Gomez was born in Caracas, Venezuela but grew up in Rome, Italy. He began at an early age dabbling in street art, with the first tags in the suburbs of the Italian capital. After experimenting with oil on canvas, Gomez went back to walls, with huge murals whose themes predominantly stemed from classic mythology and stories belonging to the ancient Greeks. Today, his work can be appreciated on walls in Rome, London, Barcelona and Berlin.
I caught up with the artist who is preparing for his first solo exhibition at Varsi, a gallery in the centre of Rome. And below is how it went down.
Hi Luis, Could you tell us who you are, what you do, and how did you get started in the urban art scene?
Hello, I’m Gomez. Venezuelan born, but based in Rome since I was a kid. I’m a figurative painter, both on canvases and on walls, and as many other street painters I started in my teenage years by painting graffiti. It was a clever way to spend my days, doing something that I felt like out of the system, in weird places with amazing people who, after almost 20 years, are still my friends. Lately I tried to reproduce the same style of my canvases on big walls, as that’s where it all started from, but every now and then I still enjoy to feel the graffiti vibe.
Do you have a formal art education?
No I don’t. Graffiti was my “academy” and I still paint figurative pictures with the same technique I used to create letters.
Where do you get your influences from?
Inspiration can come from anywhere, I try to tell stories through images, and the stories can be personal or heard by people around me. I’ve always been fascinated by the rebels, the defeated, by the people who struggle to win their freedom, to conquer their love, to survive their weaknesses, and who usually try so hard that eventually fail.
Stylistically I always liked baroque painters, they have a big influence on my work but at the moment I am trying to create something new by using unsaturated colors and pencil-like effects. I can’t tell what tomorrow will bring.
What is your opinion of street art? And what is your main reason for producing street art?
I’m too new to this world to have a clear opinion. There are things that I like and things that I hate and it makes you meet amazing people or total cunts. I paint because it’s one of the few activities that keeps my brain from over-thinking and makes me sleep at night. I paint on walls because I like that everyone can watch it and you don’t need to be artistically educated to comment it. Common people’s comments are way funnier than intellectual ones inside galleries!
How much does your art affect or influence your everyday life?
Not all of my life revolves around painting, but it’s still a big part.
Do you find that street art can provide you with opportunities?
I guess, with the right attitude, whatever you do provides opportunities. You can jump on an overcrowded bus at the rush hour and the woman or the man of your life may be on it too, it’s up to you to spot the opportunity. The real problem is that we’re always stressed about something, running here and there to do things that we probably don’t like and that it’s hard to have the right attitude all the time.
Painting in the streets puts you in front of a lot of people but most of them will ignore you or maybe they’ll say a couple words and then forget about you in a few seconds. If you’re lucky enough you can always be in the path of an interesting person and that’s a big opportunity, hopefully you’re not listening to your headphones while that person walks by.
What are your thoughts on the way social media is influencing the art world?
This is a hard one. I am trying to soften my point of view a bit on social networks. I just did a fan page on Facebook and it’s quiet cool because it gives you the chance to be reachable from all over the world, but I even think that there’s an abuse of power that people give to the social networks. It looks like whatever people do is done in order to get likes or followers or whatever, and this feels like a masquerade to me.
Can street art influence issues within a country? Do you think street art can influence society?
I don’t think that painting in the streets can solve a country’s issue or change a society’s mind. I live in a country where we still don’t recognize same rights for gay people, where we still have politicians who base their campaigns on hatred towards the people of different colours or religious beliefs, and people still believe them. In my city people are living rough on the streets while hundreds of apartments are left empty and unused. These are the serious matters of our society and unfortunately I don’t believe that painting the streets will fix them, but I do believe it can change some individuals mind. Someone may appreciate someone else’s work and try to follow the same path, and that would be a good choice and a potential positive change for one’s life.
What have been your most challenging and rewarding piece of work thus far?
Well, many pieces have funny stories behind them. Probably the most challenging has been the Minotauro’s one in Barcelona. I painted it completely alone, with just a big ladder on the ground full of holes and roots and stones, so the ladder was never stable, and the wall was full of holes too used by pigeons as nests, and every now and then one was flying in/out scaring the hell out of me. All of this under 40 bloody degrees, I still wonder how I made it.
Probably the most rewarding has been the Orfeo and Euridice’s one, in Berlin. It was composed by 7 pictures, 80 meters wide and it took almost one month of work. I remember the first time I saw the wall, I was with a girl who now has a special place in my life, and I started to figure out the concept in my mind, and then the sketching and eventually the emotion of seeing it completed, from a bunch of raw sketches to this huge wall. It was insane. It involved many special people from that special city. I have a lot of good memories from that one. By the way it was done on the fence of the Wilde Renate Club, amazing place run by amazing people, if you’re in Berlin that’s a place not to be missed.
What do you do when you are not creating art? What are your hobbies?
I like to drink, to eat, to cook, to read and listen to good music and get along with nice people. But mostly I try to be a decent human being, not always that easy.
What’s next for you? What shows or projects do you have planned?
I am preparing my first solo exhibition at Varsi, a young and brilliant gallery in the centre of Rome, in June 2016. My show will follow Fintan Magee’s one, one of my favourite painters of all. This makes me slightly scared because I know I’ll need to create my best pieces to stand a chance with the audience after him, so now I’m really focused on this project. In the meantime I’ll keep on painting walls wherever I have the opportunity. I’ve never been to the U.S. so if you want to invite me..
Where else can we find you? (blog, website, twitter, facebook, etc.)
I finally have a Facebook page, GÔMEZ and here’s the link: https://www.facebook.com/gomezpainter
Any words of advice for aspiring new artists?
Don’t listen to anyone’s advice.
Thank you Gomez for your time and hopefully we will see you soon in the USA.