My name is Carlos Aleman. I’m a self taught, painter, fiction and nonfiction writer and designer. Since I’m a writer, I tend to be long-winded and sometimes have too much to say, so I’m breaking everything down into bite size sections with some links for more information. Feel free to skim through the topic headings to see if there’s something you actually find interesting to read. 🙂 (Hint: I save the best for last)
Born in 04/14/1965, New York City and raised in South Florida.
Work exhibited at Art Palm Beach and other venues.
Featured on (PBS) WPBT’s Art Loft.
Former senior product designer at Onstream Media.
My first novel, As Happy As Ling, was a finalist at the International Latino Book Awards.
Favorite author: Haruki Murakami
Heroes: Astrophysicists, philosophers, theologians musicians, artists, dancers, writers, first-responders and anyone that cares deeply for others.
Philosophy: Advaita for dummies
Favorite quote: "When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you."
Several years ago, artist, Richard Prince, began exhibiting large photos he took from Instagram accounts without the users permission. He simply blew up the images to large prints, adding text and emoji and sold them for up to $100,000.00. Although he’s sometimes sued for this, the courts usually rule in his favor, citing fair use laws. Regarded by The New York Times as one of the most revered artists of his generation, I wonder if despite his methods, he has unwittingly paved the way for painters to respond quickly and straightforwardly to great photography on the Internet. Although I have derivative copyright to images for creative manipulation, I ask the photographer and sometimes model for permission as a courtesy. The results often surprise me, namely photographers and models re-posting my work, and often expressing gratitude that their images inspired a painter. I also sometimes credit the hair/makeup people, stylists, etc. And then there are the family and friends of the model posting compliments, all of which makes the use of ‘ready-mades’ thoroughly fun and satisfying. Although some purists might object to all this, insisting that an artist should always paint from life and not a reference photo, I’m fairly convinced Johannes Vermeer would have ditched the camera obscura in favor of scrolling through Instagram.
Street artists have long used stencils to reproduce their work and make a fast getaway; after all, graffiti is illegal in most places. What I find most aesthetically pleasing are all the imperfections. Like Japanese woodblock prints that sometimes have spots and stains, I find there to be a remarkable beauty to the drips and marks left behind by stencils. In my jealousy of all the messiness, I’ve incorporated the use of square stencils, to add an element of unpredictability. The globs, the drips, the textures combined with the rendering of a subject—two paintings in one.
Much of my early work was quite monochromatic. Not only did I have a deep admiration for Chinese landscape painting (which was known to deliberately lack color in order to get to the ‘essence’ of things) I didn’t consider myself proficient enough as a painter to use much color. However, after my former art dealer informed me that he preferred vibrant hues, as I so often do—I went to extremes. I searched for the craft paint section of the store for unusually bright paints and settled on neon. At first, painting with these colors seemed like mixing in Halloween candy into my fettuccine Alfredo, but then the sugar high eventually became all-encompassing to me. I wonder if van Gogh felt similarly, leaving behind dingy potato eater paintings and embracing the splendor of sunflowers. I am just one of the multitudes of artists that have come along since, noticing that bright colors seem to unlock mysteries.
In a most serendipitous fashion, making ultra colorful paintings seemed to coincide with an expansion of consciousness. I don’t mean to sound overly spiritual, but I no longer care much about the person I once was now that I’m in a much better place, mentally and emotionally [You can read more about this here]. What I am fascinated by is people and perhaps what the colors are testifying to. I must admit, the paintings look as if I’ve used a prism to break apart light into a spectrum, or at least its what I’m reminded of. The closest things I’ve seen to this are the charts of people’s chakras. I don’t really know much about energy centers, and furthermore, the colors I use don’t seem to match their locations. And so I’d like to think of the subject and their spectral pattern as a sort of unseen music or sacred geometry, or at least something pointing to a mystery. I believe that within each person there is somehow such fiery color, somewhere beyond the literal and conceptual.
It always feels funny to me attempting to write about serious subjects when admittedly, my paintings are essentially... [Click here to read more]
Whether you believe in God or some higher purpose or reality, I think it’s quite possible that in this world, in this life, you’ve met someone that you were grateful for beyond words to have shared even a moment with. Relative, friend or lover, all the messiness of existence somehow made it possible to know rare and special moments. Through the miracle of evolution, we crawl towards one another with all our birth defects, imperfect DNA and all the baggage we inherit as a species. I think this is all part of a divine plan. Imperfect and messy, but all worth it, despite the dangers, horrors and atrocities on this planet. To form a friendship or fall in love, to laugh and cry –we’ll never know this side of eternity how beautiful it all is. And as time passes, we progress, become smarter, wiser, sometimes even going backwards, but ultimately forward. One day, collectively as a species, we’ll have an awakening, a realization of what truly matters.
