Alumna Highlight: Johnny Lopez

Johnny Lopez, Visual Artist

Johnny Lopez, LdM Certificate student in 2012 and Marist-LdM graduate in Fine Arts 2015, is a Colombian artist based in Bogota, who works with different techniques and media to celebrate with his art the pre-Columbian civilizations of his country. Today, he has exhibited in multiple countries, from Colombia to Japan, to the US and Italy. This year, his work was featured at the Venice Biennale of Art, where he took part in the Group Exhibition “Personal Structures 2022”, hosted by the European Cultural Centre (ECC) in Palazzo Mora.

Your first exhibition took place already in 2012. Since then, you’ve never stopped. Before starting your artistic career though, you were studying Business and International Relations. How did you come to realize that you had to follow your passion and embark on a completely different journey?

 In 2010, I was studying International Business in Colombia. During my first visit to Europe during the summer, I visited Paris for the first time. When I saw the Monna Lisa I had a sort of little epiphany; I thought to myself, “I used to draw a lot when I was a kid, I should draw again”. So when I returned to Colombia to continue my studies in International Business, I started to draw and paint during my breaks as a hobby.

A year later I applied for an academic exchange at the EU Business School at the Barcelona’s Campus, where I continued my studies in international business and relations. In the meantime, I continued to paint and draw as a hobby.

I remember that one day – I was taking an exam in International Relations – I wrote the following words on the exam sheet: “Professor I respect you and your class, but I want to become an artist”. Then I left the examination room and never returned.

When I told my dad, he was so angry with me that he didn’t speak to me for a month. Meanwhile, I enrolled in the Cercle Artístic de Sant Lluc, where I took painting lessons.

It was during those days that I found LdM on the internet and managed to convince my father to support me in my artistic journey.

How was the time in Florence and at LdM, and how did it contribute to your artistic development?

My time in Florence, first with LdM and then with LdM and Marist Italy, was amazing. I had the possibility to immerse myself in the Italian culture, and to meet students and people from all around the world. It was my first academic approach to the art world, and I learned a lot about art history, and about painting and sculpture techniques that later would have been very useful in my artistic career. It was a memorable time of my life, and I was able to expand my mind and learn a lot of things.

Can you share with us a memory from your time in Florence?

During my time in Florence, one of the things that I enjoyed the most was the possibility to visit the Uffizi Gallery whenever I wanted, and to be able to study a lot of Greek and Roman sculptures and draw them in my sketchbook.

I also have very fond memories of the cooking classes: those were my favorite meals of the week.

After Florence, you continued your career in France, where you worked at the Louvre. As impressive as it sounds, this was the first step into an exceptional career, which recently brought you to the Venice Biennale. Tell us about the main sources for inspiration in your artistic process and about your contribution to the Group Exhibition “Personal Structures 2022″ at the Venice Biennale.

My experience as an official copyist at the Louvre Museum and as an exhibitiong artist at the Venice Biennale are just steps in my artistic career. I’m pretty sure there will be a lot of interesting things to come in the near future.

My main source of inspiration are my “lucid dreams”, the history and vestige of the ancient civilizations of the world, especially the so-called pre-Columbian cultures, and the “neo pop art” movement.

Today, you often choose to elaborate the Pre-columbian heritage in your art. At the same time, your education and artistic journey has been extremely international. How do these two aspects live together and interact in your art?

Fortunately, I have had the chance to travel to many countries and get to know many cultures around the world. Since I can remember, I have always had a fascination for history, especially the history of ancient civilizations, therefore in my journeys I always made suree to visit many museums, ruins, vestiges, and archaeological sites, as well as very modern and technologically advanced cities.

Despite the cultural, sociological and demographic differences, I believe that all humans share a common history and roots. Therefore with my art I try to  unite the ancient world with the contemporary world from a “neo pop art” perspective, using contemporary elements and materials from our modern world (such as plastics, resins, 3d modeling, fiberglass, mirrors, automotive paints, etc.) but always trying to preserve the ancient soul of the ancestral cultures.

You are an eclectic artist, skilled in various mediums, and with a background that spans from historical painting techniques to contemporary artistic media. What would be your message for future art students?

I would tell them, first of all, that they study the past so that they can understand the present, so they can have a vision of where we come from, where we are now and where we are going in the art world.

Then, I would tell them to pay attention to the dream world and investigate the practice of “lucid dreaming”, they don’t know how much inspiration they can have if they manage to lucid dream.

And lastly, believe in yourself and regardless of the technique or medium used to create their works of art, try to do it with materials from the contemporary world, because in the end, art is nothing more than the reflection of the culture and the civilization in which was created.