The process behind the eye-catching collages of Kike Congrains goes beyond cut and paste, which can be immediately noted upon admiring one of his colorful—yet often dark humored—pieces. The Peruvian artist reconstructs images of renowned subjects, pulls apart social constructions and mainstream culture, dives deep into storytelling—and has surely offended a few people along the way.
In the last few years, his work has taken him to numerous international cities, even placing him in the face of natural disasters. We decided to catch-up with the Lima-based artist now that things have certainly slowed down due to quarantine.
Above: Congrain’s intervention of La Llama, the most recognizable box of matches in Peru.
TLIP: The last piece we published about you was in 2017, when you were set to exhibit at the Scandinavian Art Museum. How much has changed for you professionally since then?
KG: That seems ages ago! A lot has happened since. In 2018 I went to Kolaj Fest in New Orleans and met lots of fellow collage artists from around the world and that led to so many projects! I returned the following year but it was cancelled due to Hurricane Barry.
Many artists spend countless hours in their studios/homes to hone their craft, yet no doubt find inspiration from social and natural contexts (i.e. outside). How much has your lifestyle changed since the quarantine period?
KG: Not that much really, I spend a lot of time at home working on stuff, so I’m really used to spending time alone. I don’t have kids, so I’m kinda the master of my time. I miss walking through [Lima’s] malecón though.
Did you have trips or workshops planned that were canceled due to the pandemic?
KG: I was planning to go back to New Orleans in July, but that event was cancelled.
Below: In early May 2020, Congrains shared on social media a large and detailed artwork he had created for a national airline. The piece went unused due to Coronavirus.
I find a lot of humor (at times dark), sarcasm and commentary on social constructions/habits in your work. How would you describe the tone of your collages? Has it changed since the outbreak?
KG: Yes, I love dark humor and try to put as much as I can in my collages. I think my work is playful, I don’t take things that seriously and nothing is sacred. Religion is a fun subject to poke fun of, and perhaps more so in South America.
How has the national lockdown affected artists in Peru? What would you like to see as far as opportunities for artists post-quarantine?
KG: Lockdown has affected us all, that’s for sure. I think for now the opportunities are on the web, through online teaching and online catalogs for art collectors. In the upcoming months we’ll have a clear idea of the repercussions of this pandemic.
What is the power of art in uncertain times like these? Is that something that’s come to mind when you’ve created a collage in the last few weeks?
KG: Everybody is home nowadays, and consuming more art than ever. The music you hear, the movies you watch, the book you’re reading, the painting hanging on your wall—everything comes from artists. Hopefully people will realize that art is necessary and begin supporting their local artists.
Canson City is the fictitious setting of many of your collages. Is COVID-19 running rampant in Canson City?
KG: Funny you mention it because last week I did a collage with the pandemic on my mind, goes like this:
Famous explorer Olaf Osterberg had the worst idea ever: find and infiltrate the most elusive city in the world: Canson City. Long story short, he succeeded but brought a deadly virus with him and disease spread across the land and thousands were infected so the sheriff told everyone to stay home and that’s what everybody did and the virus died lonely in the empty streets. True story.
Can you comment on Coronayisus, as some may find a reason to complain or be offended…
KG: Many were offended indeed! It’s not the first time I’ve intervened so-called sacred images, but for me it’s no different from a cut out from a magazine. It’s just images. An image is not good or bad, an image is what people make of it. For some it’s offensive, for others it’s beautiful. I don’t work thinking on how much this is going to offend people, I do it because there’s an idea behind it.
With Coronayisus, it’s easy: so many religious people here are not practicing social distancing because they say god protects them, Jesus protects them. So, I gave them their patron saint of COVID-19.
Have you found a silver lining to the quarantine period? Besides the virtual workshop you did a few weeks ago with Joinnus, are you finding ways to innovate during the quarantine restrictions?
KG: I just love the ways people are trying to connect and help each other in these dire times. That inspires me. No big plans for now, I’m just working, hoping for the best.
Follow Kike Congrains and his adventures in Canson City on Instagram
Cover photo: @maguimeg/Kike Congrains’ Facebook
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