Wed | Aug 12, 2020

Naandeyé García Villegas – narrating social commentaries through her art

Published:Sunday | July 5, 2020 | 12:12 AM
Naandeyé García Villegas, Mexian artist who uses her creativity for social commentary.
Naandeyé García Villegas, Mexian artist who uses her creativity for social commentary.

Naandeyé García Villegas’ earliest memories of delving into creative pursuits were ‘drawing’ letters on the earliest known Word programme. The palette had a choice of four fonts and black and white colours to fill – minimalism driven by technology.

“Since I was a child, I had a special interest in art. I drew a lot. I drew all the time,” Villegas said. “I loved the colour and the letters.

“When I was eight years old, my parents bought me a computer and a printer,” she said. “At that time, computers still didn’t have design programmes, but mine had one installed where you could write things (I guess it was a kind of Word). It was just typography. I used to spend whole afternoons making signs, ‘designing’ them, then printing them, and finally, colouring on top of them (it had all kinds of markers, colours, watercolours, oil, etc.),” she said.

This was the first taste of design for Villegas.

A great deal has changed since then. From the evolution of the gigantic diode tube machines into the hand-held smart device, the humble Word has added more fonts and stylised options, and, of course, dedicated design software is adding layers of dimensions and special effects to the final products.

In all of it, human creativity is at the core, which Villegas, and artists across the world, swear by. The media may change, but the personal artistic touch is what makes a work of art stand out on its own.

For this Mexican artist, her earliest romance of making signs in a Word file has developed into her style statement: that of minimalism married with social commentary.

“My style is characterised by the delicate use of geometric shapes to create colourful characters and backgrounds,” Villegas said. “My illustrations have intense and deep strokes. I always bet on organic shapes, nature things, and basic geometric figures. My favourite figure is the circle, and it is the protagonist in almost all my compositions. In general, I am looking for an environment that manifests itself strongly.”

She is mixing the hues of the palette with messages.

“I have a holistic vision about life, and I like that this is expressed in my work,” Villegas said. “I like to define graphic concepts in a minimalist way. My graphic style is flat, and the topics I like to tackle the most include social criticism, culture, the environment, and women.”

REGGAE POSTER CONTEST WINNER

Villegas entered the Reggae Poster Contest 2020. Her entry, One Love, was selected as Grand Winner among 667 entries.

“The poster I designed is an initiative that through the visual arts, seeks to celebrate Jamaican music, specifically reggae,” she said.

Villegas explained that she wanted to represent reggae in a symbolic and universal way for which she used the symbol of love and peace, a dancing character, and the colours that have been linked to the Rastafarian movement.

“These elements have a complex and deep ideology behind themselves,” she said. “Colours have a very deep meaning within Rastafarian ideology, and I found the message behind them extremely powerful, and I did not hesitate to use them. Green represents the beauty of the land and its vegetation that is cared for and respected by the Rasta. Yellow represents the wealth and prosperity of its origins in Africa. Red represents spilled blood, each martyr who has marked the history of the Rastas fighting for their liberation ideology.”

Her theme and inspiration came from Bob Marley’s One Love, which according to Villegas, summarises very well the ideology that she wanted to represent and with which she identifies herself.

“I have a holistic view of life. That’s why I think that everything is one thing and that we all belong to the same thing, That’s what I wanted to convey,” she said.

The poster design, she said, is a narrative for the collective conscience, which denounces inadmissible, socially unjust situations that threaten the natural order of the universe, which are the overarching themes of her works.

“They (her works) revolve around the power of visual expression as a tool to feel, raise awareness, and sensitise, in this case, through design and illustration,” Villegas said. “In general, the theme that I have wanted to represent through my work is the power and influence of the poster and illustration in our culture, understood as a regenerative visual expression.”

Ecstatic with this win, which is one of many feathers in her cap, Villegas wants to continue her artistic journey, sharing her works, which she says are deeply entrenched in simplicity and harmony where both colour and shape and typography can work in balance.

“I try to be spontaneous, and I also try to make my work full of symbols,” she said. “All my work is a syncretism of my own experience, the artists that I admire, and the projects that I have developed previously.”

She said that she is constantly deriving inspiration from her travels, Mexican ancestral cultures, Mexican graphic culture, women, contemporary art, surrealism, expressionism, cinematography, music, museums, and from other illustrators, designers, and poster designers works.

FORAY INTO THE ARTS

Turning the clock back from where we began, Villegas’ artistic journey evolved from the ‘word art’ into graphics. “I always enrolled in workshops that had to do with painting, drawing, and creativity, from poetry, mask workshops, experimental painting workshops, creativity and psychology, etc. That left a mark on me forever and pressed my taste for graphic arts,” she said.

Drawing came as a second nature to her, which she said stuck to her as she grew older. When the time came to choose a career path, there were no second guesses. “Without hesitation, I chose design and visual communication, and during those (university) years, I consolidated my interest for art, design, graphic communication, colour, and typography.”

Villegas worked as a graphic designer after university. She began teaching, too. “I was passionate about understanding the symbology of formats and colours. I read a lot about design theory and art theory. However, I felt that something was missing.”

After much introspection and retrospection, she found her path to express her many political and social concerns; combine design, art, politics, and culture in illustration; and creating posters with social narratives.

Her subsequent travels have opened Villegas to broader global social narratives and enhanced her creativity. She lived in Spain for five years, which allowed her to travel around Europe. Each one of the trips, she said, deeply opened her perception of things, of art and reality.

“Specifically, the trips I made to Berlin made me realise that the poster is more alive than ever. That design does not necessarily have to be expressed in a consumer medium. I got to know interactive art in all its expressions, and it gave me another perception of reality,” she said, adding that the museums and exhibitions that she visited were a rich source of inspiration.

“One of the wonders of travelling is to able to appreciate the cultural wealth of each country,” The representation of reality is very different in each place I have visited. It is particularly that vast variety that enriches us as humanity,” she said. “For example, Latin American graphic design is very different from Nordic design. They are almost antagonistic, and it is just that antagonism that makes them spectacular.”

RELEVANCE OF ART

According to Villegas, fine art has always been a testimony of what happens to humanity, and it is a way in which we represent reality, both individually and collectively. She is upbeat about future prospects, and the current COVID-19 pandemic presents an opportunity to create messages that would alleviate humanity.

“This is not the first epidemic that humanity has faced, and similar situations have occurred throughout history. Thanks to the testimonies that great artists who lived through epidemics have left us (and even inspired some works in them). We have a cultural legacy that allows us to know our history,” she said.

In the post COVID-19 world, in which we will have to adapt to a “new normal”, according to Villegas, art cannot and should not be out of the equation. “It collectively emancipates us. It socially relieves us,” Villegas said. Quoting Argentine painter Carlos Alonso, she said: “Leaving a testimony of our time is the utopia that calls us to continue living.”

“Art must always be present. It helps us to break fear and silence,” she said.

amitabh.sharma@gleanerjm.com