We explore the stunning work of Spanish artist Ernesto Artillo, whose intricate collages are a mesmerising blend of art and fashion...
Fashion and art have been engaged in a veritable waltz of interaction since before the two were clearly categorised. The craftsmanship of couture is often so singular, so extraordinarily intricate and unique, that it would be churlish to deny it the status of art; while artists – such as in the Dress/Art project commissioned for AnOther Magazine S/S07 – have collaborated with designers to create wearable garments that now hang in museums. They are two creative worlds that engage in a potent osmosis, but it is most common to see the work of artists referenced in catwalk collections, rather than the other way around.
Working very differently however is Spanish artist Ernesto Artillo, for whom it is models, clothes, and the vision of designers that form bothcatalyst and key elements for his stunning collage creations. Citing a pantheon of inspirations that includes Renaissance and Modern art, flamenco dancing and the bullring, music, family and love, Artillo’s images are at once a celebration of the details of a collection, while at the same time positioning these modern day idols – models – onto classical, religious or surrealist backdrops. Bodies merge with flowers, faces are carved into cliffs, the lapels of a blazer frame the serene ripples of a lake. But the highlight perhaps are a trio of infinitely personal images, in which Ernesto has exquisitely spliced images of his mother when young into shots from Raf Simons’s A/W12 collection for Christian Dior.
Here we speak to the young Madrid based artist about his inspirations, his aspirations and what he really thinks about fashion.
When and why did you start making collages?
I've watched my father doing collage since I was a child but I didn't start to explore the technique until three years ago. I started painting. I was really young and I used to go to lessons with a big group of old ladies. Then I started to take pictures on my own and, in college, I focused on fashion and advertising. Now I'm trying to mix all of those disciplines in my collages. For me, collage means detaching from my tendency of keeping everything in order. I'm constantly trying to become more abstract and less geometric. It allows me to literally cut/break with things – even though they are my own pictures – to create a new order. I suppose collage makes me challenge my own conventions.
"Collage makes me challenge my own conventions. It allows me to literally cut/break with things – even though they are my own pictures – to create a new order"
Do you come to the pieces from a fashion or an artistic perspective, or is it very much a collaboration of the two?
I'm interested in image as a form and, as I've been working at a magazine for three years, fashion has had a significant influence on my projects. Artistically, I take fashion images just as an excuse to create anything else with a different and personal meaning. It's true that sometimes the result is a new concept of fashion image that celebrates it, but that's not my main intention.
Your works recall elements as wide ranging as Cleopatra, high Renaissance art, a fascination with anatomy, surrealist constructions and a passion for the precise details in garments. Where does this wide array of inspirations come from?
My inspirations form a kind of collage too. As you say, I love ancient portraits and sculptures but also modern artists like Matisse, Picasso or Soroya. I was brought up in a family where tradition matters, so elements like Spanish culture and folklore, religion, flamenco are always there too. Cinema and books are a huge inspiration to me and I don't understand life without music. Fashion has a lot to say too, but to be honest, it's the people around me who inspire me the most. What I feel for my family, friends or lovers are my best artistic tools.
Do you have a favourite piece?
The more spontaneous the work is, the more I like it. That happened with Piel, I created it digitally not knowing exactly what I wanted to do, just carried on cutting a man's anatomy and a flower and, suddenly, the result was this simple but strong concept of male savagery and beauty. Then I made it in 3D and now I just never get bored of watching it, probably because of that spontaneity with all its flaws.
"Fashion has a lot to say, but to be honest, it's the people around me who inspire me the most. What I feel for my family, friends or lovers are my best artistic tools"
Which designers inspire you the most?
I tend to fall for the brands I collaborate with because I create a kind of intimate relationship with them, new designers such as Rabaneda and the girls from Planet Palmer Project are a good example of that. On the international scene, Raf Simons is taking all my attention… indeed a new series I'm doing mixes pictures of my mother when she was young with his recent shows for Dior.
What are you looking forward to about Spring?
I would love to invest the spring inspiration in exciting new artistic or commercial projects, related to fashion or whatever else. I love to do new different things and if it's something I haven't done before, even better. But more than anything, and as in every season, I want to love.
See more of Ernesto Artillo's work here.