By: Carlos Suarez
Enrique Machado is a rare talent who adroitly combines his chosen media and subject matter to create arresting works that exist in the realm between painting and sculpture.
Born and raised in Miami where he attended the Design & Architecture High School and the New World School of the Arts before attending Kansas City Art Institute where he studied sculpture, Machado’s recent paintings are the result of a distinct, gesturally-manipulated accretion of materials at once experimental and impractical to pigeon hole.
The 28 year-old artist’s recent “Wave Series,” which includes large format mixed media paintings such as Crash, Tumbling Wave and a soaring outdoor mural on the exterior of a two-story building, push beyond figuration or abstraction while managing to harness the movement and ferocity of the natural environment.
The attention-commanding works bring to mind the classical ink brush painting known as The Great Wave, created by the Japanese master, Hokusai, during the late Edo period in the 1830’s. It depicts an enormous wave menacing a fishing village on the coast of Kanagawa with a view of the iconic Mount Fuji fixed in the distant background.
And, while the rising young talent also credits Van Gogh and his exaggerated style and use of patterns in ordinary landscapes as an inspiration, Machado’s work adopts a fresher, non-traditional approach employing ordinary tools and media from the corner hardware store to create his contemporary slant on the forces shaping nature and human consciousness.
Perhaps the most notable element of Machado’s practice is that he substitutes traditional paint brushes, oils, and acrylics with a caulking gun and colored tubes of silicone.
He creates his works by directly applying the silicone onto his chosen surfaces. In this labor-intensive process, he is earning raves from both the art world and collectors.
“In 2007 I came across this material that attracted all my senses as an artist,” explains Machado. “I picked up silicone and used it like any other material in my background. I saw that silicone came in black, grey, white, and clear, and thought of it like colors in an acrylic tube---only a much bigger one. So naturally I used it on a 2-D surface as if I were drawing. I noticed that as I squeezed out the silicone onto the canvas, it was a tool that made lines so I started using the silicone like marks of a pencil.”
Instinctively, Machado also began experimenting with movement, thickness and texture while applying his nozzle to canvas.
“It was at that point that I realized that I needed to incorporate all that I had learned about composition, contrast, lights and shadows, concept, and color,” mentions the artist while adding that he soon began experimenting with more colors.
“I had a moment of clarity and imagined what such a painting would look like,” recalls Machado. “I pictured all the texture and how it would be a cool 3-D painting. I filled the shopping cart with silicone caulking tubes, a caulking gun, and went home to make the first Silicone Art work. I instantly fell in love with the process because I was excited to paint all over again,” he says.
As Machado began mastering his new medium he also began maturing his studio practice while exploring the introduction of sculpture onto a flat and restricted surface.
“I love how the texture creates its own shadows and reflects its own light along with its concrete solid blocks of color gleaming from all angles as if it was always wet and never dry,” enthuses the artist. “I noticed how the works were always alive, always moving, dripping, showing depth, and bringing in the viewer for an intimate, esthetic experience. Accomplishing this is all I've wanted to do in making art, whether it was drawing with charcoals or acrylics. Painting was always fundamentally the same for me,” reflects Machado. “It’s the experience and gravitational rawness of the work that keeps me pulling back and forth from sculptural textures to a restricted 2-dimensional painting.”
In fact in a series called “Crash,” rendered with bright monochrome fields of rainbow splashes contrasted by beached-bone accumulations of silicone ribbons, the paintings exude a shiny efflorescence imbuing the works with a notion of the ecology in conflict and a more profound need for humanity to better steward our planet.
“My work revolves around a power bigger than ourselves and a sense of an overwhelming shower of inevitability crashing down and creating chaos in its process,” observes Machado. “But, not unlike the ocean, that power can be violent one moment and calm the next,” he adds.
Machado also says that his stylized depictions of the waves and ocean surrounding his hometown of Miami are an expression of life and its struggles.
“The foam-like textures speak like loud noise and confusion while the resin colors are solidly assertive and clear in its existence. The whirls and movements might hint to the journey of one’s afflictions only to disperse in all different directions before the final clash,” he muses.
Machado also acknowledges that for him, rooting his paintings in a vision of a deeper spirituality is important.
“I seem to have a presence of a "center" in my paintings which reflect themes of balance and discourse, contradiction vs. truth, themes of obsessions, chaos, serenity, surrender, and acceptance. The ocean, waves, and water are a metaphor for these themes in my works,” concludes the thoughtful, soft-spoken artist.