As if we were in an American road-movie or in the Kerouac’s ‘On the road’ scenes, the Basque artist living in Madrid, Íñigo Sesma (San Sebastián, 1987), takes us on a trip to Middle America, its suburbs, its emptiness and its characters thanks to his paintings. Through a work of photographic documentation, Sesma portrays the everyday scenes that he finds in the void he passes road-tripping through the states of Pennsylvania, Missouri, Illinois, Kansas or Maryland. With a cinematographic aesthetic and a very personal point of view, he captures the atmospheres in which social abandonment coexists with the life concentrated in diners, resting areas and highway motels, to depict them onto canvases at his studio or as mural artwork.
Classical painting reinterpreted with a contemporary language and an exquisite domain of oil paint and light, where the emotional crosses the barriers of the canvas. The figurative artist from the ‘Basque school’, trained between Barcelona, Bilbao and New York, has celebrated up to ten solo shows between Madrid, Donosti, Miami and Los Angeles over the last decade and is now finishing preparing his next exhibition that will take him to Paris, hand in hand with PDP Gallery. We speak with Sesma to get to know him and his work a little more closely.
Your first memory painting… My first memory it’s already painting. I’ve been painting my whole life, since I was little in school. I remember when I was like three or four years old, I took a bunch of my mom’s make-up and painted the whole hallway at home. She wasn’t very happy about that!
The last time you painted in the street… A few months ago I did a collaboration with Gviiie and Jeims in Madrid.
Street or studio work? They give me different things. In the street you are always confront problems you could hardly foresee in advance but when you see your finished work, it gives you a bigger satisfaction than when you finish a piece at the studio. Maybe because I spend much more time in the studio, I mostly do studio work and it’s where I feel more confortable.
Your color? It’s the combination of colors that I am most interested about. In how a color changes depending to what other it’s next to it. Depending on the moment I use a certain color palettes, now I am more into greens and blues, but that changes with the time. It’s when I open my Instagram feed and scroll down when I realize how the colors in my work vary.
A daily routine… I try to maintain a routine whenever I have a project coming up, it’s when I try to be more stricter. I normally go to the studio, have lunch there and try to paint as much as posible during the day. On the evening I do some exercise and go meet my friends.
Who would you like to do a collab with? I have a pending collab with Spok. It will be a studio piece and we still don’t have a clue of what it will look like. Probably it will be a free style one: I will start with something, he will continue and then I’ll take over again… A shout out to Spok, of course!
An artist you admire… Right now I would say Zoer.
A less known artist with a good projection… Gviiie from Madrid. Another shout out to him.
A pictorial style… Lately I am quite lit up with a style that’s more literary than pictorial -even cinematographic- applied to painting, called “Dirty Realism”. It’s a chronological narrative without any specific important moments, it’s more about the story as a whole and it’s quite lineal. I transferred it into my paintings in a very “atmospheric” way.
The work you’ve enjoyed the most? The wall I did together with Sebas Velasco in the Graffiti Festival na Gradele, in Croatia. We were painting three meters distance from the sea and we spent the day between the water and painting. There was a time of the day, between 12 to 3pm in which it was too hot to paint, so we would be at the beach.
And the work you feel the proudest of? The wall I made in Downtown Los Angeles for my solo show in December 2018 with PDP Gallery. It was a wall outside the gallery space that is intervened in every new show. I was by myself in the gallery for like five days since they all were at Scope Art Fair so I was really calm, very concentrated, also nervous about the upcoming solo show I was presenting… But I was so in the mood for doing something really good and was really satisfied after.
A turning point in your career? Every time you make a solo show is an important moment, you go with everything you have and you get to reflect about a lot of things. Apart of that my periods in Berlin and LA, where I made artistic residences, were very important for me. I spent the whole day thinking about my work and I was surrounded by people doing the same, they were both really positive experiences.
Who was your mentor? I’ve never had anyone specific, I started alone and even if I had some teacher during my studies it’s my ‘crew’ whom I consider my mentors: Mikel Del Río, Gabriel Coca and Sebas Velasco.
Describe your work in three works… Figurative, strongly related to documental painting and atmospheric.
Your personality? Very chill.
A city to paint… Madrid.
A special place for you… My studio.
What do you hate? The smell to spray cans and paint thinner in my studio.
The last book you’ve read… “Motel chronicles” by Sam Shepard, different stories not connected to each other. Maybe it has some relationship with what I do, it’s a street novel related to the American aesthetic I like.
The last movie you’ve seen… I take so much times in choosing one that I start watching them really late and always fall asleep. The last one was “Stories from the Kronen”.
A series… “The Wire” is quite good. It’s based in Baltimore, where I was last December doing a photographical project.
What music inspires you? Lately I’ve been kind of bored of everything, I’m not being able to find what I like, I’m looking for something new. No I’m starting to get into what is called “global bass”, a big cultural mixture of music.
A museum or art space… The National Gallery of London, I went there three years ago and they have an amazing portrait section.
A special painting for you… More than a painting I remember an exhibition by Neo Rauch in Berlin. I went crazy about all those paintings, the whole show was quite powerful.
A wall… Something by Aryz, for his immense dimensions and the color palette he uses.
A bar where to find you… In Pokhara, when I go to San Sebastián it’s the meeting spot with my friends.
Your favorite dish? Baby squid in ink sauce.
Your fears? To lose my motivation to paint. Or to not being able to paint. A few days ago I cut my right index finger with a cutter and I was pretty scared of not being able to paint again.
Any obsession? I have this OCD that I can’t avoid, but every time my hands are full of paint I end up scratching or just touching my face getting all full of paint. I can’t say why is it that I do that.
Alone or in company? I like to be alone, but after the lockdown I want to be in company.
With what do you waste time? Looking for my keys before I leave home.
A goal… To do an exhibition in Asia. I’ve been a lot around Europe and the United States, but I would really like to do a project there.
What are you working in right now? In a solo show in Paris that was cancelled due to the lockdown. I am almost done preparing it.
Your ideal future… In a studio in the middle of the mountain without any stress about ‘deadlines’ or exhibitions. Just painting and painting.
A mantra… “Work hard, play harder”.