Recently we got the exciting opportunity to talk to Ariel Vargassal about his paintings, what inspires him, and what he’s currently working on. Vargassal creates his intricate hyper-realistic paintings at his home studio in Los Angeles, CA.
Upbringing & Influences
Ariel Vargassal was born and raised in Mexico City, and takes a lot of his inspiration from Mexican culture and mythology. He is particularly influenced by the way that he and others from Mexico look at the world and respond to it.
Vargassal says that Mexican people use many metaphors and sayings to express their emotions. He often starts his paintings with a phrase or metaphor that serves as the title and concept for the piece. With the story that he wants to tell in mind, he then imagines a composition and symbolism that will represent it visually.
Vargassal typically uses friends as his models and oftentimes he will even paint himself as the central figure. As an animal lover, he enjoys researching and learning about the animals as he creates his paintings. When looking closely at his work you can see every individual hair meticulously painted on.
Vargassal’s work is heavily inspired by the literature and poetry of Magical Realism. Some of his favorite authors are Isabel Allende and Carlos Fuentes, particularly his short story Aura. He says that Magical Realism is making something that doesn’t happen in real life seem like it could happen, and that is what he is trying to create in his work. He juxtaposes elements of the real world in a way that makes the full story just out of the realm of possibility.
Vargassal considers himself an “essentialist,” fascinated with taking away elements from his paintings. Though his paintings are highly detailed and full of imagery, he focuses only on what is essential to the story. He eliminates the backgrounds so that the figures and animals could exist anywhere. Sometimes it becomes challenging to tell a story with so few elements — a person, an animal, and food.
The presence of food, he says, comes from American culture and its fixation with food, especially in its language and terms of endearment that use food symbolically. He continues to draw from his upbringing while also incorporating elements of the culture that surrounds him where he lives now in the states.
While we know Ariel mainly as a painter, he also works in a variety of other mediums. He creates sculpture and ceramics and is currently working on a series of paintings that will be accompanied by sculpture. Keep an eye out for new pieces in our galleries!