gustavo espinosa

first prize-cool silicon art award 2012 Dresden Germany

On December 9th the First Cool Silicon Art Award winners were selected. The Minister of Arts and Science of the Free State Saxony, Prof. Sabine von Schorlemer presented the award to the joint winners.

They were the Colombia born and England based photographer, Gustavo Espinosa, with his work 'The Four Primary Elements' and the Cologne based artist Max Scholz with his installation 'RAUMFAHRTCIRCUS'.

the intensity of loss

Death, desertion, separation produce grief. Mourning sharpens emotion; loss heightens memory. In just this way, abandoned buildings and artefacts come into focus. Nostalgia sharpens the gaze. Broken, dirty windows stare back in reproach; paint fades and flakes; concrete cracks and crumbles; rust sparks and dances across corroding ironwork. The actions of decay and corrosion bring the objects into greater relief and demand a sharper focus. We see that they are beautiful even as their purpose is no more. This work captures the ephemeral beauty of things declining, no longer needed and which were once taken for granted. We are caught between the lovely sadness of the fading objects and nostalgia for our own lost past. The ghost voices whisper a siren song, ‘These are the things you have lost; they will not come again.’ Sadness is ultimately redeemed by concentrating on the perfection of the present moment.

The Construction of Meaning (The use of early writing in graphic design)

Blurb publication

Early writing, in both Egypt and Mesopotamia, was the original form of graphics. The development of these systems of communication shows the start of an appreciation of graphic design which has continued to the present. The aim of this book is to show firstly, how early pictorial systems developed into writing; secondly, how such symbols can be used in graphic design today; and thirdly, how the alphabetical letters themselves can be designed within an artistic concept. The objective is to provide some historical background and to inspire other artists and designers to incorporate such aspects of early design in their own work.

The work divides into three sections: Pictograms, the writing systems from Mesopotamia; Hieroglyphs, those from Egypt; and Alphabet, the current letters used in English. Details on each section are discussed below, with an example of each of the images.

the four primary elements water

Aristotle believed that all matter was made from these four primary elements: air, earth, fire and water. For him, each element had two basic properties, the first dominant in each case: air had fluidity and heat; earth had dryness and coldness; fire had heat and dryness, and water had coldness and fluidity. These elements existed in different proportions and could be transmuted. The concept of the four primary elements was then incorporated into astrology, each element relating to three of the signs of the zodiac. Subsequently the elements were linked to particular psychological characteristics.
Water surrounds us before birth and is essential for all things living. Rivers and lakes evoke tranquillity; seas waken in us a yearning for exploration. In our natures, water represents contemplation, empathy and sadness.


Fire provides warmth in winter and cooks our food. It is also seductive and dangerous. In our natures, fire is passion, temper, creativity and quickness of spirit.


Air is essential for breathing and photosynthesis; its lightness carries seeds, birds and the joy of butterflies. Winds bring welcome freshness or devastation. In our natures, air represents blitheness, conceptual thought and ideals.


Of all the elements, Earth provides us with stability, certainty. It grounds us in our own humanity. From the Earth we come and to the Earth we return. The earth is as our mother; it nurtures us and provides us with shelter and the materials of construction.
These images are the dichotomy of our emotional response to the Earth/Mother, our need and our resentment of that need. They show the ambiguities of texture of soil and stone, the myriad muted colours of solidity. They link us to our own mortality.

awareness of dyslexia

Dyslexia has been described as a difficulty in processing information which may be linked to deficiencies in short-term memory and visual coordination. It is this weakness in short-term memory, whether visual or auditory, which can make it particularly difficult for the dyslexic person to learn the correspondence between the written symbol and the spoken sound.
The range and severity of the problem varies widely between dyslexic people. The main areas of difficulty are reading, writing, spelling, numeracy, personal organisation and time-keeping. The degree to which individuals may be affected ranges from mild spelling difficulties to severe organisational problems or complete illiteracy. There is no such thing as a typical dyslexic person.


the search for meaning

This is a series of pictures of small and mundane objects displaced from their normal context. The work represents the artist's constant search for aesthetic meaning. At the same time, it relates directly to the hard-wired function of the human brain to seek patterns in the visual field, constantly to evaluate detail against background. These pictures provide the observer with different and unexpected glimpses of the ordinary against intricately textured backgrounds. Things which are usually given a second glance become intriguing in a subtle and delicate way.


This work is, as it were, portraits of people who are invisible: on the margins of society. These are the people no-one sees; those from whom we avert our gaze lest we be contaminated by their poverty, their failure, their madness. These pieces show the meagreness of their lives and the immense sadness of their isolation. They also express the essential isolation of the self. They raise in us disturbing echoes of the fear of insignificance we all carry, despite our societal and familial bonds. We all sleep and walk, unaccompanied, the final journey into death.

virtual portraits

These are images of human faces, some hazy, some fragmented. They are faces half remembered from childhood, glimpses, in crowds, of lost friends and dead lovers. They are redolent of grief and nostalgia. These are the ghosts in fractured mirrors.

surface emotions

Surface Emotions is a series of monochrome photographic portraits of a variety of people. Each picture is embellished with paint to provide a counterpoint to the stillness of the original portrait. The colours animate the faces. As the face in reality, is a canvas for a range of emotional expressions, so the image is a canvas for painted expression for each individual. Thus both an ephemeral mood and the essential emotional make-up of each subject are captured in complex and idiosyncratic detail. The resulting pictures are more interesting and more informative than simple photography portraiture. The work as a whole expresses the complexity of the human spirit.

the face becomes the mask

This work has progressed from regarding the mask as a construct behind which the face is obscured, to a contemplation of face itself as a mask, or rather, as a series of masks, since the expressions on a face may alter. Each changing face is used to dissemble, to hide the true feelings, to mask the self. Here the eyes, which define the individual consciousness behind the mask/face are occluded to reinforce the sense of concealment. This isolates the viewer from the person behind the mask, in an exact parallel of the way in which, in most our human relationship, we tend to look no further than the surface of each other, neither do we seek to see further, nor indeed to be seen. The mask is essential; as T.S. Eliot says: '...Human kind cannot bear very much reality...'

abolish torture

I met the late graphic designer, Paul. P. Piech through a mutual friend. We started sending images of our work to each other and then become good friends. About 25 years ago, Torture, particularly in Central America and South America, was in the headlines. I suggested to Paul that we could collaborate on a piece about Torture. He agreed readily and suggested that each poster should be headed ‘Abolish Torture’. Thus began a long year of searching for suitable texts and making the art work. Letters and phone calls crossed the country between us, keeping alive the energy and determination.
When the work was finished we decided to offer it to Amnesty International. However after a meeting with some one at head office in London, they rejected the offer, after this, I approached the local Amnesty group in Derby and they were more interested, they and East Midlands Arts sponsored the exhibition and touring of the work.
Happily a new generation of people have come to Amnesty and now, for their fiftieth anniversary, they like to have the project to keep for posterity, For my part, I’m happy that it was finally got the right place.
'Abolish Torture' was exhibited:
At The Derby cinema Gallery in 1987.
At The Untitled Gallery in Sheffield in 1988.
At The Watershed Gallery in Bristol.
At The Poster Museum in Germany, now Pan Art Forum Museum.
Was published in the Japanese Magazine Idea.
Was part of a book Graphic Agitation, published by Phaidon.

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