ArtbyDNA is a truly international pairing. Aaron Almendral (The Phillipines) and Mariano Delgado (Argentina) make up this two-part artistic endeavor by featuring socially relevant historical figures, while applying a sensible stroke of color and line to an otherwise simple, yet potent image. The stencil has definitely found its way into the gallery via the street, at once bridging the aesthetic gap between public and private art. It combines the DIY approach with artistic vision, always adapting to it’s surroundings, whether white walls or brick walls.
The creations Aaron and Mariano have settled on are stark and bold, allowing readers (we are all art readers) to create the context ourselves, while linking great social leaders through this body of work. Whether Kafka, Ali, or The Dalai Lama, the art lifts the persona from the canvas, and unifies them in our minds as a stratospheric grouping of people who were committed to preserving the value we see collectively in our societies, and as individuals. It’s this unitive thread that transcends acrylic and canvas, and makes art more than just a creative process, but a method of communication. ArtbyDNA serve as a link between the design mentality, grassroots social consciousness, and modern art, and it’s for this reason that I am pleased to have been able to talk to Aaron Almendral, who opened the doors to ArtbyDNA for me.
Evan La Ruffa: How did you two meet?
ArtbyDNA: We met at work. We use to work at SPROUT, it’s a non profit organization that offers vacation services and other art programs to people with developmental disabilities.
Awesome! Was the decision to work together immediate?
Yes. We both felt that our sense of aesthetics is a good match in terms of creating pieces of art.
What would you each say you contribute to the overall aesthetic of DNA?
I (Aaron) was classically trained in painting and printmaking. Mariano in advertising, graphic design and architecture.
How did you decide on the historical figures highlighted in your art? Is there a common thread you see between these people?
At first we were interested in painting people who had made major contributions to the world. These can vary from science, math, arts etc…..There is greatness to be found in all aspects of our society. We started with the more obvious historical figures like Gandhi, Dali Lama, Einstein etc… Lately the people that we’re painting are more obscure, less globally recognized and yet contributed immensely in their native country.
Tenzin Gyatso – His Holiness The 14th Dalai Lama
My favorite one is of Tenzin Gyatso, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama – is the Tibetan cause important to you guys?
Any plight of the oppressed is important to us. The Dalai Lama at the moment is the most recognizable symbol of a people’s struggle.
There is a jarring simplicity to the work that yields an almost Warhol feel. The popularity of the people in the work is juxtaposed by the vibrant color and linear nature of the piece. Did you come to this format through trial and error, or was this the vision from the beginning?
The first paintings did not have stripes. The silhouette of the person become more of a symbol than a realistic rendering of the person. I guess in a way, our subjects are all symbols. Greatness tends to do that with people, they become a representation of what they’re great in. They become a very recognizable logo. The stripes came later on…..and added another dimension to the work without being too distracting.
How do you feel the societies you were both raised in affected your view of what art could and should be?
I’m not sure if the society I grew up in had that much of an effect in terms of this work. Perhaps it works more on a subconscious level. I’m concerned with the simplicity and beauty of the work.
What other factors make you who are artistically?
I think we’re both very idealistic and at the same time completely aware of the realities the world. We are in constant pursuit of beauty and truth. Then again, who isn’t?
Ho Chi Minh
Do you each have solo projects as well, or are you dedicated to this collaboration full-time?
With this medium (painting) and style, we collaborate full time. I do some paintings and photography on my own, but it looks completely different from what we do together. Mariano does graphic design and architectural work.
Are you guys going to continue exploring the use of photography and historical figures, o
r are there plans to diversify as far as the work you two produce together?
Right now we are still very excited about the work we’re producing. We cannot predict what the evolution of our work will be, but we both realize that there is a natural direction in which works go. For now, I have no idea what our work will look like in 2 years.
Do you ever create art when you’re not in the same place, as far as maybe calling each other, talking about ideas, and collaborating from a distance?
All the time. We never know when or where inspirations will come. A lot of times, we will call each other at the oddest time because we read about, or saw something about a very interesting person. We’ll talk about the new idea and try to refine it. For the most part we work on the pieces together. We found that that’s really the best way to work.
Mariano, is Argentinean and Aaron, you’re from the Philippines…….for each of you, has coming together highlighted your differences or your commonalities more?
We come from very different parts of the world, but historically our cultures share plenty of similarities. Both of our countries were ruled by the Spaniards for hundreds of years. When we talk about where we grew up, there are plenty of cultural cues that we can recognize in each other’s country.
Did you come together because you’re very similar, or because you’re radically different?
I think we came together because we can really laugh at the same things.
Find out more about ArtbyDNA HERE