In the Studio with Sebastian Villabona

In the studio with Colombian artist Sebastian Villabona, whose works explore themes of playfulness and chaos through color, form, and materiality. We met with Sebastian to tell us more about his upbringing, his greatest influences, and unexpected sources of inspiration.

When did you first begin to see yourself as an artist?

I think when I decided to get into the studio, be there, and work every day.

Where are you from and what was your upbringing like? 

I am from Colombia. I am an only child on my mother’s side. I grew up with her and saw my father during weekends. I think that it was a happy childhood but also a bit difficult. My mom usually worked very long hours and came home late, and after school I just liked to be outside the home with friends skating, playing football, or just hanging out, which also brought problems at home. I wasn’t the best student in college and it was hard for me mentally to be at home alone doing homework or just watching TV.  

But art and the studio have been helping me to calm these anxieties of staying in a place for long hours, now I can value these moments of isolation, introspection and try to see my place in the world by doing something that has created a relation between me, the surface, the color, and gestures. I believe that the environment in which I grew up throughout my childhood influenced my preferences and ways of seeing the world.

Paint us a picture of your artistic journey. What inspired you to first pursue, and then continue to practice, artistic work?

I think when I came to Sweden and started to meet artists who were in the world of urban art or graffiti could make an artistic life from this. I also found it very interesting to see that their practices went beyond the mural, but rather that they worked with other forms such as textiles, ceramics, paintings, sculptures, etc. That motivated me to have the opportunity to see my work from other perspectives and experiment with new techniques. 

Being in the studio, showing my work, and seeing that people were interested in this path that I was taking motivated me a lot. As well when I was able to exhibit in galleries it gave me the confidence to continue working. 

 How would you describe your aesthetic? 

I want my work to leave something positive in a world that is so tangled and contradictory. I seek to create ways to break with the binary and add elements that can fragment with standards of something static. I like the diversity in humans, the different ways that people live are very interesting to me, and see beyond hegemonic mechanisms.

I seek to generate different techniques or diverse elements which can give senses of difference, multiplicity, and variety. So the messages come from people, from the ways of living, from ideas of community.

Right now, I would describe my aesthetics as abstract, expressionist, and experimental.

Who and what are your greatest influences? 

Many young contemporary artists inspire me, not only abstract art but also figurative. I find many artists on Instagram that surprise me a lot, and more classic artists like Cy Tymbly, Matisse, Franz Kline, Paul Klee, sure influence my paintings. 

An unexpected source of inspiration?

Maybe movies, I usually watch films and somehow even if I don’t think about them so much after seeing them, I think they are there.

Do you have the audience consciously in mind when you are creating?

No, I don’t think I have one specific audience, I try to make it open, and probably that’s why I like abstract art because it has this openness that one person usually can access at it. 

What events in your life have mobilised change in your practise/aesthetic? 

I think that living in Colombia again after spending twelve years outside the country makes me see things in different ways and this surely affects the work. Also the contrast of living in a calm Scandinavian country to a more bustling city like Bogotá mobilize my practice. 

I feel that my works started very geometric, but I also experimented a lot with collages and now I am trying to make paintings more gestured and add some elements like paper or photographic cutouts that lead me more to experimentation and not just the form.

What are your ideal conditions or catalyst for creating a “good” piece of work?

For me, coming up with a good color palette for the piece is key. When I don’t see this going in a good direction I get frustrated and need to turn it around until I can come up with something that I feel comfortable with. As well starting with no mess studio haha.

Tell us about the inspiration behind one of your works?

Lately, I have been focusing on issues related to nature, in our ways of consuming as humans, the damages we have done to it, and what we are leaving for the future.  

Something in the future you hope to explore?

I am starting to work with ceramics and I am very interested in being able to make large format sculptures.