Name: Antonio Santin
City/Neighborhood: East Williamsburg/Bushwick
Current Exhibition: Paintings at Marc Straus, September 8 through September 29, 2013
Why do you paint bodies under carpets or seemingly lifeless ones around the house?
It’s an invitation to remind people that this is a painting. I like playing with this sublime and sinister combo. What’s inside, what’s underneath? I believe there are many layers of entertainment. It’s high-class entertainment.
Are you hiding something?
There’s some black humor involved. Painting is a completely different language, and you ruin it when you start talking about it. It’s like false poetry.
Who are the women you paint?
Normal girls. Sometimes I stop women in the street, but often I ask friends if they know of friends. I would never work with a model, it would be too cold. I like to work with people who like to work with me. It’s an uncomfortable and weird situation, so you have to have the right person — and work very fast. Usually I like to invite myself over to the girls’ houses and walk through their wardrobe to find something I like and what I want to see on her, in order to find some sort of composition.
Who is the most valuable woman in your life and how does she feel about your work?
My girlfriend. I think she likes them?
How did you stumble upon this motif of carpets?
I don’t really have the deepest knowledge of carpets, but it’s more like intuition. At one point, I saw some ripples in a carpet, and began to be interested in them. I thought there were too many figurative paintings in my production, and I was wondering if I got rid of the figure if I could still make something figurative without an obvious reference. Every carpet is a new world, a different approach. The form itself is very sculptural, and to find the perfect volume for the carpet is endless.
Are those real carpets you are painting, and if so, where do you find them?
I move around, I research. I start with a carpet but then I have to get the painting out of it. You have to let paintings paint. Some make war with me, others you want to make suffer and sweat. I think people are obsessed with background, and it doesn’t really matter to me. The more people see an anecdote, the more people don’t see the painting.
So you control the elements and let the narrative build from there. Do you see yourself as a middleman?
Ha! A shaman or something. We have a very limited attention span, and we’re only able to digest 5% of everything that we see a day. The rest just rains inside of you. What is the image that creates this little monster inside? So, as a painter, you just channel influences.
Do you have your own spiritual beliefs?
It’s a mixture of spirituality but of no particularly religion. For me, it’s doesn’t matter so much though. As a figurative painter, it’s more a challenge about what to paint and how to make that painting come alive. But I suppose it’s about something that attracts you, that fights you inside.
What influences you?
I’m really attracted to beauty. Most of the girls that I’m working with are beautiful girls, but I don’t exploit their straight beauty because it’d be kitsch. It’s still there, in the background, but it’s confusing you.
The work has lots of texture. How did you come about that?
It was a technique I developed in the carpets, and I’m using them intently now. They were messier before. I’m experimenting a lot, because the technique has so much potential, it’s almost like weaving a basket or creating patterns. But not every painting uses the same technique. That’s the point—I start with photography but I don’t want to copy the photograph. I have an image I created but then you play around that image to get something else out of it.
You started out as a sculptor. What prompted the shift to painting?
Paintings are pretty new to my life. I moved to Berlin from Madrid in 2006, and I was having trouble with my sculpture. I wanted to see what I could do with painting. The challenge was so complex that I wanted to keep going. There are so many sculptural elements in my paintings, that I’m curious to see what happens when I go back to sculpture.
Will you start sculpting again?
At some point, yes! I’ll combine both, for sure.
You’ve moved around a lot — Madrid, Berlin, New York. How did that come about?
I moved to Berlin in 2004, for 8 years, and started my painting career there. In Madrid, where I’m from, I was doing the sculpture. In fact, I have a public sculpture there that’s famous for being vandalized. I spent one year in Athens to focus on the sculpture. That city is chaos. But I had a beautiful connected with the materials, like clay—they’re so strict over there. I’ve only been here for less than a year, and I like it. Berlin was so cold that I escaped its winters by coming to New York, ha.
What is your studio like here and how is that affecting your work?
I think my head is around the world, so the cities don’t have a huge impact on my work. My paintings are more like a time-lapse bomb, because I get inspiration from so many places. I arrived to New York one year ago but then I started painting works that I conceived from a trip to China a year and half earlier.
Biggest hazard of the job?
I have to be on the ladder all the time, and I was reaching to get a corner making these works–I fell off and couldn’t walk for a week. But I wasn’t seriously hurt. Just my feet.