Norman Warwick talks all across the arts with Evelin Toledano Aparicio artist and illustrator
Santosha is a Sanskrit word derived from Sam, meaning ´completely´ and Tosha meaning ´contentment´.
An exhibition of visual art by that title, was recently shown at Sala de Art, Ermita San Antonio, in Tias. It was described as ´an exploration of (the artist’s) journey towards that place: a walk through (her) abstract mind, an exploration of the beauty of the body and a drive through the landscape that helped shape (her) soul. This is the beginning of (her) journey – (here) first stop – the station of contentment. Santosha.´
I was too much of a gentleman to ask, of course but, on meeting her, I would guess the artist, Evelin Toledano Aparicio to be only in her mid to late twenties. Yet, there are more of her profound words on the printed hand-out available to visitors to her exhibition. She seems, in that hand-out, though, to identify the purpose of life with a paragraph that explores why ´we tend to look elsewhere for happiness, grasping at things that are out of reach, in the hope of fulfilment. She reminds us that human beings have the capability to feel happy within – enjoying what we do and recognising the value of each and every moment, – whilst learning to be content as we are.
Looking around this exquisitely spaced display of what she calls her ´illustrations´ I could certainly hear the word contentment whispering in my head. The clear, precise lines, and colours that range somehow from pastel to permanent and the big skies, silhouetted by mountain peaks or the apex of a roof or the placement of a bell tower, and the shadows that creep across with their muted reminders of time, seem to reflect an artist utterly at ease. Utterly content.
A small rowing boat, unoccupied, moored on the water simply lays there, above its own perfect reflection, untroubled by breeze or brine. Mountain ranges reflect and deflect the sun and the vine circles we see all over the island inset into the dark picon are shown from above, with no imperfection of a tumbled stone or the prevailing mountain winds.
We should, therefore, feel calmed as we view this tranquillity but great art can disturb us even as it seems to offer the contentment the artist seeks. I found myself wondering about the people absent from these illustrations. The boat was unoccupied, the landscape deserted and the buildings untended. Perhaps the artist has found contentment in solipsism.
Evelin Toledano Aparicio’s collection reflected her illustrative style, which combines her love for bright colours in bold and simple compositions. Her on-line sites remind us too, that she is also is a graphic design artist, so when she graciously agrees to take part in an unscheduled interview in the quietly beautiful Sala de Arte, Ermita San Antonio in Tias, I already know that her answer to my opening question might resolve the arguments I used to hear amongst my peer group in Rochdale.
´So let’s start with a simple question,´ I say. ´Is graphic design an art form?´
´I thought you said easy,´ she laughs, before going on to give me a perfectly reasoned response.
´Graphic design and art are in some ways two very distinct things. In graphic art an artist works with a client to achieve something in the way of reputation, or money and income. It’s a business, right? But then art, I think, is something different. Art comes from the soul and doesn’t have the same goals, I would say.´
Perhaps wrongly assuming this collection to be of graphic design work, I suggest there is certainly nothing soulless about these pieces. There seems to be a lot of the artist invested in them.
¨This, to me, is not graphic design,´ Evelin explains. ´This to me is illustration. Graphic design is a business, and although there may be times when a specific illustration is created for a client, these are not examples of that. Instead they are my own illustrations of what I see around me.´
I wonder then if this is a collection of individual, self-contained illustrations or whether, in Evelin’s perception, they follow some kind of linear narrative and tell a story.
¨The way they are hanging is important and seems to tell a story. Actually, they are all self-contained individual pieces, probably not created in anything like the order you see here. However, displayed like this, they do each seem to tell a bigger story and tell us more about Lanzarote,´ the illustrator explains. Ï think together they are more powerful, and tell a bigger story about Lanzarote, but I hope that even individually they speak for themselves and tell a story of their own.´
The artist if offering carefully considered answers to my questions, and as now, often adds an afterthought, to emphasis a point.
´It is important that each has its own voice, and tells its own story,´ she insists. ´Otherwise I would think I had failed.´
Many of her illustrations here are of deserted mountain landscapes and coastlines and others are close examinations of architectural design. They seem to be speaking of a relationship between the land and what has been built upon it.
´I think they are paying a big ´cred´ to Cesar Manrique,´´Evelin tells me. ´He did so much to unite the land and its buildings, constantly reminding us that when we build on the land the land remains important and has to be handled with care. He brings the land and the buildings together. I think I have captured that in these illustrations. I hope so.´
This brings me to wonder whether Evelin has a preconception of how an illustration will look on completion or whether she is constantly surprised by what emerges and what it says to her.
´There is something so wonderful so magical, about Lanzarote, that if you don’t see it with your own eyes you almost couldn’t create it from your imagination,´ she smiles.
