by Manu SharmaMar 24, 2022
Felipe Pantone is an Argentinian-Spanish artist who is based in Valencia. He has a distinct artistic practice that stretches across a massive body of surfaces. As his website tells visitors, “Felipe Pantone evokes a spirit in his work that feels like a collision between an analogue past and a digitised future, where human beings and machines will inevitably glitch alongside one another in a prism of neon gradients, geometric shapes, optical patterns, and jagged grids.” The artist’s work is colourful and often presents viewers with stunning gradients, discussing which, Pantone tells STIR, “The palette I use mostly comes from light diffraction. If you do that, you get warm colours on one side and cold colours on the other side. I use this to bring people’s attention to light in general, but also these gradients we use are reminiscent of computers or tv screens. It’s common now, but a hundred years ago it would seem very strange. It immediately brings you to a sense of contemporality. Light and colour are the very essence of visual art. Thanks to television, computers, and modern lighting, our perception of light and colour has changed completely.” His website further expands on this, explaining that “colour only happens because of light, and light is the only reason why life happens.”
Pantone looks back at the beginnings of his artistic practice, telling STIR, “I have always been very interested in drawing, ever since I was a little kid. There wasn’t any specific artistic practice in the family, so I more or less discovered things on my own. Once I tuned 12, I developed a passion for street art and graffiti art, however, growing up, there was not much freely available information about these topics as the internet was not a big thing as yet. So, I would have to make do with magazines. I got some international magazines and really pored over them, but I mostly read through local publications. Later on, I got my hands on some VHS tapes from the US, France, Germany and other countries. I was hooked!” Pantone grew up in South East Spain, and often had brushes with the law because of his graffiti, but maintains that he got off easy compared to some of his contemporaries. “I was always on the lighter side,” he says, and his voice takes a dark tone, “but I know people who have had their lives destroyed by graffiti. My art definitely gave me a lot more than it took away.”
Originally an immigrant from Argentina, the visual artist has his mother to thank for insisting that he pursue university in order to upgrade his skillset and qualifications. “I owe some of my current practice to my education at university, which my mum made me go to! She wasn’t insistent on any one specific educational program though, and I said how about art school? She said sure whatever, just go somewhere. I studied a lot of fine art and it really changed my perspective. I realised what being an artist means. It’s so much more than simply playing with colours,” he explains.
When asked how he approaches the many surfaces he has worked on, Pantone responds with this: “I am always very excited to work with different surfaces. I am always trying to find that perfect surface that will let me express myself as well as possible.” However, it is his time spent as a street artist that has made him dynamic enough to work on what feels like any surface of any size. Pantone acknowledges this, and tells STIR that working on the streets has given him a degree of adaptability he would not have had, had he been a purely studio-based practitioner. He says, “When you are a traditional and academic artist, you are used to having things under control. On the streets it could get dark, you may not have the right paint or maybe the cops are chasing you and you have to finish quicker.”
The artist says “I grew up as a simple painter, trained as a painter, and now my biggest goal is to get clear of all the academic training I have undertaken, and to be able to make art freely, with the tools that work best.” He certainly stands by this sentiment as he mentions to STIR, “University was okay overall. As I mentioned, it did broaden my horizons regarding art, but for a lot of it, I felt like I was wasting my time to be honest. I spent a long time; five years in fact. Now it’s become four years here in Spain. And it’s a very serious degree. I feel like I went over and over the same things a lot.” It makes sense then, for Pantone to want to shed some of that academic conditioning, however he does make it a point to mention that art history was a very important lecture for him. He sums up his feelings on the question of his formal university education by saying “I am happy overall, and I cannot change the past.”
The artist says that illegal graffiti will always be a dangerous prospect for artists to pursue, but many likely will anyway, because their message cannot be conveyed through legally acceptable creative channels, or simply because of the punk allure of the danger. Still, he is happy to see a growing level of support for street art from public and private institutions all over the world. When asked why this is happening, he says they understand now that it’s not a joke. He adds, “Graffiti is over 60 years old, and public institutions cannot avoid it. I am super okay with an increase in support for artists and projects.” He had a solo exhibition in New York on April 7, and now one coming up in Tokyo on June 3. Additionally, he is also working on a collaborative project with the Italian furniture company Poltrona Frau, for whom he is revisiting their iconic chair known as the Archibald. This will be presented in Milan eventually.