Internationally celebrated Ecuadorian artist Wolfgang Bloch took time out of his busy schedule to talk with us about his art…
Tell us about your background, where are you from?
WB: I was born in Guayaquil, Ecuador in 1963. Ecuador is a small country in South America located between Colombia and Peru on the pacific side. The coast is pretty dry in the south and becomes tropical as you travel north. The country is split in half by the Andes mountain range. On the east side of the country is the Amazon jungle. Ecuador is small enough that you can travel from the jungles of the Amazon to the coast in one day. The variety of plants and weather make it a very lush and beautiful place. Guayaquil is a large port about 45 minutes by car to the nearest beach town.
I read that as a child you travelled a lot with your family, where did your travels take you?
WB: Almost every weekend our parents cramped us kids into our Volkswagen, on our way to go camp along the coast of Ecuador. We also traveled to Colombia and northern Peru.
Do you feel that your experiences, growing up in Ecuador, and travelling, have had an impact on your art?
WB: Absolutely. The rich colors and texture of the land can be seen in my work today. All those trips looking out the window definitely made an impact on me.
What were your first experiences of surfing?
WB: On one of those camping trips, my older brother Walther found a large piece of balsa on the beach and decided to use it as a boogie board. I saw him catch a few waves and that's all it took. I had to try it. The next trip we brought a hand saw and gave the pieces of wood shape, so we could actually turn on them. Later I graduated onto a surfboard and the rest is history. I'm 43 now and still stoked to catch a wave, as if it were my first one.
In your art, what is it about surfing and/or surf culture that inspires you so?
WB: I love nature and the ocean, I love the way it smells and the way the breeze feels on my skin. I remember the excitement of coming over a hill and taking that first glimpse at a new spot and seeing an empty wave doing its thing, with no one around.
Your art takes a wonderfully refreshing, minimal and contemporary approach to the surf landscape, what made you approach the subject in the way you have?
WB: I kind of stumbled across it. I used to paint the obvious line-up scenes with perfect waves, perfect lighting, palm trees, etc. They seemed so empty and cliche to me. I used to call them pretty pictures. Out of frustration one day I painted over one of my paintings, creating two fields of color. The brush created a small mark that resembled a wave right between the two blocks of color. I was immediately impressed by what I saw and decided to embelish that mark and make it more obvious. Now I see waves all over the place. Cracks on concrete, wood, tile, etc…
Your art has a very interesting multi-media/collaged feel to it, what materials do you use?
WB: I use any material I can get my hands on. I love old wood and weathered metal; they both have such great color and depth. It also feels good to turn something that most people consider trash into something beautiful.
You did a beautiful and unique piece of art for the Surfrider Foundation 'Art For The Oceans' in 2005, exhibited in New York City, could you talk about that?
WB: The 'Art For The Oceans'; exhibit in New York was an auction sponsored by the Surfrider Foundation. They selected 25 artists from all over the US and gave each one of us a Channel Island 'fish' surfboard to paint on. I never liked the idea of painting on a surfboard; to me it's still a surfboard no matter what you do to it and not a piece of art. I decided to cut the surfboard into small pieces and then put it back together along with some cut up wood to form a rectangle, but still keeping it at the same length and width of the original board. I glassed over the pieces and then painted on top. The piece was completely different to all the other boards in the show and it sold for just under $12,000. It was a great experience for me.
You have in the past worked as an Art Director, and a freelance artist/designer, for some of the biggest brands in the surf industry… What was that like for you at that stage in your career, and do you still work commercially for any of these companies?
WB: I originally went to school for Fine Arts and then went for a second degree in Design at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena California. Fine art has always been my true passion, but design work has been something I fall back to for financial reasons. Working in the surf industry right after I graduated from school was perfect for me; very casual and I never had to wear a suit. Gotcha Sportswear hired me as an Art Director, designing their print ads, trade show booths and all promotional items. The Surf industry at that time was very small and I had the oportunity to meet a lot of very talented and unique individuals. It was a great time for me. I don't do any commercial work for the Surf Industry anymore.
Your work is exhibited in galleries all around the world, in California, England, and as far away as Japan… How do you feel about your work, and the art of surf culture in general, being enjoyed by so many around the world?
WB: The worldwide interest in the art of surf culture has helped my career immensly. I feel very fortunate that my artwork has given me the oportunity to travel to so many different places worldwide. Everywhere I go the response is the same; I think there's something about my work that everyone can relate to and enjoy. I also think that it can be seen and appreciated as fine art and not only as 'surf art', and this has helped me a lot as well. Mainstream galleries sell my work as well as surf culture art galleries.
Are there any other artists, individuals or organisations that inspire your work?
WB: I think I'm more inspired by life than anything else. An early morning run on the beach, or that feeling you get when you first jump in the water for a surf are experiences that inspire me. There are so many simple things we can enjoy in life if we were to just slow down a bit.
So where do those who want to see your artwork or purchase originals or prints have to go?
WB: The best way to contact me is directly through my website: www.wolfgangbloch.com
What does the future hold for your art?
WB: In the fall of 2008 a book will come out that features my artwork. The book will be published by Chronicle Books, a large publishing house from San Francisco, California. David Carson will be designing it and Mike Stice from the Laguna Art Museum is writing the copy. I'm very excited about this project and I'm interested to see what comes of it. I just know that where ever I end up I will always paint. It's my true passion.
Thanks again Wolfgang for this insight into your work.