Tell us something about yourself, who is Jorge Rivera?
JR. I could begin with my external persona or my social projection (laughs). My name is Jorge Rivera, I am a Spanish-born Artist who spent my early years growing in a conservative family in A Coruña, Northwest of Spain. My father was a high officer in the Spanish army and my mother an opera singer, for this reason, my upbringing was a little different and more intense than most of my classmates. Music and competitive sports took up most of my extracurricular activities, I was an hyperactive child by nature, which suited me just fine. However I could always feel at ease and find solace in my attic where instead of practicing violin spent hours drawing and daydreaming.
Daydreaming was quite a big thing back then and actually still is (laughs) I think that becoming an Artist allowed me to explore all these possibilities of being. Eventually, all the dreams I had in the attic, became more and more real in the studio and actualised into Artworks while experimenting with different media.
How important is the studio?
JR. Well, since my years at the Royal College of Art in London, I have had the opportunity to participate in many residencies, to develop different projects and to live in different places around the world. So my studio has always shifted and adapted to the different countries and concerns that obsessed me at the time. I am a type of Artist who tries not to limit his creativity to a particular media or material but rather adapt to what life puts in front of me. I am simply trying to make sense of it all and constantly learn through the interaction with different media.
All along, I have been slowly building my own studio in Spain transforming an old farmhouse in the mountains of Zaragoza into a place where to make large sculptures and paintings. The studio in North Taipei is also quite large. It is an old clay factory that has been converted into Art studios. However, regardless of the location or the size, fundamentally the studio becomes a place where I can follow a deep instinct which is rooted perhaps in something animalistic but is sublimated in an intuitive manner during the process. The studio is extremely important, it is a place of silence where one can enter into a deep dialogue with the materials and at times is able to truly “listen” to what needs to be done, a place of introversion and contemplation.
JR. For me, Art is a necessity. Growing up, I enjoyed doing many things, but at some point Art became a way of being, of thinking, of processing emotions and becoming aware of my mind and body. A way to face and survive my own ‘demons’ or very intense feelings that somehow had to be integrated or transmuted within the work. There is no other choice, it is a kind of second nature that must constantly reveal itself in order to live, make sense of things and keep moving.
Perhaps the “poetic” image of ‘Art as a journey’ works. For me it has been an external journey, absorbing experiences and internalising information, but above all an internal journey, a journey of self-discovery … but actually, I would dare to add something, even at the risk of being corny (smile). This journey is in itself a process of falling in love, falling in love with the materials and trying to connect with their essence. When this happens, this connection with the materials, the clay, the wax, the paint, the canvas etc… grants me with an incredible source of energy and life.
At times, long nights of not sleeping, working and barely eating could lead me to a total absorption with what is unfolding right before my eyes. When this happens an incredible rush of inner joy overflows my senses, I hope to share and further explore these feelings with the audience when they later on, stand in front of my Artwork.
What is Art practice for you?
I think it is all a matter of perspective. Art can mean so many different things to so many Artists and viewers. For me personally, I see a double game or let us say I feel the need for my Artistic practice to operate on two levels. These two levels have to be in some kind of balance, because one of the levels needs to be constantly informed by the other.On the one hand on the practical, material and pragmatic level, Artistic practice is nothing but a game, a mere problem solving and most importantly a matter of playing with the materials (what I like to call ‘serious fun’). ‘Serious fun’ stands for a deep involvement with the moment and what is at stake, rather than a kind of ‘superficial’ understanding of ‘having fun’. On the other hand, sometimes accidentally, there happens to be a sense of ‘union’ a dimension of ‘communion’ when the deep connection to the materials reveals shapes, shapes that are not planned and take over. These moments of ‘communion’ have a religious dimension, religious not in the sense of a particular faith, but in the sense of what the word really means. Religion comes from the Latin “religare” which means to reunite with something greater than oneself, something that is not myself and does not come from me, but simply happens. This reunion is accompanied by a sense of expansion and intense emotions that carry me away and make me experience things in an extremely magnified and joyful manner.
