This is Not My Day Job // Alvaro Sotomayor

by Thelma Louise on September 13, 2013

You will never meet anyone with a more intrinsic sense of wonder and creativity than Alvaro Sotomayor. By day he helps brands like Nike communicate ideas and concepts to their consumers. By night, he helps communicate the voice of the Toro.



Artist: Alvaro Sotomayor

Medium: Painting

Day Job: Creative Director // Wieden+Kennedy Amsterdam

MC:  Your anti-bullfighting work helped inspire a movement that is still being fought today in Spain. Did you intend this series of images to be a call to action?

AS: Any work I create is political. It is a used as a weapon to fight my enemies. The photos I created were intended to reintroduce a conversation about the value of pain as entertainment. At that moment, 1997, there wasn’t any public disagreement or opposing campaign against bullfighting in Spain.

MC: You were clearly communicating something that was personal to you.  A “cause” if you will. What is the difference between communicating a personal belief or idea and that of a brand you work with?

AS: Both are based in an insight and a truth that has to be unconditional. I call it the North Star. It becomes the entire point and purpose of the execution. There is no difference of approach. It is actually the contrary, it has helped make my art more acute and to the point, which is something I value in art. In both circumstances you are “creating” in order to evoke a belief or shift in thought.

MC: So you don’t approach the process differently?

AS: I don’t. One of them just carries other parties to agree and has shit loads of more meetings about what we are doing Vs. doing it. It somehow benefits one from the other. It is like a bow and arrow type of effect. The longer I am in meetings, the more I point towards my art. Waiting to be released. It helps it to be fast, furious, unapologetic, and without any compromises.

MC: Your work has spread into the streets in the form of a graffiti tag. This clearly gets your message out there more. I equate it to a brand’s billboards or print material… could you talk about the evolution of your work into the streets, and why it ended up there… normally we think of artist beginning in the streets and then ending up on canvas in a gallery… why was it the reverse for you?

AS: I like doing things the other way around, like solving labyrinths puzzles in a newspaper.  It is the fastest way to know your way out. I have a great admiration for art on the streets. I like the generous gifts I find and the people behind them, who I end up befriending and loving. Being part of our times and that crew has made me who I am. They accepted me and who I am without judgement or asking for any credentials, and I became a painter and a sculptor. I work inside my studio, studying, without knowing where I am going, then when I walk home, any sign I see that would forbid something, I tag a bull. I found myself running from the police once at my age and felt awkward, but got away and felt awesome. I paint in every hotel room I stay at, behind pictures, I somehow become a lux graffiti artist. More and more I am in the process of sharing my studies with others. But I am still a student.


MC: Each bull you paint has killed a matador in the arena. In the past you have called them “heroes.” Heroes to humanity? Or Heroes to their own species? Or is there a division?

AS: When a matador kills a bull, he is seen by some as a hero. When I see a bull kill a man, I see him as a hero. Because men are weak and simple and think they are better than Nature, and they want to control it and feel good about themselves because of it. I like when Nature twists us around, puts us in our humble position. I love when a tiger scopes and eats 5 people. I am with Nature trapped in a human body. The closer I am with the wild side, I feel I belong, not with humans, but with animals. The difference in us is our choice. That is what made me start this whole thing.

Somehow I have always been surrounded by and curious of women. But painting hundreds of bulls, for 3 years in a row, has taken me into a journey into value of the symbol of man. The bull. Within this journey I started in black and white, life and death, no retouching, a fight with the white recycled cardboard. Not a coincidence but also a medium. Humans discard as trash unbelievable materials, I repurpose those and sell them to make a point, that that was not trash.

In reverse of those men that kill their own image, I put all the effort to reconstruct it. That took me through a few stages. One being “fertility,” two being “strength”, and the third being “bravery.” The last one pushed the work into color. “Brave” is a thing a painter can deal with.

MC: How do you plan on expanding and continuing your message?

AS: Apart from exposing the work and the journey to the public, I am making a film and a book. ( looking for publishers and galleries in US! )

MC: Is there another idea or cause that is important to you that you plan to work with next?

AS: Yes. The bull work has somehow transformed into my next chapter. This chapter is the biggest full stop I could think of for humans to stop and think. It is an odyssey in the form of a mammoth painting I been working for the last 2 years. It is 10 meters long and 6 meters tall. I have merged both Cubism and Matisse into one creation what I call, curriculums. I paint in one line an entire painting, creating not just form and flow, but also touching the subject of interdependence. How we are all connected. How where you end up I begin and so on. How we are all one. The painting deals with all the emotions we all play in the game of life. And is interactive. As I like not to hide anything, you not only get to see the painting in form and subject, but if you sit down and follow the line from start to finish, you will also be a participant of painting the painting.

A handful of images are courtesy of In The Make, a project blog by photographer Klea McKenna and writer Nikki Grattan. The portrait of course is by our very own John Huet.


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