Spaniard, Rai Escalé is a very moving individual in more ways than one. His words are sagely calming and subtly scolding at the same time. He understands human nature perfectly but also does not believe that we are powerless in changing innate behavioral traits. He believes that art could literally calm the world down. Rai depends on a fluctuating process of going in and out of his own psyche to uncover, recover and reveal images that cause his audience look and look again. Rai knows that his process and creations are unpredictable and could cause gallery owners/collectors some hesitancy, but he is also aware that an artist has to be expressively truthful. Rai’s words teach us in a non-condemnatory way that a simple life that takes loved ones, nature and travel very seriously is a good life. And when you add the creation of truthful and beautiful art to the mix, it is like you have Heaven on Earth.
“Art is the best way I’ve found to sublimate myself into someone better …”
Please tell us a little about yourself – your childhood, siblings, where you grew up, what you liked as a child, strange thoughts as a child/now, unique attributes, where you live now, etc.?
I am Catalan-born and bred. I was raised in Barcelona and I am the oldest of four siblings. My Dad was a veterinarian so I spent a big part of my younger years washing dogs in the family’s pet-shop. From that early age I began loving and understanding dogs and animals much more than people. For 30 years now, I have been sharing my life with a human goddess. We recently have gone rural and life looks and feels good right now.
What does your art mean to you?
Art is the best way I’ve found to sublimate myself into someone better. I think art would have the same effect on all of mankind if people were interested in calming down a bit. Art is also like a lens that lets me see my better self through my best achievements.
How do you describe your form of art?
My form of art is more an exercise in analyzing signs and forms than a pictorial style. I have mixed techniques during my whole career and have jumped from one to another, following the need to keep myself free and stay out of the corset that ends up being your own style. However, this erraticism sometimes makes me an unpredictable creator for collectors and gallerists.
Although it might sound doctrinaire, when I get down to painting, I only seek the possibility of falling into the kind of trance that I already know. This trance allows me work while forgetting about myself and my intentions. It lets me be able to get a glimpse of the underlying images in the (my) subconscious and this is the most valuable and inaccessible fishing ground. When I am able to get into it this world (and it’s not always possible), this automated state lets me intuitively play the game of trompe-l’oeil (French for ‘deceive the eye’) – the visual joke and constructive surprise that aids the navigation of the surreal. Going in and out of this allows me to construct images that make you look twice to understand.
Your art pays a lot of attention to facial distortions and recognizable alterations – Is this done on purpose? What tools do you use for the creation of your work and how did you create your personal art style?
Why faces? The human face says it all, God put everything in there. The face is probably the most malleable human part. Just reversing it or altering any tiny part or position of a part, makes it uncomfortable and less recognizable and awakens many subconscious fears, doubts and perception. I basically play with pareidolia – our natural and unique inclination to recognize facial and human patterns wherever they show. Face recognition software still can’t see little fellas, wink!
I’ve been underlying all my canvases with collages, and then working over them with any kind of coloring mediums. I used to start breaking the printed surfaces with solvents, before the color was added. One day I realized I had developed a kind of strong allergy to them so I had to stop using toluene, xylene, and other poisonous spirits and just couldn’t do it anymore.
So lately I’ve gone back to pure painting on canvas and forgotten about collage.
For that re-start up process I’ve joined forces with a Slovak colleague, Milos Koptak, and we run a two person painter’s group called ‘Miroir Noir’. Maybe it’s an uncommon, anti-ego move, but it’s good to keep going further on the premise of not being attached to a style and always working with a fresh eye. Since 2007 I have visited Bratislava every two months for two or three weeks for intense painting sessions. So I have now developed a parallel career in Central Europe under that name. See some of Miroir Noir’s work immediately below.
What is the worst critique you have ever received about your work? What is the best compliment that you have received about your work?
The worst critique is always indifference.
As Robert Crumb said recently to an American journalist who was interviewing him about the Charlie Hebdo massacre: “You don’t have journalists over there (in America) anymore, what they have is public relations people”. This is the case in Europe as well. So-called journalists just cut and paste what you provide them. And those filling ‘Culture’ sections, known previously as ‘Art Critics’, are just the same, so you really never get a really bad critique. Actually you never really even get a critique. It’s sad you can’t learn from them anymore.
The best thing a journalist said was that my painting was like a punch in her stomach.
Which artist/s do you look up to the most?
I have always been obsessed with Francis Bacon’s forms, colors and spaces. Also, as he did, I go over and over to the eternal Velázquez; master of masters. Even today I still visit El Prado at least once a year (and every time I do a Madrid trip). There, I admire the other great Spanish classics from the Golden Century. El Greco and Ribera are too much…and of course Goya. I’ve grown to love other English painters too, like Kitaj or Hockney.
Since Style.No.Chaser is a men’s lifestyle magazine, what attributes/items/clothing /etc. do you think define a man?
That is a serious question! Kindness, a sense of humor and intelligence are the attributes I need first in any human, man, female, or in-between. Then, I need an outfit and an attitude. Clothes represent you, so I demand a little interest in what you’re wearing.
For example, quite long ago I decided I’d wear nice clothes (though paint stained) in my studio. I put an end to being dressed like a homeless person at work. I tried to show some beauty. And it worked.
I have also developed an obsession with shoes and their power of definition. I believe I can know about anyone’s life and background just by the shoes they are wearing. I wear Dr. Marten’s when it is not summertime.
What is your personal life philosophy?
Unexpectedly, I turned 50 last year, so my personal philosophy has transformed through the years. Nowadays I try very hard to live like a cat and think a lot about where I exert my energy. I recently moved to the countryside, 70 miles south of Barcelona, to an 18th century rectory, and set up quite a smaller studio than I’m used to having in Barcelona. I spend more time in nature and much less time on social gatherings. I try to be more aware of who and what I love and spend much of my time enjoying it or them. And I never stop traveling, inside or outside.
Who dead or alive, celebrity or not, artist or not, would you like to go on a two week road trip with and why?
Lauren Bacall please! Just to hear her whispering in my ear.
How can people learn more about your current and upcoming works?
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