Have you ever gazed at a cloud and seen the outline of an elephant, or a face in the patterns of a wallpaper? If so, then you’ve experienced pareidolia, a sensation in which the mind recognizes familiar shapes and rearrangements that are not really there.
For our latest exhibition happening at Vintage Wine Bar and Bistro, we’ve decided to delve a little bit into this psychological phenomenon with InLiquid Artist Orlando Saverino Loeb. A young painter and recent graduate of Tyler School of Art, Orlando’s work is abstract with an illusory twist and meant to be viewed over long periods of time.
Site Editor Kim Minutella had the chance to have a chat with Orlando about his work, where he gave us some insight behind his thought process and the experiences he’s had that led him to pursue such a distinctive style of painting.
Kim: Your style of abstract painting is unique in the sense that it has an illusory quality to it, where people engage with it by seeing different things. Did this start out as intentional or by accident?
Orlando: Largely unintentional. My work stems from an exploration of what a visual primary source would be. With a primary source, the eye is always acting as a third person editing experience. I started out doing a series of blind contour drawings, some of them using ‘impossible tools’ like drawing with nails, etc–And after taking dimensional lines as I’ve learned through studying industrial design…I started to see things in the paintings–the result of a first-person interaction with hands. I made those (contour) drawings for a while–and even started using an airbrush to increase the speed and fluidity of the work on large scale canvases (64 x 48).
Over time, I became more interested in my interactions (with the contour drawings) and other people’s interactions–interested in what other people were saying about the (finished) work. People would change their interpretation the more they looked at it. So I started moving away from blind contour drawing, and used it more as a skeleton that I would paint skin on.
And the painting itself, was less important than what people saw. I began to think, “How can I make a painting that eliminates what I want to force on the viewer?” I wanted to give more power to the viewer, because I’ve always thought that the viewer is more important.
Kim: The sensation you use to describe your work is called Pareidolia. What is it about the natural human inclination to find the familiar in the unfamiliar that fascinates you?
Orlando: I think it’s less about finding the familiar, as the desire to find answers, so I’m not sure if it’s about the familiar. I really enjoy hearing what people see in the paintings. These paintings are supposed to be viewed over and over again…I build them within the rules of industrial design drawings (3-D space), but there’s nothing painted there, there’s no ‘reality.’ So it’s kind of giving the viewer the imagination.
When people talk about what they see and don’t see, it’s odd because I feel like they are giving me intimate explanations. I feel like it’s personal or reflects what they have that’s going on. It gives an incite to their psyche a little bit. It’s not like a Rorschach per-say..it’s more like you are creating a landscape for yourself. It’s been interesting to hear what the different people’s interpretations of my work have been.
Kim: Are you usually surprised by the types of things that people see in your work? Can you give us some examples of the most interesting patterns that people have seen?
Orlando: I don’t know if I feel comfortable sharing what was the most interesting pattern or thing someone has seen, so that might be an invasion of someone’s privacy. But what I will say, is that people tend to see human form and faces and human interaction in my paintings. That’s what we are as individuals, so we are constantly observing interactions. If that individual is not seeing anything that relates to being human, then that would be strange.
Kim: I’ve read that your trips to Italy have played a big part in influencing your paintings. Can you tell us more about that?
Orlando: My trips to Italy have played a big part—a lot of the landscapes that I paint are evolved from that. I am a citizen of Italy and I’ve been there many times…My art used to be very dark and kind of depressing when I was an angsty teenager. I was doing a lot of drawings…I was writing a lot of poetry, I have poems published in a couple anthologies. And a lot of that was based on landscapes. A lot of that was based on the way that light interacted with landscapes. Many of my paintings deal with light…and are based on how the light changes when you walk around an image. What I ended up realizing during my time in Italy, was the way light moves around the landscapes there. So I started using more pinks and light blues, and warmer colors, which helped brighten my paintings up and relieve some of that depressed quality to them. Italy is a place where I feel very comfortable, and I miss it. And painting those landscapes give me a sense of comfort.
Kim: Do you have any advice you’d like to give to fellow young artists that are trying to break into the field?
Orlando: Paint A LOT. A lot more than they would think about painting or drawing. When I was in Industrial Design school, they would assign 70 drawings a week. Some of those drawings took 70 hours a week, and you had to do them. My last semester in college I made about 250 images. But what that let me do, is let me practice and figure out every problem. But also one of the important things, was about making work in general, or making work constantly and not being shut down by critique: to take that and use that as motivation to create more work. Also, not being shut down by not being taught the business side of the art world. That’s one of my main criticisms of art school–never being taught that. How to market yourself, how to go out and be an artists. Well, you kind of just have to go out and do it. That’s just kind of how it works.
But I think that the biggest piece of advice I can give to a new person coming out of college is just getting out there…and a part of that is being willing to fail. A lot of people are not willing to fail. They are scared of failure. A lot of it is: don’t be afraid to “ruin” a painting. A lot of people get comfortable and want to stop. Which is also good…but also realizing to take that painting you “destroyed” and bringing it to a new level of completion, or being okay with the fact that it got destroyed. Have the sense to keep the painting and use it as a reference to learn from your mistakes. And be willing to have harsh critique. I am still in contact with my art teach in high school because she gives me crit that no one else will. She’ll give me crits where I want to cry…but I feel like that’s important. Like I may get attached to a certain part of a painting that’s not working with it. You need to realize that and be able to move forward from there.
In art school, you get married to this romantic idea of an artist, this kind of fascination with this bohemian, starving artist lifestyle…but its very important to learn that you, yourself are creating a brand. You are building a career. So it is important to be conscious of both sides…There is that romantic fascination with the image and making it for yourself, but you also have to be conscious of the business end…To go to art school ignoring that and then graduating? It leaves you like a sailor who doesn’t know how to swim.
You can meet Orlando on October 3rd during the Opening Reception for Pareidolia, happening from 4-7pm at Vintage Wine Bar and Bistro. Vintage is located on 129 S 13th St, Philadelphia, PA. The event is free and open to the public, so join us for an extended happy hour, and tell us what you see.