Sebas Velasco – Nobody’s home
Essay by Sasha Bogojev
After years of travels to Eastern Europe and multiple visits to the countries that once made the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Sebas Velasco Navarro finally gathered enough information, visuals, and experiences, to complete his most complex and most compact project to date. “Nobody’s Home” is a result of a passionate and dedicated research conducted spontaneously, during trips to a region that has seen so many abrupt and slow changes over the last years, and is nowadays somehow lost between its complicated past, uncertain present and indecisive future.
As a visual artist Velasco initially got inspired by the post-socialist architecture and the overall “frozen in time” outlook of urban areas in the region. This influence could be seen in large murals he has been painting through Europe, usually depicting an individual subject next to an example of local architecture. Symbolizing the relationship between people and their urban environment, both socially and physically, these images were the starting point for the research that developed this body of work. The gray blocks of government built homes for working class were simultaneously an example of brutal architecture and the caring socialist policies of the former country. While sterile and generic on the outside, the artist saw these human hives as poetic spaces in which countless individual stories were created. And when put in the context of complicated history and socio-political situation, these concrete boxes turned into an endless source of inspiration for Velasco.
Challenged by the fact that he personally didn’t experience any of that history, but intrigued by the stories he collected during his trips to Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, etc, he felt the strong contrasts when talking with the locals about their personal stories. From a great sense of romanticism about the times past to undeniable traumas experienced during former regime, the emotional aspect started to take over the general aesthetics. This inevitably led towards developing an interest in finding historic visuals that complement those testimonies, and this is when he came across a wonderful mixture of memorabilia that depicted various aspects of individual and communal lives. Mixing different cultures and religions into one seemingly coherent nation, those images included political figures, rock stars, sports and everyday moments, experienced by common people.
Nobody’s Home is consciously staying away from focusing on the war as the main and obvious turning point for the region and is putting his focus on portraying the lives and experiences of individuals. From painting the “pionir” acceptance ceremony to immortalizing the current state both urban and rural areas, Velasco created a poetic slideshow that crosses the borders of the former SFRY and is showing obscure connections with his native Spain. Rendered with a rich painterly visual language, where brush strokes and color choices construct the atmosphere, the new paintings are an unprecedented visual presentation of the collective memory of the “land of peasants on the hills of the Balkans”.