Interview by Atorina Saliba / Photos by Alexander Alexis
Atorina Saliba: I’ve known you for four years now and I’ve always been curious about how you got into art. You have a degree in architecture but over the last few years you’ve been busy painting, drawing, and growing your clothing line GOOD SESTO. Explain your training and development as an artist.
Eric Sesto: I’ve had a very perceptual fascination with colour and liquid since being young and as a teenager I began to discover how the marriage of the two could create the detailed illusion of form. Painting is my way of understanding the world and at times the only way I can express myself. I use art to express the things I feel that are outside the realm of words. Although I never desired to be an architect, I was pressured to study something serious by my high school and the people around me. My degree in Architectural Design taught me strongly of concepts such as space and territory, not to mention a stricter use of form, line and thus the 3rd dimension. To me, it was a much less vague and subjective training than what I witnessed of friends studying visual arts.
Studying architecture also offered me a scheme of history that was greater than the canon of western art, which is a very selective history indeed. Without being forced to value one strain of art history over another, after graduation I had the freedom to research and study art in my own time in a way that directly mirrored my curiosity and thirst for knowledge. It is crucial not to allow anyone else to prioritise what is important in your own mind. History is as you interpret it.
In saying all this, I am actually a self-taught painter. I’ve never taken a class in drawing or painting, nor have I had any other artist demonstrate to me their techniques. Everything I’ve learnt has come from endless process of trial and error and thousands of hours of practise. As I’ve grown older I’ve come to realise that I learn quickest and most effective by teaching myself things. I find it interesting too that often in not knowing the “correct” way to do something, I might invent my own technique that is just as effective. Fashion is another endeavour in which I’ve no training. GOOD SESTO came about almost by coincidence. I had the idea to make an artwork where I painted a jacket rather than a canvas. It was never intended to be worn, but after it had dried I put it on and the way it made me feel was incredible. Wherever I wore this jacket, people became very excited and at times it was even challenging to manage their enthusiasm. From this first ‘happy accident’ I developed a clothing-line that was all about colour and paint and essentially being an anti-perfectionist about what you wear. It was also a lesson in thinking in terms of phenomena rather than extensive research.
I’d love to hear about the ‘On the Phone’ series. The angst people feel about closeness and yearning to communicate is slowly becoming a universal theme in society despite the rapid availability of mobile phones and social media. What was the creative decision behind using phones as a focus in these paintings? What are your feelings about how social media has impacted this? I personally believe that people desire to be close to each other more than anything else. There is no limit to this desire. I think people want to touch and experience absolutely every living thing they see. Deep down we want to be close to everyone we see and not just to a particular group. What makes the internet and movies so exciting is that we can passively engage with a wide variety of individuals we wouldn’t normally have the courage to connect with. I became attracted to the phone as it is essentially an ‘anti-loneliness’ device. It now promises all the love and attention in the world but whether it actually functions as such is still very questionable. I also became fascinated with the degree of intimacy we prefer to handle phones with. I am the sort of person who prefers to speak on the phone and talk directly. I like to hear the other persons voice and emotion and I love that the discussion must resolve itself in that timeframe. But I am consistently surprised that most of my friends won’t talk to me on the phone. They prefer to send passive messages that allow them to think and respond in their own time. I find it peculiar that we reject a more intimate form of contact, that sense of being in the moment.
What I also wanted to point out was the lengths we go to say hello. If you really think about it, when you are talking on the phone with someone on the other side of the world, the recording of their voice takes a gigantic journey around the planet and atmosphere. First the recording is sent via waves to a cell tower in the middle of nowhere, which then sends it to a satellite in space which beams it back down to another cell tower in the middle of nowhere and then finally to your city where you can experience the other person as ghost recording coming to you with a few seconds delay. It is really your imagination that allows you to feel like the other person is there.
Eric Sesto is a self-taught artist, muralist and director of the GOOD SESTO fashion label.
To continue reading this article, purchase the Winter 2020 issue of GOLEM Quarterly Review.