Interview with the Artist Camilo Calderón
Camilo Calderón is kind enough to answer a few questions about art and the Taller Trescientosuno, where he is the director and instructor. Camilo’s resume includes being a graduate of the National University of Colombia. There he earned a degree in Fine Arts, specializing in both Painting and Art History. He has also taught drawing and painting for several years in art faculties like Pontificia Universidad Javeriana and Jorge Tadeo Lozano in Bogotá. 
Again, it is our honor to spend a few minutes with the artist Camilo Calderón.
The artwork of Camilo Calderón (click smaller tiles to enlarge)
Would you like to introduce yourself to the readers?
Well, my name is Camilo Calderón, I’m a visual artist from Colombia, currently based in Bogotá. I am a painter, a teacher and a compulsive reader.
When did you realize that art was your calling?
To be honest, it was very intuitive. When I was a child I never had any contact with art or cultural environments in general. We never went to an art museum, or theater, or read literature with my family. I just loved to draw. That’s it.
So when I went to art school, everything was a real discovery. But I fell in love immediately with that strange new world.
How do you describe your artistic style?
Actually, I feel a bit uncomfortable with the concept of “style” as a visual easily-recognizable identity for the artwork. “Style” is a son of modernism and its hurry for individual identity, and I think that something like that is quite superficial and not very important.
I believe more in the artist as someone who finds paths, or tools, or a “diagram” as a set of them (in Deleuzian terms) to solve a question or a problem, and the final visual form as a result of that process.
If you compare, for example, Jasper Johns’ “Target”, “False start” and the Seasons series, it would be very hard to link them in a similar formal fashion, but you could recognize the same thought processes and concerns of the same author. The same happens with people like Sigmar Polke, Gerhard Richter or Keith Tyson, currently one of my favorite living artists.
In my case, I’m actually even trying to avoid any sense of style, taking away all the weight of mark making and pretentiously expressive brushstrokes that I used in the past to allow the viewer to relate with the image with his/her own questions, interpretations and subjectivity without the filter of my personal “expressiveness”.
In general, my main concerns deal with how we relate to and shape reality through representational processes. I think that art has a lot to do with that, and has the potentiality to question your assumptions, your habitual perceptions, and at the same time open a window to new ones.
How do find your inspiration?
There are some very conscious processes as well as more intuitive ones. Normally I read a lot about perceptual cognition, psychology, physics of visual phenomena, and a lot of things related to how we acquire knowledge of the world through perception and how we shape our sense of reality through conscious and unconscious processes of representation. Sometimes, some concept triggers an idea of something that I can explore visually through a painting, then I draw a very quick and raw sketch just to remember something that I could develop later.
Some other times, suddenly an image comes to my mind in an unexpected, intuitive and unconscious mental synapsis and it invites me to investigate and explore that intuition. So, the creative process could go in both ways.
Finally, sometimes I could also find an artwork, or simply any kind of image that inspires me to develop new reflections on that same subject matter. I believe a lot in learning and let us be guided by other people who walked before us.
You are currently the director and primary instructor at Taller Trescientosuno. How do you describe Taller Trescientosuno? Why did you decide to teach?
Very soon I realized that art has a lot to do with learning, with gaining knowledge, some kind of particular knowledge about ourselves, the world or our living experience. On the other hand, I strongly believe that any knowledge we could have doesn’t belong to ourselves, you received it from someone else and you have to share it with someone else too in the same way, so it was very natural to me from the first moment and I still enjoy it a lot.
I’ve been a college teacher for more than ten years, but I needed to create a place where I could teach art in the way that I feel is the best one, in the most efficient and encouraging and inspiring way, that’s how I turned my personal studio into “Taller Trescientosuno”, a place to mainly learn how to draw and paint as a craft in a studio or “atelier” environment, at another pace of learning and another kind of relationship between student and instructor.
How relevant is art to the world?
I think that art tends to be very, very underestimated anytime it’s understood just as a decorative product or a status asset.
I think that art has the power to link people, to help us to understand how we perceive and interpret the world, to learn through sensitive, intuitive, symbolic and analog paths that differ from the purely rational ones.
I know it’s a commonplace, but art is really what makes us human.
Do you have any future projects that excite you?
Yes, I have something in mind that excites me a lot. Right now I’m organizing some notes, reflections, and material that I’ve been developing the last few years and I want to post them as individual articles in my website’s blog but that will configure a book in a – I hope – near future, and what I really want to do in a mid-term one is to develop a multidisciplinary project where we can explore creativity and art as a real way of cognition an as a tool to improve our daily lives.
As an instructor and artist, do you have any advice for the future generation of artists?
Well, I’m not sure at all if I am in the place to advise a whole new generation of people, but what I could say from my experience is that you can really believe in art as a plausible path, art can be learned by everyone since it deals with human capabilities that you just need to develop in the proper way, and you can live from art. You just need to really devote to learning the craft, but also to read, to question yourself, to grab inspiration from art itself, not by emulating some else’s work or “style” but by going deeper in understanding what that person was trying to achieve, and finally to put all your intent and courage to do a work of the highest possible quality and trying to say or to show something really valuable and interesting to the world.
The world is filled, filled with images today, far more than ever, but just very few or they have the power to touch our souls.
All photographs by permission of Camilo Calderón