Rene Gonzalez

Rene is a Costa Rican artist who moved to London to study painting at the City & Guilds of London Art school. Winner of the 2015 Clyde & Co Blank Canvas Competition, Rene was commissioned by Clarks to create an artwork and show design for the Clarks Rebooted project in partnership with the Halo Trust (2014/15). He has shown his work in London, New York, Shanghai, Milan and Costa Rica.

What really stayed with you from your time at the Art School?

Perhaps one of the things I value most from my time at the Art School has to do with the tutors and the head of the painting department. Although always supportive, they will always press you to challenge yourself and take big risks, without really telling you what to do so as not to influence you. So that each individual can find their own way and answers to their practice, the students are reminded that there is no “one way” in art, but that doesn’t mean ‘anything goes’ either.

Being from Costa Rica, where art, culture and education are limited because of how small the country is, and its economic situation in general, it’s hard for me to pinpoint a specific area that the Art School was helpful for my career. What I mean by this is that, when I came to London, it was the first time I experienced firsthand the richness of British, and to a greater extent, European education and culture and I wanted to absorb as much as I could from the course. The Art History and Philosophy class, the tutors with their very different perspectives and approaches to art, the Art School trips to London Galleries, to Germany, Italy or river wading, or even the functionality of the staff and different workshops… these were all the product of a quality and standard that is rare and a privilege to experience at the global level, and they all played an important role in preparing me to be a competent artist and individual in a highly competitive platform as a painter. (continues below)

(continued) I believe City & Guilds of London Art School has a unique situation of having a modern art educative system combined with a more traditional workshop environment. I felt like secret skills were being passed down to me. The people working at the Art School are like a big family, where everyone is passionate about their work. I believe many of today’s young artists long for such an environment focused on both the process and the results. In my opinion it’s the best Art School for a BA in painting.

I would add that I would probably be doing something unrecognizable if I had not gone through the course. In my time at the Art School, my views and ideas about the world and my place in it as an artist changed radically. The Head of Fine Art, Robin Mason and painting tutor Kate Palmer are like family to me, they always provided support when I needed it. I also met my wife at City & Guilds of London Art School (!), we took the course together, and as an international student, this is where I made my friends. In so many ways this was a defining period for the artist and person I am today.

What projects were you involved in while studying at the Art School?

The Art School environment in general provided me with great opportunities. People would come to me because they heard of my work and invited me to exhibit in shows my painting seemed appropriate for. This also provided me with platforms where I could pitch my work in a very formal way to different entities, like Clarks shoes for which I created a shoe design for their Clarks Rebooted project in partnership with the Halo Trust that provides aid to countries affected by war and other afflictions.

During my time at the Art School I was able to make my own shows and participate in extracurricular projects to stay active and boost up my career as an artist, including a solo show, group shows in London, New York, Shanghai, Milan and Costa Rica.

What are you up to now?

After graduating I was commissioned to create a 19 meter painting as the winner of the Clyde and Co, Blank Canvas Annual Art Prize competition. I believe it was the first year City & Guilds of London Art School was formally invited to the competition, and after the graduation show, the school was very generous in providing a studio space to produce the work. The tutors working with the MA students would also visit me to see how my project was progressing, sharing their advice and council.

I am currently scheduled to participate with the recent graduate exhibit at Affordable Art Fair, which I am very much looking forward to. I am also to take part in an exhibit in the SatisFACTORY show in Costa Rica, where I’m from and I recently signed a contract with ELX Art, a patronage that connects the corporate area, galleries and other business entities with artists. I take smaller jobs in product design and publicity for extra pocket money, but I really enjoy the idea of sharing my painting with an audience, as I believe art has a unique position in our world, where any voice can reach and create a relationship with the public.


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