How would you define yourself as an Artist?
JR. Uff, this is difficult and if you allow me I could get a bit philosophical here…(smiles)
The easiest would be to show you one of my paintings, and then tell you – HERE or rather THERE I AM! That is, I encountered myself in the painting while painting it and I am looking at you from there. I think this is the closest I could come to expressing what this ‘I’ truly is, since at certain peak moments of the artistic process this ‘I’ is experienced much more vividly that the one confined to my everyday identity. So let us assume that what you see in the painting is a more sincere, fuller and truest form of me and that I am looking at you from within the painting. There is a need to tell you something but I do not know what this something really is.
Socrates said one of the most beautiful quotes ever, which always touched me: – ‘I only know that I know nothing‘ This concept is also indirectly connected to many Eastern ideas of the axial age such as the dream of the butterfly by Zhuangzi: – ‘I do not know whether it was then I dreamt I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly dreaming I am a man’.
I think that the exercise of painting or sculpture takes me to experience and embody some of these concepts and in times of rapture, get some glimpses of what this larger sense of self is all about. This is why I have always had difficulty with signing my work in the front of the painting. Yes, this painting came from me, my hand did it, however, there is something else that happened while working on it that goes beyond me or any previous intention of making it.
I think this is where the problem of the Artist’s -ego arises. At least for me it is extremely important to remain humble and acknowledge that the Artwork is in itself an accident or something that just happens and the less I interfere, the more genuine, truthful and personal it becomes.
I notice a clear philosophical or as you said religious undertone, what is the message that you want to bring to the audience?
JR. We live in extremely challenging times, and I think in this globalised world we definitely need to break down the cultural barriers that divide us and deal much more with the things that connect us as people without loosing our genuineness in the process.
Having lived in Asia, Japan, Vietnam and Taiwan for a number of years, I can understand that the idealisation of foreign cultures, the literal interpretation of religions and dogmatic attachment to a particular ideology can be very problematic. The core idea of all these philosophies or religions is to let go of inner resistances and be able to overcome our differences, to truly open up.
This is what I am trying to communicate, we need to blend and let go of these barriers. Not in an ideological or political way (even though everything is political these days) but rather looking for new mythologies, and different ways to represent ancient and new necessary archetypes that might have an impact in our hearts and psyche, to hopefully bring about some kind of healing, at least in an subconscious or semiconscious level.
Now that we are more connected than ever and have so much access to information, we should think of humanity as a larger family. New myths, archetypes and symbolism must emerge from this unprecedented paradigm. I know it is not easy, but I am obsessed with finding the Artwork that can truly capture the super-complex zeitgeist of our time and point to the fact that we need to move beyond mere consumerism or it may be too late otherwise.
My latest body of work deals with all of these issues and attempts to bring some light and hope to the conundrum of the times we are living in. The title is ‘EUDAEMONIA & It’s Vicissitudes’, a total of 35 paintings made in my studio in North Taipei. It is a personal attempt to bridge and heal the differences between East and West with the ‘lived experience’ of painting. EUDAEMONIA is an ancient Greek concept that refers to an ideal state of physical, emotional and spiritual balance which produces meaningfulness and bliss. Vicissitudes are the problems that we face in our daily lives to achieve this state.
The paintings are presented like a libretto for an opera. The characters of this opera are the different methods that different cultures and philosophical systems have developed to live a better life. European allegorical paintings and Asian scrolls and Tankas which dealt with these principles are now revisited and represented afresh. Extremely thick oil paintings revive and blend their symbolic content in order to combine it with the healing power and joy of the physical and creative act of mixing colours on a canvas.
Hope for a Virtuous Virtuality, Oil and resin on canvas, 162x130x4cm, 2022
Compassion in the Times of War, Oil and resin on canvas, 162x130x4cm, 2022
Tantric Justice, Oil and resin on canvas, 162x130x4cm, 2021
Flirting with Infinity, Oil on