This beautiful and violent world is an opportunity for magical things to occur. So as you make your way through the minefield, the crossfire, the natural disasters and human deception and malevolence, diseases and everything that can possibly go wrong, to survive even for a moment, is to see, hear or somehow feel the essence of love, a phenomenon that is deeper than oxytocin, neurotransmitters or anything that can be explained away or cynically derided. It is the moments of connection that we live for, the conditions upon which caring and compassion manifest—fragile yet infinite love holds it all together. Ultimately, every moment is precious, but the connections reveal the very nature of the cosmos, one like an endless pattern of pixels.
The pixel –I know it well. As a product designer working in the technology sector for two decades, I had often found myself hyper-aware of a tiny dot on a screen, trying to decide whether to nudge up or down slightly, to the right or left. Sometimes, in designing websites I would create a one pixel by one pixel transparent square to fill, stretch and make as a background on a web page. Just add a height and width to the code and that tiny pixel can be any size you wanted it to be. This thought that the world of technology can be visually reduced to this most minimalist element always intrigued me.
You may have heard of the theory—that our physical world is just a computer simulation like a video game, and that we’re living in some kind of matrix, and just as the pixel might be the smallest element on a computer screen, something like a sub-atomic particle or some fluctuation of energy might be that smallest of elements in the universe. Physicists disagree about this theory, some even claim to have debunked it. However, for me, the pixel is more of a concept, a metaphor.
When I magnify an actual pixel on my computer, it’s always just a square of solid color. Yet, I wonder about the possibilities—in a lyrical sense, in a painterly sense. What if we were to find some most basic element to the pixels of the imagination, and instead of boring solid colors they had textures and gradients and shadows and maybe even words that have nothing to do with existence, but maybe a glimpse into the possibility that we are all just tiny parts of a bigger picture.
Short answer: ‘This’
Long answer: The ‘halo’ captures the ‘overlays’ people sometimes create on Instagram and other social media, drawing circles around people and objects as well as adding text. They remind me of halos in religious iconography, indicating that someone is somehow special or deserving of attention. [Click here to read more…]
When I first started Googling Gerhard Richter years ago, I considered his blur paintings to be ‘destructive’... [Click here to read more...]
Kyoto, 2013—My second trip to Asia. It was becoming apparent that my obsession with beauty and art would never let go of me. As I passed through each torii gate into another new world, I somehow sensed that I wouldn’t be designing user interfaces for much longer. Within three years I found myself no longer in the technology sector, but instead, formally committed to abandoning computers as tools for creativity and getting paint on my hands. The tech geek in me, however, has persisted. I think you can tell by looking at my work.
I kind of want my paintings to look like an impressionist painting that has, instead of swirling strokes, the pattern of the information age. And since I essentially live online, that’s what I paint, the Internet. Most of my models are people I’ve met on Instagram. The reference photographs are ‘ready-mades,’ already beautiful works of art which I respond to with a hand painted echo of sorts, processing and filtering the images through my consciousness and perception. I add dots, inspired by Yayoi Kusama’s infinity rooms and the stains and smudges from street art stencils.
You may have noticed that Asia strongly inspires me. It seems to me a much-needed discipline to master, the falling completely in love with the opposite of who we are. In my case, the love of eastern yin through western (yang) eyes consumes me.
My love of Asian art began with a visit to a Japanese Museum in 1995, a difficult time in my life in which I sought to see the world from a different perspective. My interest in eastern philosophy, coupled with my appreciation for Chinese landscape painting and Japanese woodblock prints fueled my longing to admire the east. My first trip to Asia in 2010 introduced me to the grandeur and beauty of China. Experiencing the mountains and mist, the culture and art firsthand, inspired me to draw and paint foo dogs, dragons and women dressed in qipaos when I returned home.
My trip to Kyoto, Japan in 2013 was another life changing adventure which inspired more art. Together with the writings of Haruki Murakami, the animated films of Hayao Miyazaki, Tokyo fashion, cosplay, manga, geisha and samurai, I found a rich visual language for magical realism, conceptual realism and pop surrealism embodied by the feminine form which I expressed in my earlier work.
Starting in 2018, my painting became a commentary on social media, using a ‘Big Pixel’ technique to explore humanity’s merging with technology and a search for the spark of the divine within all. Oh, and what's the best I'm saving for last? Download my free graphic novel, Spiryts. If you solve the mystery, you may be saving the world!
Please let me know if you have any questions. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
A special thanks to my wife, Ching Yi, for being perfect. (She really is)
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