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Shireen Ikramullah visits the studio of artist Santiago Pani. - FAD Magazine

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Shireen Ikramullah visits the studio of artist Santiago Pani.

The artist’s studio inhabits an unparalleled place in our collective imagination. Most regard the studio as a magical workshop. Behind a closed door, working alone, an artist transforms materials that at first glance don’t seem all that special – canvas, paper, paint, wood, metal, clay and the like – into statements that have the power to move hearts, change minds, and influence society. 

For visual artists, it all comes together in the studio, the place where that spark of inspiration encounters fire. For most artists, the studio is more than one room set aside for work.  The studio is the whole environment where creativity is cultivated. 

Santiago Pani’s creative process is meteoric, most of it has to do a lot with the idea and theory of the game, where there is a multitude of rules, yet luck and/or disarray have a big role to play. An artist originally from Mexico, he likes the idea of combating the canvas and controlling the chaos, letting things ensue and flow under a studied scenario. Santiago has lived in the Netherlands for the past six years where he is also one of the directors of the Art Residency project Arthouse Holland in Leiderdorp. I met him during my time as an artist in residence and took an instantaneous interest in his work and studio. Even though every studio space is unique to the artist and his or her project – it is commonly used as a space where the artist gets to reflect, display, research, store and make art. Santi’s space is a former barn where he gives himself space to liberate practices of imagination and testing. 

His vision stems from the connections formed with people, and the idea of karma, destiny, and kismet, or even impermanence and volatility. He has been painting portraits for over a decade. 

‘The intimacy created when portraying someone is something that amuses me, even if it is someone I did not know or someone that lives in my imagination; I create a bond and a relationship with my paintings and with my practice that can only be understood in the making.’ 

When asked about his theme and different mechanisms of creating, 

‘The theme being people, something as wide and amazing as humankind, allows me to split it in multiple branches without it getting boring or repetitive. I play with realism and abstraction, I like to touch both extremes of the spectrum, something extremely recognizable as a human feature and on the other side, something so abstract that someone could only suspect is a portrait by having me as a reference.

I have always been an extremely curious person and very impatient, I crave to try new things, so my practice is extremely diverse. It touches painting and printing methods as well as fashion, jewellery, design… recently new technologies since I started a journey on the NFT sphere since February last year.’

Santi’s studio is is an intimate, revered, and compelling space, a place where paintings are depicted, and dreams come true. His space is indeed wonderful and complex, a site of artistic creation, an environment of storytelling, where one can feel the artist’s conspicuous presence. 

‘I would have to describe my studio as a creative temple. Whenever I have tried to work in new spaces, there is always a feeling of detachment, of not belonging, and in my studios, I have created the opposite. It feels like home, it feels comfortable and cosy and it has everything I need to create. I like having more than enough materials not to limit my creative process, so at my studio you can find practically everything to get creative.’

Currently, Santi is working on a body of work that he will exhibit at NockNock Art Fair in Amsterdam in August. Alongside that, he is also working on a Duo show for Kunsthuizen Gallery in Leiden with portraits that he and fellow artist Daniel Martin have painted together.  

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