• Rene Gonzalez

    Rene Gonzalez

    Rene Gonzalez (b.1983) is a London based artist who moved to the UK to study painting at the City & Guilds of London Art school. Gonzalez paints scenes that reflect on the role of myth and magical realism, painting dream-like natural landscapes with animals and characters that can evoke fairy tales and the otherworldly. His canvases feature references to classical painting, folklore from different cultures and they may at times reveal storytelling structures carried on from his background as a graffiti artist and mural painter in Costa Rica. He has shown his work in London, Paris, New York, Shanghai, Milan and Costa Rica.

     
  • Could you tell us a bit about your background and your journey to becoming an artist?

    Like most creatives I suppose, I was always fascinated by the arts and gradually found my lane experimenting with different mediums. I was born in Canada but it wasn’t until I was a teenager in Costa Rica that I became more involved with an actual art scene. I was part of some groups of graffiti artists and mural painters which had a very urban city streets kind of feel. I eventually transitioned to painting on canvas as I became more interested in sharing my work on different platforms, looking for more exposure as well as a more direct relationship with audiences that are passionate about visual arts. I really love exhibiting and interacting with the people that are interested in seeing your paintings.

     

    I moved to London in 2012 after I was accepted into a painting course at the City & Guilds Art School and I’ve been part of various art projects and exhibitions here since, as well as some other places around the world at times, like Paris and NYC. For me, I think I always wanted that, but there was definitely a time when I was embarrassed to admit it, partly because that could be seen as pretentious or even childish in the environment I grew up in, but also, probably because that meant admitting how hard it was for someone in my position to admit that was my dream, so I definitely take pride in being a practicing artist in London, which has been quite a journey from the streets of a tropical third world country.

  • What were some of your early creative influences and interactions with art?

    Red Bloom

    What were some of your early creative influences and interactions with art?

    Well, I don’t come from a family with a particularly artistic background, so you obviously start out with the very popular works that are accessible through mainstream culture. The art scene in Costa Rica can be a bit limited in scope, and even in Montreal, I don’t recall going to many museums and contemporary art galleries, but that probably just because of my particular social and cultural environment at home as the son of migrant political refugees, it just wasn’t really something I was aware of. I think I may have originally been more inspired by stories and cinema to start creating images, as my mother would tell us epic stories of magical adventures and take us to the cinema as often as we could. Even back when I was a graffiti artist, the messages I would communicate through the city walls were presented not only with worded phrases, but also through scenes with characters and narratives running through them. I love stories and the emotional response we have to them and I often do linger in thoughts about a story that my images might be a part of.

  • Did growing up in Canada and Costa Rica affect your aesthetic sensibility?

    There was once a tiger striped cat

    Did growing up in Canada and Costa Rica affect your aesthetic sensibility?

    I think we all are inevitably influenced by the places we live in and in my case I’m rather often reminded by people telling me how ‘tropical’ my palette can be, and though Costa Rica is known for its natural beauty, I also felt a magical connection to the small animals in my environment in Canada, like squirrels, skunks and racoons and I think that a lot of my work is about that connection to the creatures and environments around us, that almost sacred feeling of amazement that can come when you can personally connect to it.

  • Your otherworldly compositions often feature wild animals and in the past have also included vibrant cultural figures like artists, journalists...

    Painting 'A Solitary Drive' 

    Your otherworldly compositions often feature wild animals and in the past have also included vibrant cultural figures like artists, journalists and scientists. Do you regard yourself as a storyteller? And are your works often narrative-driven?

    My creative process is very much narrative driven, yes, but once I’ve painted a canvas I don’t necessarily think it matters if there’s a story behind it, so I don’t know if I consider myself a storyteller in that sense, it just fuels my drive to paint. My intention is more for the viewer to have an emotional connection or response to the painting than for someone to have a sense of a story behind the image.

  • What is the role of myth and magical realism in the context of your compositions?

    Midnight Foraging

    What is the role of myth and magical realism in the context of your compositions?

    I’m definitely inspired by the aesthetics we often associate with myth and magical realism, which is incredibly present in Latin American culture. I think also a desire for escapism and a passion for the beauty of nature make it something natural for me to gravitate towards. The response we have to archetypal imagery, the mystery of dark forests or wild animals, there’s something so visceral and deeply subconscious about that. It fascinates me.

  • Do you have any upcoming projects that you would like to mention?

    I’m currently part of ‘Acedia’, an online group exhibition put on by Purslane, featuring some of my favourite contemporary Artists and I’m looking forward to an event later this year, curated by the Anna Woodward called ‘The Garden of Eden’ at Arc Painswick, that will combine art with the natural beauty of the Costwolds.