Rethinking the Concept of ‘Originality’ and the Limits of Contemporary Art

We met with esteemed artist Lino Lago to discuss his latest London exhibition Fake Abstract, his views on classic VS abstract art, and his critique of postmodern thought and ‘verbiage.’

Lino uses oil paints to create realist 19th century style portraits, concealed behind solid colour blocks of pastel pink, or bold blue, red or yellow. These colours occupy the majority of the finished paintings, leaving only a thin squiggle of the portrait visible, mysteriously hidden behind the vibrant colours.

Fake Abstract boasts a playful, ironic feel and the work succeeds in captivating the viewer’s gaze. As an audience, we are left wondering whether the full portrait was ever truly there, or if Lino simply painted a fragment of an original portrait within the colour block.

THE PLUS: Can you tell us a little bit about your newest project ‘Fake Abstract’ and the ideas behind it?

Lino Lago: All of my paintings represent a fight between a realistic and abstract standard. On one side stands the tradition, and in the other – its negation, the novelty or the revolution. This fight of contraries, it seems to me, is the best form of representing the reality in which I have to live. I do not think that today’s complexity can be represented with a sole style, pure and closed, be it abstract or realistic. Fake abstract is also a critic of contemporary art. 

TP: How did you get into painting originally? Have you experimented with any other mediums?

LL: I started showing my works when I was 15 years old. I always wanted to be a painter. I do not feel attraction to any other medium. 

TP: You often fuse contemporary and classic styles in your work in a seamless and original way. Is this fusing purely for aesthetic purposes, or what are your larger ideas behind this?

LL: I think we as artist are victims of a “Contemporary Academia.” I like the idea of copying old paintings as it points out that we are not so original as we like to think. Being really original means today having more universal views. 

TP: Has your own style been inspired by any particular artists or movements?

LL: All history of painting is interesting to me, but I only gain inspiration from the actual world I live. Instead, I use the history of painting as symbols.  

TP: When starting a new project, do you always have an idea of what the finished painting will look like?

LL: An exact idea, yes.

Of course when I splash a can of colour on the painting I don’t know what will happen exactly, but I know what I’m doing. 

TP: You have previously said that postmodern education and philosophy have diminished the intellectual capability of the humanities. Can you explain this a bit further and how this connects to your view on the role of art today?

LL: Yes, I believe that. As a result of this, art became a mix of spiritual and new age decoration. You just need to read the “text” explaining the exhibitions in the best art galleries to check it is all empty nonsense.