Gallery manager Dave Lupine talks to talented young artist Alberto Pitalua ahead of Horrorfest 2016.
The original Halloween Horrorfest started in 2013 as a collaborative exhibition of only 3 artists; myself, my Belarusian wife Yuliya and Whitchurch based metal-work artist Lee Smith, and it was held in the small Link Room gallery upstairs at Bear Steps. The following two years we raised the bar each time, with 2014’s being held in the main hall and incorporating seven exhibitors and 2015’s utilising all three galleries and including a myriad of styles and mediums with work from sixteen contributors. Horrorfest 2015 proved to be a very popular exhibition, attracting vast numbers of visitors from far and wide and becoming the most financially successful exhibition of the year for Bear Steps. One of the principal ingredients for this surprising, but very welcome, success was the inclusion of Spanish artist Alberto Pitalua who exhibited his artwork for the very first time and sold virtually all of it during the Horrorfest’s two week run.
Language teacher Alberto originates from Malaga, but moved to Shrewsbury two years ago. He was a late addition to last year’s Horrorfest, contacting me only a few weeks before it began about the possibility of exhibiting at Bear Steps at some point, and the moment I saw his artwork I knew I had to grab him to join the show. In preparation for the Halloween Horrorfest 2016 I interviewed Alberto to discover a bit more about this quiet, charming and incredibly talented young artist.
D.L: Hi Alberto, good to see you. So when did you first develop a passion for art?
A.P: Hi Dave, good to see you too. Well I remember spending a lot of time drawing in my room when I was very young. My parents bought me some art books that I used to read for hours and then copy the paintings and illustrations.
As a rather shy boy I preferred to be on my own, immersing myself in my inner-world and developing my artistic skills.
D.L: You decided not to pursue a career in art though?
A.P: Well when I grew older I became more interested in exploring the world around me, travelling. Meeting people, learning new languages. Foreign languages was another passion of mine, and as there was no art school in my home town and, to be honest, art isn’t regarded as a realistic way of making enough money to earn a life, I decided to study foreign languages at university to become a language teacher. However, I never lost my interest for art and kept painting and drawing as much as possible and whilst working as a teacher I attended several art courses and workshops and met some artists who encouraged me to continue developing my skills.
D.L: So when did you first make the conscious decision you to wanted to exhibit your works to the general public?
A.P: Well two years ago I moved to Shrewsbury, it was then I felt more confident and decided it was the right time to exhibit my work. I contacted different galleries and that was how I met you and you suggested I take part in the Halloween and Christmas shows you were curating in 2015. I will always be so grateful for the support that you, Yuliya and the Shrewsbury Civic Society gave me to start exhibiting my works. I feel as if I were a spoilt child because you have all been so generous to me and I felt such a warm welcome from the very beginning. To be honest, it has been very special to me to start this journey here at Bear Steps, at this amazing building with such nice location, and I have been very lucky to have the help and support of such friendly and inspiring people.
D.L: What does the Bear Steps Halloween Horrorfest mean to you personally?
A.P: The Halloween 2015 show was fantastic. Apart from the success I will remember it as a great experience, I learned a lot and met new people, that is the most important part to me. Obviously it was great to sell so many works (we all have to pay bills and art supplies are quite expensive) but it gave me so much encouragement to continue exhibiting my work.
I am really excited to take part in the Halloween show again this year, where I will exhibit five of my new works. These are mostly portraits where I explore the dark side of love and sexuality, focusing on concepts such as desire, the passing of time, self-destruction and revenge. It’s gong to be great to exhibit together with other artists, some of them good friends, see the people’s reaction and hear their feedback. I’m hugely looking forward to it.
D.L: 2016 has been a very busy year for you on the artistic front, amongst various other shows across the county you had your first solo show with us at Bear Steps. Can you tell me a little about that?
