Interview by Sam Desmond
With his paradoxically nostalgic contemporary pieces, artist Amauri Torezan brings abstraction to the heart of his viewers by listening and looking for the inspired answers to the unasked questions. With commissions as varied as outdoor murals for the cities of Wynwood, Miami and West Palm Beach and watch straps for the luxury brand Tag Heuer, Torezan has learned to translate his visions whether scaling up or sizing down. In this interview, he discusses his influences and perspectives on his work.
So what was it like designing for a luxury brand like Tag Heuer? How did you get selected for such a prestigious commission?
As fate would have it, a representative from Tag Heuer’s local store went to a gallery exhibiting my work and asked they recommend someone. I was then invited to do a solo show at Tag Heuer’s Miami Design District Boutique.
Had you worked with functional (i.e. wearable) art pieces before?
Yes, I’ve done clothing, watches, shoes, purses…
What is the most challenging part about shifting artwork from canvas to cloth?
The technical approach is the starkest difference for me. My pieces tend to be larger—4 x 4—and with something like a watch, you have to scale down your vision. It’s a different set of brushes, but still true to your artistic interpretation.
Describe that process of capturing artistic interpretation for our readers. Where do you begin?
I begin my work, specifically paintings, with drawing a single geometric shape in the middle of the canvas, without having a previously thought concept. Intuitively, I start adding more forms and colors. At certain point, it [the artwork] shows me that elements are missing, so it starts a “battle” to find out what elements, colors and places that composition is asking for.
How long is the process of “battling” your artwork into a final piece?
Each piece is different, but it takes hours. In a way I am searching for an answer to my original inspiration.
As an abstract painter, how do you bring your vision to your audience? Do you feel like you guide them or is it more of the test to see what they interpret?
As an abstract painter, sometimes people tell me that they see a monkey, an airplane, or something representational on my paintings, but they are all abstractions. The monkey, airplane, or any other representation is only the fruits of their imagination. This is what makes abstract art fascinating, it’s a different experience for each individual, it triggers memories stored in their subconscious mind making people see images that are not there in an objective reality.
Whom do you idolize? Are they also abstract artists?
I once had someone tell me, “Man I see your work as a mix of old stuff and new stuff—“
Wait—you took that as complimentary?
(Chuckles) Absolutely. Because he could see my influences in my work. I’m so drawn to that 1950s, early 1960s Madmen era with Joan Miro, Frank Stella, Picasso, and Kandinsky. Their work was so attune to their time, but ironically timeless that it continues to speak to us.
Your artwork definitely pays homage to those artists. But it’s not a copy of a style; it’s the evolution of a style. How did your upbringing/background connect with these artists?
I am originally from Sao Paolo, Brasil and as a child during the seventies we had lots of leftovers from mid-century pieces. Those shapes—like the TV or the blender—stuck with me. There was something commercial, yet comforting, about those images.
Were you always working as an artist? If not, how did your other endeavors fit into your artwork?
I started working as an artist in 2013. When I think of how my idols produced over 5,000 pieces, it’s daunting since I’m only at 300! But my formal schooling is in business. As a child, around 8, my mother took me to a studio for informal training. The adult artists had compasses and rulers, but I always drew freehand. That’s how I feel about my artwork now—there’s no static representation, it’s about connecting to emotions on a subconscious level, like memories. For instance, when I draw images like Felix the Cat unto a painting, it’s a connection to my youth and something that inspired me to draw at a young age, so it’s a visceral, not a commercial connection.
What art—or other media of art influences you today?
Music is critical to my production process. I love jazz. From old masters like Coltrane and Miles Davis to newer more experimental work. There’s an Ethiopian jazz musician, Mulatu Astatke, I was introduced to that just surrounds me with so much creative inspiration.
Are you very specific about your tools? In contrast to your free-spirited approach to painting?
In my paintings I use mostly acrylics and enamels. Even though my work is normally flat, I like using heavy body acrylics by Golden and Soho for their texture and opacity. For outdoor murals I like Montana spray paint and Behr.
If you could be globally known for ONE piece of your artwork, what piece would it be and why?
It would be Shangri-Lá. This piece was my way to communicate about this fictional place where basically all its habitants were happy and young forever. It was already exhibited at The Baker Museum in 2016, and it was also part of a public exhibition with SaveArtSpace, where reproductions of selected artwork were placed in bus stops in Wynwood (Miami’s arts district) during Art Basel Miami Week 2015.