Artist Romulo Celdran Deconstructs our Perception of Reality
The reality distorting creations of artist Romulo Celdran will make you look twice... at the very least... and then make you question your perception of reality. This is exactly the question the artist who proclaims "reality does not exist" would hope his work would elicit. His work forces us to confront this essential belief; something Celdran believes we should always keep in mind whenever confronted with this so-called "reality".
Celdran's intricately detailed macro sculptures and hyper-realistic pencil and acrylic paintings are made even more impressive by the fact that he is entirely self-taught by studying the paintings of the masters and learning to mix pigment from chemistry books.
Celdran is merging together the mundane with the extreme through is reality bending paintings and his oversized sculptures of ordinary objects from hot water bottles to half burned match sticks. He is forcing us to question our own perception by deconstructing it, and reveals an uncanny novelty and magic through the power of scale. He is playing with the principles of perception and reality, and inviting us to engage in a game of sorts between artist and participant. His paintings are so realistic that it is almost difficult to believe the objects within the frames were not taken with a camera. And his multi-media sculptures–although imbued with a kind of playful humour– almost err on the side of unsettling upon further inspection of the degree of details that Romulo managed to recreate. The dents and texture of an oversized soda cap, the water spilling out from an ice cube tray the size of a grown man, the teeth marks and air-holes inside a slice of bread. The intricacy and complexity of his work forces us to give a second look at objects in our life that we no longer pay any attention to; bestowing them with a sense of magic.
"I take fragments of reality to my work, deforming them or making them mine in some sense, to communicate the viewer my personal way of looking at this reality." Romulo Celdran
CM: How would you describe your particular art and style?
This is not an easy thing for me to do. If I want someone to have a mental image of what I more or less do when my work is not at hand, I would say that I make realistic paintings and sculptures. But the truth is that I am not sure if this is a good description. I definitely don’t like art labels. I know that they sometimes help to describe what an artist is more or less doing but at the same time they reduce a big complexity to only one word,- Realism, Abstraction, Expressionism, Conceptualism, Video Art,...
I can say that I take fragments of reality to my work, deforming them or making them mine in some sense, to communicate the viewer my personal way of looking at this reality. I am not sure if we can call this Realism or even if my appropriation of reality is more than that of an abstract artist, a conceptualist, a photographer, a video artist or a performer.
CM: Can you tell us more about your educational art background?
Well, I started to paint when I was 9. From the beginning I felt it like something I should do to feel better. I always painted for hours after my school time or during the weekend. At that time and until the age of 18 I painted all that I could and learned from books, museums, exhibitions, catalogues, documentaries, etc. ... What I mean is that I was self-taught and that implied that I had to find what I needed to know by myself. I studied the Classic Master´s paintings and techniques, and even learned to make my own pigments and paints using some old chemistry books. That fascinated me.
My work as a sculptor began some years later, at the age of 22, and since then I have developed both disciplines (painting and sculpture) in parallel and both in a self-taught way.
CM: What is your definition of reality?
I often say that reality does not exist. Further than being a provocative statement, it is something we should have in mind every time we face that phenomenon we have assumed to call reality.
Reality is in fact the mental physicochemical process that allows us to decode the world around us the way we do. That is what science tells us about reality.
From that perspective, as an artist I am interested in this sensorial relationship between men and reality. That is the starting point from which I relate to reality as part of my work and that is the scientific vision, which at least partly, generates my proposal about scales, perception, observation, detail and research.
CM: What do you hope to reveal about our reality by manipulating it in your artwork?
Scale probably plays the leading role in the manipulation of reality I make in my works. For me, scale determines a very specific approach to the world of objects. Of course physically speaking, but also anthropologically and even emotionally. What I mean is that objects are made by men for a specific reason and their existence makes sense within the limits of human scale. In some sense, it is linked to the human scale. This is the anthropological point of the scale of objects. As soon as an object exists in a scale that is no longer human, it becomes something else.
