Elia Tomás is an incredibly talented artist based in Madrid. His first memories of art stemmed from his uncle who painted landscapes devoid of a human element yet full of personality. After years of carrying his uncles artistic influence through a different path including a psychology degree he moved to Madrid and embarked on his own artistic journey.
Unlike his uncle, Elia’s gaze is directed towards a human element and he uses the portrait as a means to develop a narrative of the individual. Real life people end up becoming fragments where he explores vulnerability. Hence the election of the main characters of his work: men, children and teenagers in a continuous redefinition process. They either look back in time searching for parts of themselves that remain incomplete or live with such an intimate intensity a moment of solitude. They struggle to assert themselves and sometimes to compare to others. They often feel they are victims of certain hormonal euphoria and some degree of disappointment.
We fell in love with Elia’s art, his ability to create different styles of work that showed his range but also his incredible ability to portray the mood and atmosphere of his narratives. The boldness and passion towards his dominant theme; the contradiction of being a man is always present in his stunning compositions.
This is art you linger on, art that you study, enjoy then come back for more. Elia is certainly an artist to follow and collect. Thank you so much Elia for sharing your wonderful work with us!
Self taught or art school?
I learned to paint on my own, although for many years I’ve studied theory and history of art. At the age of 19 I decided to study Clinical Psychology at University. Now, I think it was a very good choice: it gave me the skills to understand myself better and the capability to see my weakness in others. I learned to understand it, to work with it and to communicate it.
When I was 33 years old I moved to live to Spain. It was a blank page. I decided to paint after three months. I felt the need to do something nice. Learning the basics was not so difficult, it was a good moment, I was very motivated and I had much to say.
If you could own one work of art what would it be?
If I could own one work? I think it would be a David Magán’s big sculpture. I simply love sculpture and some abstract geometric works make me crazy. One day I’ll own one.
How would you describe your style?
Rather than naturalistic, I could define my paintings as synthetic. Each canvas is an image construction based on different types of carefully decontextualized photographic materials. Most of these are self-produced, while others come from private collections or historical records. In every work, I enjoy the challenge of searching for a different balance between control and accident. Some of my works are executed with the intention of creating an accurate reproduction of the picture as opposed to others where I prioritize the movement of the brush stroke instead. Hence, visages and bodies transform into stain additions to awaken certain emotional attention in the spectators.
Where are your favourite places to view art?
There are some amazing galleries in Madrid. Some are very traditional -the classic white cube- while others are very independent and alternative. There’s a neighborhood near Calle Doctor Fourquet where you can find a lot of new galleries with good energy. Personally, I like very much My name is Lolita art gallery. They always have a great selection of paintings. I love also special independent spaces like Swinton & Grant. They promote a lot of alternative projects and they are specialized in art-books and street arts.
I also like to discover new artworks and new artists on the internet: I’m a fan of Instagram, for example. Three months ago I knew a Brazilian artist, Moyses, and we started a conversation about queer art. During the next months I’m going to make a portrait of him using one of his performances. I love the idea that we can be so distant and so connected at the same time.
Who are your favourite artists and why?
In this moment I love Justin Mortimer, Tim Eitel and Jonathan Wateridge. I love them because they also work with the human element and with some kind of weakness. I find their work very contemporary. Sometimes very violent. It’s not just a question of what you paint, or how. It’s the whole thing. It’s a perfect balance between the colors, the composition, the subjects. And I think that their works have a lot of personality.
What or who inspires your art?
To describe my work I always use a very simple statement: “The weaker sex.”With this expression I try to introduce the main subject of my work: the explicit or implicit contradictions of being a man.
My first project, Hiding the tracks, was about erotic male portraiture. I released 20 canvas with different models of different ages and bodies. The white background was a way to isolate the subject from his context: to transform him into an icon without history, familiar and unknown at the same time. That was my starting point: at the time I was assuming my homosexuality and I was searching between different examples to find my own way to live it.
My second project, Red Line, was about men with makeup and wounds. It was a reflexion about the stereotypes of being a man and about the searching for a more complex sexual identity. My third project, summer of ’86, is a group-portrait series and it was dedicated to all those men who had not the possibility to understand or accept their homosexuality, and chose to disappear. Until now it’s the most autobiographical project, since in that summer I started to feel different.
Where’s your studio and what’s it like?
I paint in my flat, in Lavapiés, a very interesting and multicultural neighborhood in Madrid.
I love to paint and to sleep in the same place. It give me the possibility to stay in contact with my work. I’m always surrounded by all the people I’m painting. I let them watching me. When I was painting summer of ’86 there were more or less 10 canvas on the walls, each one with a group of people. I called it a weird kind of Dyogene Syndrome: I was collecting presences around me.
Do you have any studio rituals?
I always listen to music when I’m painting. Sometimes is very bad music, and sometimes is very good music. It is so important to me that, sometimes, I create playlists. I can’t paint without music. When I’m happy, I sing, too. Painting is hard work, so let’s make it fun! Trompetín, my little dog, is my assistant.
What are you working on currently?
I’m not working in a specific project right now but I have many ideas for different canvases. I’m trying to learn more about color. I consider color my personal exploration field for the contemporary. Without setting the blue color aside – a characteristic of my style -, I am currently searching for compositions more aware of the possible chromatic combinations. Particularly, in my latest works, I have devoted plenty attention to yellow and pink since both are colors that very often arouse some ingenuity and a certain decadence.
I’m also trying to explore portraiture with other new subjects. Lately I feel very seduced by the energy of adolescence. That kind of violent and beautiful presence: ok, I’m here, right now, and you have to see me.
Where can we buy your art?
From me, from some galleries when I’m having an exhibition or in saatchiart.com.
What are your ambitions?
To learn more and to realize beautiful works. The kind of canvases that people say: I love it and not because they’re just thinking to put your work on a wall, but because they are staring at that image, and they can recognize themselves in it.
It’s possible. Sometimes is also question of fortune. But it’s possible.