"Art isn't used for decorating spaces; it's much more important than that. It's used for interacting with the surroundings, creating concepts and images of real life and helping us model it mentally and physically".
Javier Arizabalo was born in France, although he has always been Spanish. As a child, art was a refuge for him; a way to create a physical and mental world where he felt more comfortable. He soon picked up certain skills that helped him enhance his communication with his surroundings. At a young age, he started to draw and paint at art schools in his city, soon becoming successful in competitions that he entered. However, it wasn't until secondary school that he decided to further his study in the arts. He began a degree in Fine Arts in Leioa (Vizcaya), and ultimately graduated in Graphic Art. Within a year, he was working at an advertising agency, but at the age of 39 and due to work-related stress, he decided to get back into the world of art. He realised straight away that he was back in charge of his future, meaning that he could give his very best. Since then, his only limits have been improving himself and improving his work, while sharing it with others. Painting has given him concentration, sustenance, friendships and almost everything that he is now; a way of existing in the world and also of imagining it.
Javier Arizabalo's most emotive moments were two of his solo exhibitions. The exhibition in Mérida (Spain) was important because he was at a fragile time in his life and it helped him to see himself in a better way. And understand that sometimes people make you feel valued, which makes you value what you do even more. The following year, Javier Arizabalo held another solo exhibition in his city of residence, where he deeply felt the appreciation of his peers. Another occasion was joining up with more than twenty other artists to make a masterpiece for a private collection, the Ibex Collection, which the public have yet to see on display.
In the search for how to focus his paintings, Javier Arizabalo zoomed in on the two aspects that most caught his attention: the human figure and its complexity; and reflecting the works of other painters he looked up to. As a result, Javier Arizabalo opted for a classic vision of light.
There’s delicacy and peacefulness to Javier’s creations, covered in love and a strong sense of tranquillity. His paintings clearly reflect his thoughts and his outlook on life and his surroundings. There is a keen attention to the deep simplicity of everyday experiences and objects. Arizabalo beautifully brings the calmness amidst the storm that can be life.
Q. What role does the Artist/ Painter have in society?
A. An artist turns "special" moments into something tangible. I think that art is the interaction of man with reality, creating significant spaces or times through language. An artist is more than the creator of random images or objects, as these have an intention and - if they're effective enough - live on in different cultures, shaping them at the same time. Obviously, we share a space with other types of image creators, such as photographers, illustrators and filmmakers, who have joined us with different techniques and technologies.
Q. What’s your best childhood memory?
A. Although my parents were older, with a big generational gap, somewhat imperfect, and in a "grey" society, now I can only, tenderly, remember their presence, which is my best memory.
Q. As a child, what did you wish to become when you grew up?
A. I don't think I had an idea of what I wanted to be or do, because this is something that I believe comes from your social reality at a later stage, when you're looking for a profession. However, I definitely enjoyed making images and I wouldn't have understood it if the possibility of making them had been taken away from me.
Q. Do you remember the first art you made? What was it and how old were you?
A. I don't remember the exact age, but I was very young. I was trying to make bracelets with plastic threads and I began to learn how to control my hands, which had an almost aesthetic feeling.
Q. How and when did you first become seriously interested in art?
A. My first choices were to work with my hands, probably because I was an introvert. From there, I went on to drawing because at home my mum also liked to draw and paint. Then I started to learn drawing and painting. Everything was like a ball that picked up pace until I couldn't see myself doing anything else.
Q. What does your art aim to express?
A. I could look for many reasons to make art that is more conceptual or less conceptual, but the main one is to retain images, or the fleeting reality that is about to disappear. The anguish I felt as a child, when I started to be aware of death and how time wouldn't last forever, inspired me to retain it or retrieve the feeling through an image. I'll stick with that. I'm no storyteller.
Q. What medium(s) do you work with?
A. Oil. I work with oil because it gives more richness than any other material.
Q. What personality trait has gotten you in the most trouble?
A. My sheepishness and submitting my energies to what others want. The way that I've limited my actions and not fought with all my might to change this world and this society with my means, which makes me feel bad.
Q. What have you had to sacrifice for this career?
A. It has given me a lot of satisfaction; I don't have that feeling.
Q. Who are your biggest influences, are you inspired by the work of your peers or anyone else in particular?
A. There are works that amaze me, not people. The mix of skill, knowledge, circumstances and the level of enjoyment caused by seeing works by Velázquez, Manet or Sargent, is priceless. In the absence of being able to have works by these artists, I search my life for the means to obtain them.
Q. Is the artistic life lonely? What do you do to counteract it?
A. To a certain point, I love solitude. I want to have that space for concentration where I forget about everything else. It's a real gift. Although, of course, everything must be offset with social relationships.
Q. Apart from your art, what do you love doing?
A. I'd spend my entire life with a camera travelling around the world, having the time to listen to great music or watching good films, which I really like.
Q. What is your philosophy in matters of art?
A. Enjoy. There are people who say that you have to suffer and everything calls for effort, but the satisfaction of fulfilling purposes makes you feel really good.
Q. What does 'success' mean to you?
A. Having a full life. If from time to time you're rewarded with good company, from the people who accompany you along the way or from the people who enjoy what you do, I don't think you can ask for much more.
Q. What are the biggest things you've learned in life thus far?
A. That we give importance to things that aren't important. That we think a lot about the future (or the past) and not the present, and we feel unhappy.
Q. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given, and by who?
A. A teacher, in my teenage years, told me that you have to be honest in everything you do. It's a great piece of advice. Basically, not lying to yourself.
Q. What advice would you give to the next generation?
A. Although not all generations are the same and fall into the same cliché, I think that young people today have lots more things and objects than any other generation, but they shouldn't take them for granted. I think that they should give up comforts and develop as people, and take care of the planet and society, unlike previous generations have. It's their future.