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Humans Are Colorful Patterns in Santiago Ascui's Illustrations

Santiago Ascui creates depersonalized yet rhythmic human figures for publications including 'The New York Times.'
Images courtesy the artist

From afar, the figures look almost careful stackings of color. But up close, one can see that the lean shapes in Santiago Ascui's illustrations actually human figures, all with the same blank stares and slim bodies. The Chile-based artist creates enigmatic works that take into consideration space, color, and pattern, through the use of the human figure.

“I experiment with color through an aesthetic improvisation, each element proposes the following, and the relationship between them, itself, proposes investigative situations,” Ascui tells The Creators Project over email.

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He boasts a number of exhibitions, from the United Kingdom to Argentina. One of his illustrations recently appeared in The New York Times, for an article titled “How to Get Paid to Do Nothing.” In this piece, his figures are gray-skinned, with short-cropped black hair and the same black shoes. The only difference between them? The colors of their pants and shirts. They stand closely together, forming what looks almost like an infinity sign, like a school of fish caught mid-movement. Their expression is blank yet unsettling at the same time.

All of these elements mark both Ascui’s style and his intent to leave the context behind the figures open to interpretation. “The carefulness of line and the placement of the hue, I would say are pretty much my basic tools,” wrote Ascui. “By these means I compose. The simplification of the human figure and their de-dramatized expressions give rise to a broad interpretation of the scenes composed.”

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Even while it seems that the viewer can put together some bits and pieces of a story, aesthetically his work offers viewers something else to get lost in. Oftentimes, the arrangement of bodies and colors is dizzying.

“I care a lot about rhythm, both of image and color, as a mean capable of granting indeterminate sensations within a supposed narrative,” writes Ascui. He depicts both smaller and larger bodies—like mini-versions of people—but they all converge together to create a sense of action. It’s obvious he thinks very carefully about how these bodies come together and how they will overlap.

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“I find it appealing how in the process of painting, physical effort and meticulous work come alive in the images, how this is stated in the composition and musicality of the work,” wrote Ascui.

Surreal, yet comical at turns, the pieces sometimes hint at the absurdity of humanity—they way we all are simply bodies crowded together in the same space.

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To see more of Ascui’s work, click here.


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