Besides that, there is something as an emotional relationship between men and the objects. As children we start to discover the world around by manipulating objects. That sort of link between us and the objects remains for the rest of our lives, sometimes it is a special toy, later a little box or a pencil, a sharpener, a tool, a jewel, a present...But also an ice cube, a tea bag, a cherry, a lemon slice...
Another interesting thing is the fact that our relationship with objects changes with time as we grow up. Everything seems to be huge from the eyes of a child but as we are getting older the relative scale changes and we “adapt” in some sense to the human scale of objects. That is why we sometimes try to make the reverse process adapting the real scale objects to the scale of a child, creating small cars, small kitchens with small fruits and tools, small benches, etc. I think that the game of scales creates something as a paradox, and that is probably why each and everyone of us tend to smile when in front of an oversize object.
So, I would say that manipulating reality the way I do, I try to emphasize that special relationship we all have with the world of objects and what it tells us about our own condition as humans.
CM: What reaction do you hope someone would have were they to encounter one of your giant pieces in a gallery?
This is absolutely related with your previous question. I would love the viewer to be surprised, interested and happy. Surprised about the rediscovery of an object he probably thought he knew, once he realizes he did not really know it. Interested, by all the meanings my artistic proposal implies, some of which I have stated along this interview and the most important thing, I hope they smile in front of my work, being able to provoke something as a child like reaction, primary and spontaneous.
They say that smile is something like a gift our brain gives us as a reward for the correct resolution of a paradox. I always hope to be able to generate that kind of reaction in my public.
CM: Can you tell us about the process that goes into creating your sculptures? How much time do you spend on average on them? and on your sketches/paintings?
As you may guess, it is a very complex and time demanding process. Each sculpture is a world in itself. There is no preconceived technique as every chosen object determines the technical process to make every sculpture. So this process is in fact the result of a research where I test a lot of materials and ways of using them in order to have the best result possible. Once this technical process is defined I start working on the piece and that is a long process full of challenges, mistakes, risky steps and improvisations, all of this can take several months on average to finish a single sculpture. The number of months can vary between one for a very small sculpture to six or seven for a big one.
Paintings are quite different from the technical point of view. What I mean is that the technical process is more preconceived with the exception of some adjustments required depending on the specific work. As far as time, they take me between two weeks for a very small painting to four months for the largest ones.
In either cases, always with long working days of at least ten hours.
Objects are for me a perfect way to speak about a lot of things...Mostly about the Human Being, even though in my works human presence is not evident. That is part of the magic condition of objects. They are able to talk about what the Human Being has needed and then invented, what he has thought of and then designed, what he has used, then broken and probably then repaired, etc. Even those objects we understand as “natural” (a lemon slice, an egg, a piece of wood,..) have been “deformed” in my works by the human use, so they have been in some sense “redesigned” by men.
All of the objects in my works are daily objects, humble, ordinary and even simple at fist glance, but the truth is that they hold much more. Once you are able to work with them as if they were part of a luxury material and show them using a big scale, reinforcing their beauty and complexity, they suddenly appear as something new that deserves to be rediscovered.
CM: Thoughts on the art world today versus when you started out?
I probably don´t have the proper historical perspective to have an opinion about it. Art fairs are always a good thermometer to see some changes and trends from year to year. But at the end these changes are always small and fleeting. You know, one year you see a large percentage of photograph and video art, next year it seems that painting recovers a leading role, etc... Something like what we see in every fashion week around the world.
The only thing I probably notice as general is the increasing presence of auction houses as a determining agent for contemporary art, the way they already were for modern or classic art. I am not against that, as I think it is surely a trend based on the logic we have all contributed to create as a society, but it sometimes disturbs me for what it means regarding the irresponsible speculation versus the real value of Art beyond this wild market.
CM: What are you working on now? next?
I am starting to work on new concepts and materials. So these are very exciting moments, full of ideas and research, but nothing so clear for the moment to talk about it. I will continue working on my Zoom and Macro series of works (paintings and sculptures respectively) but at the same time I am in the process of introducing new ways of talking about my personal world of objects.
I guess in some months I will be able to show you some new works in this sense.