As a writer, I often used to remind my students of the importance of showing our readers something, rather than simply telling it to them. I wonder, in view of her response, whether she wants to tell us something with her work or prefers to let the work itself show us something. I ask her the question in my usual complicated and gargantuan style, and feel pretty sure as I come to my point that I have already lost her. She is a polite and attentive interviewee, though, and tries hard to make some sense of my rambling.
´The most interesting art is that which doesn’t tell a whole story. It is instead the the art that shows enough to awaken curiosity in its viewer, and sends that viewer on a longer journey of exploration,´ she says, before opening a new can of worms with a follow up comment.
´Art doesn’t work by itself. It needs to interact.´
Evelin goes on to explain that there is constant interaction between her and her art, and that her creations are touched and informed by her life experiences, and that hopes that viewers will bring their own backstory to their interpretation of her pieces.
This is all quite extraordinary, I feel, in such a young and emerging artist. A creative lady so self-aware and receptive to the world around her, must surely have learned even more about herself in the producing, creating and collating of this ambitious exhibition.
´I think I have learned to appreciate the small things. There are lots of things I have seen maybe hundreds of times but have never properly noticed or considered,´ she laughs. ´In putting together this exhibition I have learned to look more closely, to pay more attention and to retain my sense of wonder and my own curiosity. I have seen things as if for the first time, and having seen them in this way, I can’t un-see them!´
´For example, many of these works here are fairly newly produced, like this one over here, of a chimney. I have lived on the island since I was little kid when my family came over from Sweden, and I have lived among these chimneys nearly all my life. I recently looked at them more closely and I can’t now un-see them. I see them, and notice them, everywhere and find them fascinating !´
I can certainly understand that as it was because of its elegant chimneys, strangely redolent of those we had previously seen on a holiday in Cappadocia, that my wife fell in love with the house and complex we moved on to here in Lanzarote.
Even during our brief chat before I turned on the recording equipment, Evelin had spoken in the highest regard of Cesar Manrique and had put that regard on record in response to my very first question. I thought, then, that I might close the interview by returning to the great man. I told Evelin that, whilst I shared her views, I wondered if his work and legacy now sheds inspirational light for artists of her generation or rather casts a dark shadow from which contemporary artists find it difficult to merge.
´He is an inspiration, ´ she says emphatically, as curators and artists like Estefania Comejo and Alejandro Krawietz had similarly answered when I had asked the same question of them.
´He achieved so much. He did so many amazing things and there is so much we can learn from him, from the way he thought and the art he produced. He showed us the relationship between art and nature, for example. Protection of the earth is important, vital, and he changed the mentality of a generation, and of those who followed, in making us recognise the importance of nature.´
Not only did he change our mentality, but he somehow rendered that change permanent, I interject.
¨Yes. He changed the way we looked at our island. He made us fall in love with and appreciate it as something more than dark and miserable. He didn’t make it look beautiful. It was already beautiful and he showed us that and reminded us of it. He changed our perception.´
Evelin believes that it is the role of an artist to change our perceptions of the world we live in, and to share a personal perception with the universal to see how the picture shifts.
If you are unable to visit the Santosha exhibition before it closes on 26th July, you can instead browse
https://www.instagram.com/evelin.illustration/ to view dozens of examples of her work, with its interesting perspectives, dazzling brightness of colour and distinct evidence of her love of the landscape and lifestyle from which it emanates. There is also a separate anthology on line at Evelyn Toledano showing her work in another fascinating dimension.
This exhibition seems to me to have many aspirations beyond simply acquiring a few red ´sold´ stickers next to her works. With such a curiosity, passion for sharing and a sense of wonder and delight in all she sees, there are still surely many paths all across the arts for Evelin to walk. Where might those paths lead her, I wonder.
´Hopefully, this is the first of many exhibitions. I certainly hope to show more work.´ she laughs. ´I built something of a reputation when I was working as, and perceived as, a graphic designer. Now, it seems we have been talking about how I am trying to change people’s perceptions so that I am seen as an illustrator and artist.´
Off the microphone Evelin had spoken of her education and degree qualifications as an artist and also her early career as a graphic artist, and I have no doubt that the business acumen she has acquired and her recognition of the need for any artist to promote his or her own art will stand her in good stead.
I am convinced of her talent and along with others, like Estefania Comejo, she has a likeable enthusiasm. Keep an eye out for Evelin and her work for you will find it hard to disregard the charm of this artist or of the work she produces. And lest you think that is easy praise to dispense, I should tell you that whilst praise might be easy investment is difficult. Yet I paid in hard cash to purchase a wonderful illustration of the semi circular stone walls that shelter the vines of this island.
It might one day be worth a lot more than I paid, but that is not why I bought it. Rather I did so because, like each of the illustrations gathered here, the work will forever represent a step towards Santosha, the station of my own contentment.