Nicolas Radic lives and works in Santiago de Chile, where he has been intensively involved in painting for almost 20 years. His works are part of important collections and have been exhibited in Latin American, North American, European and Asian contexts such as the Marlborough Gallery in Barcelona, the Madre Gallery in Santiago and the PYO Gallery in Seoul. He is also an active participant in international contemporary art fairs. Working in oil on canvas, the artist develops a hyper-realistic painterly oeuvre that simultaneously leads towards abstraction. In his paintings, these two ways of dealing with the problematic of the subject coexist harmoniously. His compositions detach the materiality of the depicted objects from their form, de-contextualising them and removing them from their usual functions. Radic works with a variety of motifs such as cellophane, balloons, scrap metal, plastics, spirals and metals, with the aluminium series being his best-known work.
When did you start working as an artist? What inspired you? Is there something or someone that influenced you?
My interest in art started when I was young. At the age of 16, I had the opportunity to visit Europe. With my backpack on my shoulder, walking in one of the most incredible cities in the world, it was impossible not to be inspired. Rome was, for me, a window to art. From there, everything changed in my mind and my interests. I had never seen anything like it. Sounds impressive, right? Something as magnificent and enduring as Renaissance art overshadowed other interests in my ordinary life at the end of the world. After that comes the obsession to learn how to paint. In my studies, letters and mathematics took a backseat, and the satisfaction of finishing a painting took me from one to another work, not wanting ever to stop, thus bringing me closer to the dream of be part of the art world, to be a painter. And the years go by, locked up in a small room working day and night, perfecting one's technique or hand, as we painters say. I was never good at going to class, nor did I like to follow other people's projects. For better or worse, I have always ventured into my own ideas in art and life. The artists I like the most do not necessarily resemble my works: Monet, Turner, and Pollok. That's where my constant interest in abstract and realistic art comes from. Many years ago, as a student, I made a copy of Claude Monet's "Venice au Crépuscule." Today that painting hangs at my bed's head in Santiago de Chile.
What materials do you work with and why?
I have always worked with oil on canvas. What happens is that I think oil is the best material to paint! The texture and drying allowed you to work calmly, giving you the time to make adjustments and textures of all kinds. When you use oil, your hand is evident, your signature, your own way of painting. It is the material that most unites us and separates us as painters. Using oil also connects us with art history and its tradition, which works when you want to do a contemporary painting because that dialogue between the new and the old permanently enriches the work.
What technique do you prefer?
I was always a realist painter. My approach to painting comes from there and moves towards abstraction. Aluminum paintings are a perfect example of my idea of making coexist hyper-realistic art and abstraction in the same work. For many years realistic painting focused on portraiture, landscape, and still life. I try to extend the limits of what people understand through realistic painting. It is exciting to overpass expectations. My projects almost always sound like bad ideas, like images lacking in aesthetics. But what happens is that it ends up being the opposite. My works have all the characteristics of classical art brought to objects and materials apparently devoid of aesthetic value.
Are there any shapes or colors you prefer?
For years I worked with gray, blue, and black colors. In a way, I feel safe working in those shades because they always work. But a few years ago, my works have become an explosion of color. You can see this in my Cellophane, Balloon, and Spiral paintings. In those series, color has taken control. I really enjoy doing such colorful works because they attract the eyes of adults and children. But constantly worrying about adding the theme of abstraction and classical painting. My Balloon works are a quote from Jackson Pollok's drippings. In procedure and result. I launched the balloons on a canvas the same way Pollok threw paint. So the execution of the work is an "action art" that I later transfer to realistic painting, enlarging the size and adding highlights and shadows. My Cellophane paintings don't wrap anything. They resemble the works of Mark Rothko, and my Spirals are tangled and taken out of context, which I think is almost at the limit of what can be considered classical art.
Where do you work?
I work in Santiago de Chile, on a street close to the city center. We have a house with my wife and children. Maria works in antiques, and we came up with the idea of restoring an old place where my works of contemporary art coexist with a classic-style house, where the pieces of art are not only the paintings but also the objects and furniture. I am interested in being where things happen so my children can see the coming changes. I have a large studio there that allows me to develop all my projects without leaving home. I have always worked at night, I am not good at getting up early, and if I want to participate in family life, it is better to use the night hours for my work as an artist. My mind splits between my concerns about contemporary art and every other life concern. I have worked alone for years, but on the other side of my studio door, everyday life is developing, to which I must adapt each day while my subconscious is working non-stop.
do you want to say something with your art?
We all want to say something with our art. It is not political, but of course, there is a message. My works look for beauty where there seems to be none. I believe it is a significant cultural contribution. If you can marvel at something as ordinary as aluminum, cellophane, plastic, balloons, or scrap metal, you have pushed a little further the barrier of what we understand as a beautiful motif in painting. My art seeks to surprise the viewer and make him rethink his idea of realistic painting and his notion of contemporary art in general. But first of all, what interests me is to create, to bring my thoughts and dreams to reality, to work with my hands, to progress, to surprise my eyes, to stay awake for the simple pleasure, to risk change, to contemplate something new, and to use my time with the earthly intention of contributing to the lives of my children and those around me.