In His New Show, This Painter Explores Our Perception Of Reality

Artist Santiago Mora on his latest exhibition, “Extremely superficial, incredibly painful” at Mexico City's Salon Silicon.

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It's no secret that Mexico City has a vivid art scene, there's always something popping, a new exhibit, a new gallery, an opening, an open studio. The more I have immersed myself in this world, the greater my understanding that art is subjective and lies in the eye of the beholder. I´ve learned that it is observed through one's unique worldview, which is influenced by perspective, personal taste, and past experiences.


Art is inherently personal. While I have connected with various pieces as a viewer, it was not until I witnessed Santiago Mora's most recent solo exhibition “Extremely superficial, incredibly painful” held at Salon Silicon, that I truly sensed the message breaking out of the canvas of each painting.

The work of Santiago Mora.

The exhibit delves into the observations of everyday life and the unnoticed moments that pass us by due to routine or the invisible grasp of capitalism. Using acrylic paint on plastic surfaces, Mora portrays mundane scenes with humanized objects. I feel deeply connected to this exhibit, because it's a critique of today's society and the way everything is so transactional. These themes reflect the pervasive nature of consumption that is so inherent to us, and we rarely take time to critically examine.


It is through encountering artists like Santiago that I recognize the importance of spotlighting their talent and voice, and of providing them with a platform to reach a wider audience. In this pursuit, I took the opportunity to engage with Santiago personally, on the record, delving into his creative process, inspirations, and the profound narratives that his art encapsulates. Our conversation, below:


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Diego: Hi Santiago, before discussing your current exhibit, could you please share a little bit about your background? What inspired you to explore art?


Santiago: I was born and raised in Guadalajara, my parents own a printing press, and work very closely with graphic design. The first story of the house I grew up in was the office space, so I grew up surrounded by paper, ink, machines, and graphic design processes. Since I was little, my artistic vision was being refined because I had all the resources to explore it; it's the way my parents entertained me as a child while they were working. I remember being 6 years old and asking the graphic designers to print images for me to intervene in them, that's how I discovered my passion for drawing. By 7, I was already taking painting lessons, working with acrylic & oil painting. From a very young age, I had a clear vision of what I wanted to do growing up.


Diego: How´s the art scene in Guadalajara?


Santiago: Guadalajara is renowned for its vast range of trades and techniques, making art production more affordable compared to other regions. The city offers diverse mediums such as silver work, leather crafting, woodworking, ceramics, and more. With a thriving art scene dating back to influential artists like José Dávila and Jorge Méndez Blake, Guadalajara continues to attract young creatives exploring various artistic mediums.

“Since I was little, my artistic vision was being refined because I had all the resources to explore it; it's the way my parents entertained me as a child while they were working.”

Diego: Can you name some of the artists you draw inspiration from?


Santiago: Curiously, one of the artists that moves me or inspires me the most is Felix González Torres, specifically in his conceptual treatment of everyday objects. He died of AIDS in 1996, his work has a symbolic and emotional weight that is strong because it derives from his identity as a cis homosexual, his body of art is personal, but it also touches politics, and I find that juxtaposition interesting. In terms of painting, David Hockney is one of my favorites, he's one of my greatest references.


Diego: Do you have any favorite movies? Have they inspired your art in any way?


Santiago: “Big Fish '' by Tim Burton. I love the way the story unveils and the way it plays a little with the blending of reality and dream, this dialogue between the oneiric and the wakefulness. I feel that it's been a great influence in the way I treat images and objects I work with in my pieces.


For this exhibit, I can say there's a “Fight Club” scene that inspired me. The “Single Serving Friend” sequence depicts this picture-perfect life that reminds me of an Ikea catalog. A single serving friend is someone you will meet once in your life, for example someone you are sitting next to on a plane; I realized that most of the things that you encounter are single-serving, and at times people you meet are single serving too; I wanted to explore this sensation of disposability that we all feel at times.


Diego: Could you elaborate on the concept behind “Extremely superficial, incredibly painful”? How did you come up with the title and what does it mean to you?


Santiago: I've come to realize that profound truths and realities are often concealed beneath the surface of things we overlook. The juxtaposition of "Incredibly superficial, extremely painful" encapsulates the essence of my artwork.

“I've come to realize that profound truths and realities are often concealed beneath the surface of things we overlook. The juxtaposition of "Incredibly superficial, extremely painful" encapsulates the essence of my artwork.”

Diego: Santiago, some of your works are made with acrylic paint on plastic surfaces, which highlights the issue of consumerism and its environmental implications. Could you tell us a little about what prompted you to use these materials?


Santiago: Working with acrylic paint has its own ecological implications as it contains microplastics that can enter water systems. This conceptual exploration of plastic's role in consumer societies is embedded in this collection. I discovered that polymers, despite their issues, offer remarkable stability and a vast range of finishes, colors, and transparencies. By diluting the paint and using polymer as a material I can create watercolor-like glazes and even play with light and transparencies, producing pieces that reflect rainbow tones when illuminated. This unexpected discovery has truly expanded my artistic exploration.


Diego: I understand that the incorporation of single-use objects in your paintings symbolizes our socialization and consumption habits. Could you elaborate on the symbolism of these objects in your artworks?


Santiago: I wanted to delve into the profound link between our perception of reality and consumer habits, exploring how our existence is shaped by what we consume, and symbolizing the interplay of objects and technology in defining our inherent nature.


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**Diego: Before delving into discussing the artwork that I acquired “PET”, I'd like to share my personal interpretation and see if we find any common ground.


To me, the artwork symbolizes capitalism and the necessity of participating in the system to meet basic survival needs. The snake represents my 9-5 job, while the plastic bottle, as a by-product of capitalism, represents the provision of those essential needs. Within the bottle, the plant signifies the environmental impact of single-use plastics. Does my interpretation align with yours? What is the primary message you aim to convey through this artwork, especially considering its creation on plastic?


Santiago: I consider your interpretation very accurate; I began studying the snake as a symbol in the Judeo-Christian biblical narrative; the way it relates to creation, and temptation. The figure is very interesting because even Mexican ancient civilizations believed in “Quetzalcoatl”, a feathered snake that also was linked to the creation of mankind.


I used the snake as a character that embodies the notion of protecting something valuable (the water bottle), which represents a basic need for human existence. It resonates with the reality of Mexico, where companies like Coca-Cola extract water from aquifers, only to return it to us in hyper-sweetened and in plastic-packaged forms. The character I depicted is simultaneously sinister and beautiful, with vibrant color details. For each flake I employed the overlapping color technique. I also wanted to play with the concept of “PET" . It can refer to a mascot but also to the type of plastic used for bottling these products.

Personally, climate anxiety is a prevalent concern. I experienced deep anguish during the rainless days in Guadalajara. So, this environmental take also derives from my awareness of the current stage of the World.

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Acknowledgments:

Santiago S. Mora (@santiagosmora) (artist)

Laos & Olga (Co-founders of @salonsilicon)

Photography by Diego Rodriguez F (@diegordzf)

Styling by @bichoisus


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