[T]omas Baleztena’s portraits and cityscapes have a depth beyond the conventional imagery that surrounds us. In a world in which we are accustomed to being overstimulated by lurid commercial and endless image feeds, there are fewer and fewer images that capture anything beyond their immediate subject.
For Tomas, though, offering the audience an view beneath the surface is the beauty of oil painting. During the physical process of creating his images, Tomas explores the intangible atmosphere of his scene or the mysterious aura of his subject, each time projecting parts of his own experience onto the canvas. The resultant images are deep in meaning, artworks that have longevity and that eschew instant gratification for lasting satisfaction. Get to know Tomas below.
Who are the people and places that you paint?
At the moment I’m painting a series of cityscapes. I like to paint portraits but I’m immersed in doing cityscapes right now, mostly in London. I paint the way I see things through my eyes. Like Hampstead tube station or a club in Soho called L’Escargot, for example – It doesn’t have to be exactly as it is, more how it I see it through my eyes. That ambience that really comes from me – from my mood or what is happening in my life.
It’s quite psychological, even if the paintings are realistic I feel like there’s part of me left on the canvas. There’s a part of me there on the canvas, whatever I paint.
What would help you to choose a subject? What catches your eye about a person or a place that makes you feel compelled to paint them?
Things that really intrigue me are decadence and melancholy and nighttime. The subject has to draw my eye – something intriguing or mysterious, something that could open a door to go and investigate more. With portraits I don’t capture physical characteristics only, I like to extract the soul that’s in there.
The portraits that you create are very intimate and revealing. Do you feel like they're a response to the deluge of portraits and self-portraits we see on social media?
I see everybody like an individual. The difference with painting is that I’m not trying to get all the details that I can, it’s trying to extract something from the subject. The soul comes through, the expression, the way they’re looking. It’s something that people have searched for throughout the history of portraiture – trying to paint these deeply psychological portraits. In the past there was much less information. Life in general was much more introspective.
Do you feel like there are too many images in the world?
Sometimes, yes. We’re all individuals, we are unique. We’re affected by everything that goes on in the world, and that includes the images that we see. Everyone is trying to sell you or manipulate you with the images they present. The more you recongise that the more you can protect yourself and preserve your personality.
How do you feel oil painting interacts with modern formats? Do you feel like it can make an impact outside the gallery space?
Nowadays there are so many ways of expressing yourself and one of those ways is with oil paints. If you’re really into oil painting it can become it’s own world. What I love about it is the textures, the depths, the colours, there are endless ways of experimenting with oil. It really completes me, oil painting. I am not trying to attract everybody in the world, I’m just being myself and certain people like it – for me that is enough. I’m just trying to be natural. Obviously if I attract more people that’s good, but I’m just trying to be as genuine as I can. There is room for everybody to express themselves in all kinds of languages.
See more of Tomas’ work here.