A.P: Yes, in May I had my first solo show, ”Reinventing the Impossible” at Bear Steps. It was a journey to celebrate freedom and the power of imagination. I created a main character, ”Madame Incredula”, who appeared in three works, a veiled woman that personifies emotional weakness, who is too afraid to follow her dreams and even abandons the possibility of love. The viewers could accompany her in a journey among her dreams and nightmares to discover a new universe where everything is possible and everyone can find their own freedom. The most important message that I wanted to convey was that it is never too late to reinvent yourself and do what you want to do, to be brave enough to be what you want to be.
D.L: How would you describe your work and particular style?
A.P: Surrealism is the style I identify most with. However, I consider myself to be a very curious person who likes to try new things so I am sure I will develop my style over the coming years and make sure it is as varied as possible. I don’t like to simply repeat the same things over and over, without challenging myself. I need to get stimulated by new ideas and approaches, but always maintain the same core essence and personality. My works are full of symbolism, there is always a narrative involved, they are a puzzle, an enigma, that needs to be solved by the viewer, with as many possible interpretations as varied as their own personal backgrounds and circumstances.
D.L: Who and what do you consider your primary influences?
A.P: I get inspired by lots of things every day. Life is my inspiration, especially travelling, fashion, music, cinema, literature…I especially like artists such as Salvador Dali, Hyeronimus Bosch, Egon Schiele, Rene Magritte…and contemporary ones like Vladimir Kush, Sergey Tyukanov and Andy Kehoe. My works are also influenced by writers, such as Edgar Allan Poe, H. P Lovecraft and Stephen King, and by movies such those created by Tim Burton, Guillermo del Toro and Alfred Hitchcock. Shrewsbury has been a great source of inspiration for me, its architecture, its gardens, the people I have met here, in general its atmosphere has influenced my work a lot. It’s an inspiring town, full
of history and charm, and it is impossible not to fall in love with it. I feel very lucky to be living and working here, the only downside is the weather, which I will never get used to, it’s especially difficult for someone coming from the south of Spain.
D.L: Can you tell me a little more about the creative process?
A.P: I have to say I am fascinated by this and how different artists approach their work in different ways. Inspiration usually come to me at night, just before gong to bed when I take some time to sketch new ideas, but I must confess that I am a day person, so I am more active during the day when I do most of my painting and experimentation. Sometimes it’s just an idea, a concept which needs to be developed through lots of sketching and thinking, but other times it’s such a clear vision that only needs to be directly transferred onto paper or canvas. Sometimes it takes just a few hours to create something, sometimes it takes months or even years to finish a piece. Sometimes it can be frustrating, especially when you don’t get the results that you are striving for, but in general I consider art as therapy. It helps me to escape from the pressures of everyday life and discover and understand parts of me that I didn’t previously know. It is an amazing journey which enables me to share my imaginary worlds with others and to connect with people on a much deeper level than I would otherwise get through casual conversation.
D.L: So, after Halloween Horrorfest 2016, what does the immediate future hold in store for Alberto Pitalua?
A.P: Well I am going to take part in Chester Arts Fair at the end of November, I would like to definitely continue exhibiting in Shrewsbury and maybe I might start a project I have had in my mind for several years: to illustrate a story I wrote some years ago and finally decide to publish it sometime next year. I am very excited about the future. I am very passionate about everything that I am doing at the moment and I hope I can have more opportunities to develop my style and artistic career in the future.
D.L: Well thank you for the interview Alberto, let’s hope the Halloween show is as well received and successful as it was last year, and all the best for your success and future projects.
A.P: Thank you, it’s been a pleasure. I’m so happy for the opportunities you have given me and I’m sure the Halloween Horrorfest will run for many years to come and produce lots of exciting new talent for the future.
The 4th incarnation of the Halloween Horrorfest will be on at Bear Steps Art Gallery from Sunday October 16th until Saturday October 29th, and with this year’s featuring macabre masterpieces by 20+ artists it shapes up to be the biggest one yet.