José Romussi splits hairs. The images on paper are displayed before his eyes as opportunities, as incomplete reflections of where to take back meaning, where he embroiders a new story or completes unfinished ones.
The subway stations in Berlin are full of people. They are summed up by the movement, activity and passengers. Thousands of souls cross paths and share ephemeral seconds that time leads them to recover in memory. Fleetingness in all its glory. One of the stations caught the eye of José Romussi, a Chilean artist living in Berlin, who stopped to contemplate the shapes, colors and platforms that formed it. It was the idyllic stage for his Kunst un Untergrun series. “I did a visual study of the station. I gathered a group of people that frequented it and had a photographic session with them in a studio. I interviewed them one by one to get to know their backgrounds. According to what they conveyed to me, I was inspired by the design of each person. The composition came from that process, which was followed by embroidery,” says José Romussi regarding his latest series.
The transition, the spontaneous and genuine faces and character inspire the color. The dialogue that arises between the experience, the acts, a code and cords tie them together. The way that I intervene the photo has nothing to do with transforming one thing into another, but rather converting it into one single piece and share among them,” he explains regarding that composition which contrasts the color of the thread against the powerful grayscale of the images.
The call comes from the abstract, instinct and feeling. He tries to interpret and place before our eyes that which can’t be seen because of its characteristics: what is inside. Each body has a story. Each displacement has a defiant revelation. “I try to connect through my drawings or intervene that which exist within that human figure. I like to depict something that we cannot necessarily see or understand. I create a type of portal that connects these two worlds, the interior and exterior,” he specifies.
Due to the fictional and simulation qualities, the depictions allow this exercise to be carried out appropriately and characteristically. Everything that the aesthetics cover or hide in his photographs dictates a judgment or world view that tries to expose the empirical character and make room for imagination, whether personal or collective.
Nature, geometry, or composition originates in the suggestion of a face, expression or profile. The defiance of advertising contemplated part of successful work that he has shown to a mass audience and he has gotten away from the rest of the exponents who spend their time embroidering, just like him.
His work is lively and intuitive, the colors that come after constructing the image tell a different context and they intervene in a groundbreaking way. Furthermore, it is done intentionally; they are not continuations of the image nor do they exalt it, they intervene it and connect it to the described essence. “That work is intentional, it is changing a view, the aesthetics and the structure that depicts a portrait or landscape,” he describes.
What exists in an outline of colors? What exists in the embellishments? It sounds like a cliché experience that has already been seen time and time again, however, Paul Cezanne described what the practice of those who add color summarizes: “You don’t have to paint what we think we see, but rather what we see,” this is the revealing outcome and the chance to draw and color a scene of questionable understanding in the experience and of fruitful interpretation in the reality of consciousness. In turn, Oscar Wilde has said that, “the only duty we have regarding history is rewriting it.” The rewriting, the reinterpretation and printing of a narrative that can’t be condensed down to images and that doesn’t capture the essence of a movement, the irreverence of a certain time or the intent of an artist, is that which, through work that brings us together and work that acts as a natural channel to connect perceptions and reality, completes the vision that revives the spirit of the times.
Embroidery has been a part of José Romussi since he was young. At age five, he had already gotten his start in the art world by working on handicrafts thanks to his mother. Age doesn’t represent him and his ambition to want to reform the art scene and portray new creative and original work has led him to study and dig deeper into technique time and time again. His worn out hands show the professionalism of each stitch in the finished work. Trial and error describe the core idea that he has put into practice while carrying out each one of his series and the virtue and grace that he describes as his best ally to take them to the world stage in the art world.
How do you handle the fragility of the paper with the thinness and subtlety of the thread?
Like in all artistic processes, by trying. There were infinite trials and I broke a lot of photos. I found the perfect mechanism to be able to do it, which is the technique that I use to embroider or sew with thread. This takes into consideration even the paper that I choose for each piece that I want to create according to its design.
Through which process do you decide where to intervene with color and thread?
In the design process. In fact, it is the part that I like the most. I draw out my ideas, and then I transfer them to photography through the embroidery process.