Diego de la Rosa is a fine artist born in Venezuela who is currently living and working in Toronto. He graduated from OCAD University in 2015 with a bachelor of fine arts degree in drawing and painting. His work has been shown in Canada, the United States and Venezuela and has been included in the Mercedes-Benz Private Collection. In 2021, he was one of the selected artists in the publication “Tomorrow’s Talent” by Booooooom.
Diego de la Rosa’s work explores the cultural impact of the social crisis in his native country, and relies on symbolism to explore the ideas and sentiments born from this reality. His process involves the collection of found imagery of people and places from Venezuela that are then rearranged into painted narratives full of imaginative elements, such as giants, theatrical atmosphere and fantastical characters. The source imagery represents the perceived reality, while the painting tactics embody the values and ideas that are employed to create a reading for these circumstances.
The use of allegory in his paintings provides an artistic translation of social concepts similar to the interpretative approach of an anthropological study. He uses these painted scenarios to illustrate both the cultural notions surrounding the crisis and critical theories on frustration, resilience, the desire for change and the search for meaning, which he employs to analyze the subject at hand.
Through his work, de la Rosa creates images that universalize issues of oppression, crime and social struggle, evoking empathy in societies so distant from his own.
What initially compelled you to pursue art?
I always had a close relationship with art, to the point that I couldn’t see myself doing much else for the rest of my life. I remember the first time I fell in love with drawing. I was in kindergarten and saw one of my classmates do a drawing that was good. Not just a bunch of scribbles or doodles, but a genuinely good drawing. “I could do that. I want to do that,” I thought. And ever since then, I kept trying to find ways of honing my artistic skills.
The idea of mastering that craft, and eventually painting, gave me an excitement that continues till this day. My parents also made and effort to expose me to different forms of artistic expression, such as paintings, sculpture, film, acting, theatre and music (the last one I am terrible at). By the time I was 18 years old, art was not just a hobby, but an essential part of my every day. When I graduated high school, I went to study journalism. And while that career did influence me in invaluable ways, I also didn’t feel much fulfillment from it. Which is why, when I had to leave the country due to the socioeconomic crisis, I also took the chance to change careers and pursue what I am truly good at and passionate about: drawing and painting.
Who or what in your life influences your practice the most?
From a conceptual standpoint: the stories and struggles of my fellow countrymen. These give me the narrative fuel that I explore in my pieces. However, the technique and aesthetics that I use to tell these stories come from a very diverse set of influences. From the great masters of historic painting, such as Diego Velázquez and Goya, to modern legends such as Colleen Barry and Andrew Hem. I also try to open myself to other forms of art to find inspiration, such as movies, animation and sometimes even music.
What do you feel is the key concept that connects your works?
The desire to explore how the socioeconomic crisis in Venezuela has affected the way of thinking of my fellow countrymen, and the reliance on the power of fantasy and symbolism to depict the different ideas and sentiments that were born from this reality.
Tell us about a moment that ultimately made you look at your art and/or practice differently.
The most recent experience that impacted my art in a meaningful way was an exhibition by Guillermo Lorca García-Huidobro at the Moco Museum in Barcelona. I have always related to his style and symbolic imagery, but seeing the work in person and the aesthetic choices he made led to a complete shift in the way I handle paint. Lorca has no fear in leaving areas unfinished, or even playing with texture. And even if an area looks a bit “sloppy,” that imperfection does bring a lot of character and personality to the final product.
What does your art give you that nothing else can?
A sense of purpose. The feeling that I can create something that can make this world a little bit better because it brings inspiration and joy to others.