Our artistic output is fueled by the inspiration around us—from the music we listen to and the things we study to the city around us, art always reflects what we see and do. Juan Usubillaga is a painter who allows these outside influences to wash over him, and drive him to create meaningful abstract paintings.
“I have been working on a series of paintings that reflect my interest and passion in psychology, science and music,” Usubillaga told CULTURE. “I am very intrigued and inspired by the effects of art on the psyche, especially feelings of euphoria. My new series is strongly influenced by electronic music. I’m trying to translate that energy onto canvas through composition and designs with colors—represent the beats, waves and vibrations flowing through space. My work is very inclusive and a mirror of everything that I experience in Denver and Boulder. That’s why I often times will write directly on the canvases.”
“I am very intrigued and inspired by the effects of art on the psyche, especially feelings of euphoria.”
Unlike many visual artists who knew they wanted to paint from a very young age, Usubillaga is rather so moved by the world that it drove him to make visual art.
“I haven’t always had passion for art,” he explained. “It grew out of necessity,
expression, and rebellion which led me to drop out of school at the young age of 12—with blessing from my mother. During this time I would wander around the streets, go to libraries, public art museums, take art classes, paint and draw at friends’ houses and in the streets. I like to represent the energies I experienced in the streets with spraypainted words and phrases. These express the memories and values I’ve developed growing up in different settings. Then, I use brush strokes and acrylic paints to add the spiritual element I’ve found in nature. The interplay incarnates the words with extraordinary energy, and gives the paintings a dreamlike atmosphere. I want to connect the viewer with a given piece, evoking a visual and mindful experience; I aspire to connect people with an experience that lets them feel that they too belong to art.”
“I would describe [my style] as non-figurative or contemporary abstract,” Usubillaga added. “I like to bring two opposing realities to the canvas from my upbringing: A dense Latin American city, and a small town on the edge of the rain forest. In the city I was exposed to street graffiti with its social commentaries, much like here in Denver. My work is also reminiscent of growing up in a small town, Maracay, Venezuela, where I was influenced by the exuberance of the cloud forests, and the beliefs held by the natives.”
As far as cannabis use and inspiration, Usubillaga has included cannabis in his work as a theme, and has drawn inspiration from the plant to use in his work.
“When I was in art school, before going to college, I did a series of small paintings on canvas about the feeling of intoxication and the awakening of all sensory faculties, especially the auditory and kinesthetic,” he explained. “The paintings looked like a map of symbols that represented cultural references, like the Hindus and Sadhus. The colors that I used were also symbolic, but at that time I found it extremely difficult to represent cannabis with any sort of justice in accordance to the magnitude and impact of the intellectual and sensory inspiration I received from it.”
“Cannabis definitely influenced growth in my work, and opened me up to roots of ancestral culture from the rain forest, such as the Los Curanderos and shamanic tradition that still exists in present-day Venezuela,” he added. “It also inspired me to listen to myself: The environment, personal experiences and intuition.”
Look for Usubillaga’s work in galleries around Denver and Boulder, and follow him online for details about his upcoming projects.