process is similar to reading a book. Each new page is a mystery for me. Only when I arrive at the last page I can discover the ending… same thing happens with my artwork. In some ways I don’t feel like the only author of my painting, but an instrument, and for that reason I don’t feel that the artwork belongs to me completely. I feel they have a life of their own.

Plenty of outlets have written about your art. How do you deal with balancing what you want to create with what people expect from you as an artist?

I just try to be myself and flow during the creative process… and don’t pay attention to what the people expect of me. However there are external elements that can affect my artwork. We don’t have to forget that my subconscious mind has an important role in the creative process and in consequence we can see some relationship between my paintings and some of my experiences. For example, since I’m living in Japan I have seen that in my paintings start to appear more nature elements like sakura trees, animals or insects… The reason for that I guess, is that here in Japan nature is more present in my daily life.

You’ve mentioned that your paintings seem alive and want to be seen. Can you tell us about one painting that you think shows this well?

All paintings show this. For this reason It is difficult to specify only one painting because each painting for me is like a small part of my soul. All my creative world revolves around the feeling of extreme sensitivity that opens the doors of my soul for other realities. I just give shape to this feeling in the form of strange characters who through his big eyes are looking from the canvas and calling us, to tell us their stories and secrets, hidden stories and secrets about ourselves.

What do you hope people feel or think when they look at your art?

For me the power of my art is to help people to connect with themselves. Through the eyes of the characters we can look into the innermost depths of the human soul and, often, the eyes of my characters become some kind of mirror for the people because looking at them they can see themselves in some metaphorical, dreamlike and philosophical way. All this makes the observer connect with the artwork on a deeper level, instead of only aesthetic or superficial. It has an intuitive kind of painting. The subconscious mind has a very important role in all the creative processes. All the elements which appear on the canvas are doing it unintentionally and in consequence when people ask me about the meaning of my artwork I answer them with the same question; “-What does it mean for you?” Because, like an intuitive kind of artwork, the meaning is completely opened and each person is free to find his own way to connect with the painting. My collectors also value this point because when they acquire one of my pieces they know they have a unique, personal and unrepeatable artwork.

Photos courtesy of the artist and Villazan Gallery for Hypeart

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