Raffael Antonio Iglesias

A review of the artist and his ideals
by Chris Little

In the world of art, there is no right, no wrong, there simply is. Unlike mathematics or science, there is no correct answer to the problems that artists attempt to solve through their work. Thus any praise or criticism the work receives is completely biased by views of those writing the review. However, some criticisms sting worse then others,  some reviews can in fact cripple an artist and their vision. By the end of his study at OCAD, Raffael Antonio Iglesias doubted his own abilities. Instructors at this learning institution gave him little credit for his inherent abilities, and held little regard for his experimentation techniques. Lacking confidence in his unique view of the world, he stopped making art all together. He remained in the art arena, as a curator, even as the need to create continued to nag incessantly. With no other alternative, he re-engaged his artistic nature and produced an entire new palate of images. Raffael Antonio Iglesias managed to transcend the critics and emerge stronger and more skilled then anyone gave him credit for.

                Peak Gallery, in Toronto, is the exclusive gallery that showcases the work of Raffael Antonio Iglesias. His colorful images adorn the walls and inhabit the storage vaults of this space. Graffiti Artist at heart, urban styles and messages abound upon the canvases. Beyond the surface however, social messages are embedded  in the style and symbols utilized. This likely is due to Iglesias’s roots, which can be found in El Salvador, a place his family fled  in the early 1980’s due to the oppressive regime which ruled there. Iglesias is admittedly  influenced by contemporary Hip Hop culture, which in it’s essence is also a social activism mechanism. Beyond the eye candy of his work, is an artist that is trying to make a difference. One such mode of activism was his participation in “Greetings to Taniperla” . This mural project in Scarborough brought together various members of the greater Toronto community in the re-creation of a mural originally conceived in Mexico. The  people involved in original mural in Mexico were thrown in jail due to the political nature of the mural. In response, various artists in Toronto came together to create a reactionary piece for the  injustices incurred in Mexico. Not only did this venture beautify an ugly concrete structure, but more importantly, it brought attention to an event that few new about.

                It is possible that the emphasis on activism in Iglesias’s work is due to the admiration he holds for Latin American Poster Art, specifically revolutionary posters. The aesthetic of these posters, specifically the lettering, is quite overt in Iglesias paintings, yet he seems to encapsulate their ideals as well. While much of his work is tongue and cheek, beyond the humor are undeniable important messages. Che, a commonly utilized word, represents the Latin American Demi-God Che Guevara , as well the omni-present star, which arguably represents communism, in it’s idealized form, not the disjointed form that exists in some countries.

                While the work is beautiful to look at, what is it Iglesias is really trying to say with it? Maybe this word, “say” is truly the point. As Iglesias articulates, “my work is about obscured communication…we don’t really know what each other are saying”. The theme of communication, broken communication, seems to be quite important. Like charades, we are forced to guess, to speculate, the true meaning  that stares at us through his work. Without the artist present, it is up to the viewer to interpret the work of the artist. Iglesias throws out a few decoys like car wheels and birds,  to confuse the viewer. But it becomes the choice of the viewer to go deeper then initial impressions and truly discover the real message of this, and all, artists.

                In his artist statement, Iglesias places great emphasis on his role as a non-traditional landscape artist. “My work is intended to challenge the ideal of the landscape and landscape artist”.  Yet through review of his work, this too seems like “obscured communication” For while the scope of the land is a key component of his work, it is essentially the specific symbols placed upon those landscapes that really inform the message that Iglesias’ presents. However it is not necessary to pigeon-hole Iglesias as a specific type of artist, and this would seem an impossible task to begin with. His convergence of urban symbols, revolutionary ideals, communication, and landscape combined together, have created his unique perspective upon the world. Thankfully, Iglesias doesn’t seem to need to limit himself to one specific aesthetic or genre, and as such, his canvases continue to gain strength. One word can sum up the work of Iglesias’, Exciting! If the past is an indicator of the future, then a bright world awaits this talented, young artist.