Radical Imagination: A Conversation with Guadalajara-Based Artist, Hiram Constantino
Hiram Constantino in his studio in Guadalajara, Mexico. Image courtesy of the artist.
Hiram Constantino (b. 1987, Mexico) is a Guadalajara-based visual artist whose artistic journey delves into the realms of drawing, painting, and sculpture, serving as catalysts for radical imagination. In our exclusive interview with the artist, we delve deeper into the mind and artistic process of this visionary multidisciplinary artist. Discover the inspirations behind Hiram's captivating artworks as he shares insights into the profound impact of literature on his artistic journey, the significance of cross-pollination between art forms, and his residency experiences.
Hiram's creations effortlessly navigate between visual poetry and written poetry, provoking a reconsideration of the notions of "nature" and "landscape" - pivotal themes within his body of work. With an abstract and fictional approach, he skillfully dislocates our conventional understanding of the natural environment while strategically employing the landscape to connect ideas. His artistic methodology resonates with the essence of poetry, treating language as a transient element that constantly returns, yet never in the same form. Constantino's drawings and sculptures defy conventional instructive forms, embracing an unstable, wobbly, and indefinite nature. Through his art, he challenges boundaries and invites viewers to embark on a thought-provoking journey of imagination and self-reflection.
Hiram holds a Bachelor's degree in Visual Arts from the University of Guadalajara and has garnered widespread recognition for his artistic prowess. With exhibitions spanning across Mexico and international art residencies under his belt, Hiram's captivating works have found their way into esteemed private collections worldwide.
Join us as we unravel the creative world of Hiram Constantino and explore the depths of his radical imagination.
At what age did you know that you wanted to be an artist? What or who inspired you to become one?
Perhaps from the age of 7 to 10, I had moments of clarity about dedicating myself to drawing, but those interests developed by copying comics, anime, and manga that I saw and read during my childhood. Maybe what still inspires me is the playfulness of artistic production, the continuous learning of diverse subjects, and questioning things.
Do you have any specific rituals or practices that help you get into a creative mindset before starting a new artwork or project?
Usually, I create a music playlist, and then I start gathering images or videos that become a mood board for the project I'm developing. This allows me to find an approach to the project. Lastly, although I do it almost every day (oops), I tend to organize my studio before starting to work and always have something to eat.
How do you see the relationship between drawing and sculpture in your work as a catalyst for radical imagination?
When creating sculptural pieces, specifically ceramics, I often think of them as an extension of my drawings. In a way, it's bringing to the three-dimensional realm what I depict or express in my paper-based works. The sculptural aspects in my pieces are more about the materiality of the object and the appropriation of space, whether it's through an installation that encompasses a room or through a shield and a spear like in my recent exhibition, "SAGA."
Could you explain the significance of the cross-pollination between art, writing, and poetry in your practice and how it enhances the exercise of critical imagination?
During my teenage years, I was part of a "philosophy club" where every Saturday for four years, I would write something that would be criticized by the group. I used to write (without really knowing it) some poems and inserted them into a series of stories called "Los aventureros del sinsentido" (The adventurers of nonsense). This allowed me to imagine certain issues and develop them through writing. Later, I discovered concrete poetry, which allowed me to connect drawing and poetry. Now, I feel more comfortable producing things inspired by comics and graphic novels, which allow me to develop pieces in the form of graphic narratives. The significance for me has been how to complement my work with drawing and writing in general, with a stronger emphasis on fiction rather than poetry.
Are there any books or literary works that have significantly impacted your artistic journey? If yes, which ones and why?
There are three that come to mind:
X-Men by Chris Claremont and Jim Lee: This comic was my first encounter with the idea that someone could make a living by drawing and creating things. Coming from a family without much exposure to the arts, I used to admire the great masters (da Vinci, Michelangelo, etc.) in school, but visiting exhibitions or museums was not something my family did. Reading "X-Men" and seeing Jim Lee's drawings inspired me to draw as a child.
On the Road by Jack Kerouac: After leaving art school, with all the uncertainty about the future, reading this book, which posed so many questions that I asked myself, provided comfort. My first "artist's book" contained several quotes from this book, and a significant part of it was about going out and discovering who or what I wanted to be.
El pequeño escribiente florentino by Edmundo de Amicis: This story was included in the book Corazón (Heart) that my mother gave me. It is about a boy who wants to help his father by doing his work at night without him noticing. This tale touched me, and it still does, as it made me think about the importance of having good intentions when helping others when you have the opportunity.
Can you elaborate on how you approach the landscape through abstraction, fiction, and impossibility and how this approach disrupts our conventional understanding of the natural environment?
Paraphrasing Ursula K. Le Guin, "We must create fictions about the future to make them a reality." A significant part of my approach to landscapes is how they represent or imagine a moment through artistic exploration. The chaotic futuristic landscapes I create reflect the uncertainty towards the future, the lack of imagination of a future in which we have "well-being," but also what arises from chaos and uncertainty: new possibilities.
Are there any particular artists or artistic movements that you admire or draw inspiration from? If so, who are they, and how have they influenced your work?
There are many: Egon Schiele, Frank Miller, Jack Kirby, Saturnino Herrán, James Jean, Aryz, Akira Toriyama, Katsuhiro Ôtomo, José María Velasco, Siqueiros, Jim Lee, Sarah Sze, Vija Celmis, Olafur Eliasson, Frank Quitely, Moebius, Cy Twombly, to name a few. From the list, some are painters, and some are manga artists, others are contemporary artists and illustrators. I believe that this list represents much of what I love about art—the possibilities of creating through animation, installations, painting, or drawing without losing the playful aspect and pushing the boundaries of the medium.
During your residencies at Oklahoma Contemporary and Cobertizo in Jilotepec, State of Mexico, could you reflect on and share your experiences? We're eager to hear how these experiences have influenced and shaped your artistic practice.
The residency at Oklahoma was an incredible experience, mainly because of everything I was able to do there: ceramics, textiles, painting, and printmaking. It was my first time traveling to the US, so dedicating myself 100% to production while getting to know the city was a unique experience. What impacted me the most was how I approached my projects. I usually had a particular way of doing things, but having so many ways to solve my projects allowed me to think about different possibilities. The culture, the art scene, and the different perspectives provided unexpected feedback, which I'm immensely grateful for. In OKC, I also had the opportunity to teach classes in English to two groups of young people, which was a very interesting task. Discussing my work in a different context raised many questions about teaching again (but maybe not just yet, haha).
My residency at Cobertizo in Jilotepec, State of Mexico, was very different but equally rewarding. Being surrounded by seven other artists, we spent very little time in the town, focusing mainly on producing and getting to know each other—understanding what each of us does, exploring our perspectives, and finding common artistic issues that affect us all. I felt accompanied by my fellow artists, and I was able to experiment with painting in a way that daily life may not have allowed me to. It allowed me to work individually within a community program. Having conversations with colleagues is something I didn't do much in Oklahoma, but nevertheless, the development and the type of result were different.
In conclusion, getting to know the practices of different artists and experiencing different places has benefited me on various levels, both conceptually and technically. Learning how things are done in other places provides more tools and allows for clearer artistic proposals.
Can you share with us any exciting future projects?
In September, I have a mini-residency at the Museo Cabañas, and in October, I have a solo exhibition at Impronta, which is a continuation of my recent exhibition at Proyecto Caiman, titled "SAGA." And hopefully, there will be more projects coming along!
(Note: Interview was in Spanish and translated by the interviewer & author, Jenny Munoz)
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