Amidst the flurry of fairs and burgeoning artists emerging in Santiago at the moment, a couple of young illustrators have caught the eye with their forceful and cynical comedy. Having garnered recognition by displaying their work on internet websites, Compulsivo and Grotesco are two friends working to establish their names in the Chilean capital.
Compulsivo's work at Feria de Conejo (photo by Neil Morrison)
Compulsivo is Oliver Contreras, a 23-year old artistic illustration graduate, currently residing in Rancagua. It was at an art fair around four years ago that he met César Fuentes, or Grotesco as he is more commonly known to internet followers. As César says “we met in some nerd comic convention, hating and laughing at the people who visited our stands.”
The two had found some common ground. Both were studying illustration at the Alpes Institute. Both enjoyed playing live at punk rock and grind-core metal shows. They were soon to discover that they shared a similar critique on the absurdities of modern culture.
This is apparent in their work. It's visually arresting, distinctive and, at times, laugh-out-loud funny. It possesses a savage humour and has a careless abandon for how their readers perceive it. That’s not to say they don’t care. Their work is attentive and incredibly imaginative. Filled with Chilean slang and local situations, it can take a little time to decipher with foreign eyes. But the illustrations and content are vibrant and easy to get hold of.
For Oliver his passion for illustration began when he was a child. “I feel fortunate to have grown up in an era which showed Looney Tunes classics and Tex Avery shorts on public television.” Taking inspiration from a host of artists on TV and outside he set about making his own animations. “I usually work with watercolor and ink or with acrylic and I like to draw things at random with ink or on the computer.”
Compulsivo/Oliver Contreras (photo by Neil Morrison)
When meeting for an interview Oliver was incredibly friendly. Despite the supposed airs and graces that come with many artists he seems particularly grounded. He was only too happy to talk freely about his work and upcoming displays. He was also keen to show off the Plop! galleria, which houses the work of Liniers and Claudio Romo, two illustrators that have clearly had an influence.
Looking through their websites where they display a lot of their work, themes in their comics range from alien invasions and animal orgies to a Steve Jobs conspiracy to conquer the world. Slightly leftfield and disturbing yes, but are these ideas taken from events happening around us? Oliver finds inspiration from media exposure. “Television is a theme that I like to deal with more than anything because when I see [it] I imagine alternative dialogues or different situations using the same characters. But I also like to draw people, usually [as a] … criticism, of their attitudes, customs, expressions.”
César draws ideas more from personal encounters. “My biggest influence is the total lack of common sense, logic and intelligence of the world we live in. My other source of ideas, being an idiot myself, is the bizarre things that happen to me on a daily basis.”
So far the majority of Compulsivo and Grotesco’s work has been self-financed. Advertising and publishing has taken on a D.I.Y. approach where dependance on savings for printing fees has been mandatory. For Oliver “fanzines and stickers, I do them on my own, I invest the money, I print them and after going to fairs or universities I start to sell. I [also] do cartoons and sell originals.”
An excerpt from Que te Importa, by Compulsivo
César has had some success in terms of publishing, although at first it was a little unexpected. “Well I published a compilation book of comic strips; I just saved the money and published it. I didn’t know if I was going to sell all of the books, but I did! Then editors from [Santiago-based] RIL republished it with lot of new comic strips and there it is, in hipster stores across the country.”
There have been a number of collectives and fairs that have given young comic illustrators opportunities to display their work across Santiago and help them gain some form of recognition. Oliver points towards the Feria Conejo, a new organization that has enjoyed two successful events where he has done live water color paintings and sold fanzines. “Lately there are several fairs of this kind, [there] is also the Feria de Fanzines and Hola Chao”.
The Feria de Fanzines is a monthly event which has been gathering momentum for over two years. Having gained recognition from around Chile and some support from further afield, it provides workshops and allows illustrators to display and sell their work.
Grotesco/César Fuentes (photo by Neil Morrison)
Although Oliver is open to showing his work at events, César prefers to adopt a more underground approach. ”I'll be very honest. Artists don’t like me and I don’t like them. I hate the "art circuit" and those events where you have to be nice to the right people to participate in exhibitions, so I haven’t exhibited my work in formal places. If you wanna meet the real artists of Santiago you should take a walk on the street, not in galleries or hipster events. But generally I sell and exhibit in underground punk and grind-core shows.”
Despite the current flourish of activity in Chile, Oliver is currently considering options to study in Argentina. The costly nature of studying in Santiago is a pressing factor. “..[in] Argentina I can study animation for free. Here in Chile that course is actually very expensive so I decided to study in a university in Buenos Aires.”
Those residing in Santiago therefore may only have a limited period to see his work. You had better go before it’s too late.
Grotesco's can be seen at http://grotescomics.blogspot.com/ . If you are interested in buying his work or for notifications as to where he may be selling it check out his Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/pages/Grotescomics-oficial/183324105017671
The Feria de Fanzines is hosting events in the Biblioteca de Santiago on the 10th and 17th of November, from 12.00 to 13.30.
For more information visit http://feriadefanzines.wordpress.com/