Enrique Azocar

Enrique Azocar On The Inspiration Behind His Artistic Work

It’s a pretty dreary January afternoon here in the North East. I pop on my slippers, pour a cup of tea and open my laptop for a bit of virtual vitamin D in the form of a Zoom call across the pond in the southern hemisphere.

On the other side of the line is a cheery Enrique Azocar, 62, a Chilean artist who now calls Northumberland home.

Enrique is visiting family in his home country as we catch up to talk all things art, inspiration and the beauty of the great British countryside.

Chatting to Enrique, I can see first-hand how he is emotionally influenced by his environment – as I’m sure many of us are.

He is quite clearly delighted to be back in his native South America, surrounded by the love and light of his friends, family and, of course, the natural environment. These feelings, triggered by the light, colours and shapes that surround us, are exactly what forms his breathtaking work.

“My deep interest is in the energies of the natural environment,” he starts.

“I want the viewer to respond only to what is in front of them – without any influence from the outside world. Generally, I move between figurative and abstract-minimalism.

“My work revolves around the light and how it fills a space. We are all forever changing, and as time goes on, we see light and objects in new ways.

”I love abstract expressionism because it is very conceptual and gives way to the sensations and the feelings of something.”

Being guided by the light is a big part of Enrique’s work and personal journey.

He is honest, passionate and believes that everything is connected in some way or another – which is why he never looked back when he made the move to the UK, first to study in London, then settling up here in the North East.

“I grew up in South America, but I’ve been in England for 24 years,” he says.

“It is home for me now, and it isn’t until I visit my home country that I realise how different life is.

”I’m here visiting family and some of my collectors, which has been amazing, but I find myself referring to the North East as ‘home’, which is a little strange, but it feels right – it’s where I have grown my business and it’s where my children are.”

Before he made the move, Enrique was working for a mining company in South America, but was made redundant during the recession.

“It was difficult at the time, but it opened up new opportunities for me,” he starts.

“I began to fill in my time by attending drawing classes while I was looking for jobs. I always had a creative itch. I didn’t know it at the time, but this was the beginning of my artistic career and I will forever look back on that period with fond memories.”

Enrique AzocarHaving discovered his creative talents, Enrique moved to London to study at Central St Martins College of Art and Design in the 1990s.

“My kids have grown up in the North East, which has been fantastic.

”We did move to Australia for a year or so – mainly to escape the darkness of winter here. While we were there, I attended a lecture at the University of Melbourne and I went to an exhibition which featured the Lindisfarne Manuscript.

”I said to my wife, ‘we come all this way, and we can’t escape Northumberland – this is a sign – we need to go home’. So we did – we returned and never looked back.

“There’s so much magic realism in Northumberland. It is a huge source of inspiration for my work and I know I will spend the rest of my life working and living in the area.”

As we chat about the importance of people in one’s creative journey, we share our thoughts on being part of an incredibly supportive community here in the North East.

“We live in an incredibly special place,” Enrique agrees.

“For me, the North East is the ‘real England’. I always try to explain this to my friends and family overseas. London is very different – and it’s funny because that is the vision a lot of people have of England. The English countryside is another world altogether.

”I describe Northumberland and they can’t believe it – we have more castles than anywhere else, we have lots of history, and incredibly friendly people.

“I chose to do my masters at Northumbria University because I didn’t want to go south – I wanted to stay here in the North East.

I got my distinction and worked with some of the best tutors around, many of whom I have kept in touch with. The creative community around me have been so important in my development and success.”

People play a big part in Enrique’s work. As they do in my own work; there would be no
magazine if I didn’t have amazing, inspiring people to speak to every day. People are the beating heart of the creative community, and we are incredibly lucky to have a growing network here in the region.

In turn, Enrique gives back to those in his close and wider networks by using his talents to invite people to escape. He understands the importance of using his creative abilities to present opportunities.

“The good thing about being an artist is that we get to make lots of connections with people – whether that’s through the work itself, or through exhibitions and the social side of it,” he says.

“That is so powerful, and for me, that is often where you will get your inspiration.

“I don’t portrait landscapes, but I look at the shapes, the lines, the light and the colours – so the landscapes are certainly a source of inspiration, but there’s so much more than what initially meets the eye.

“I’ve seen breathtaking, beautiful landscapes before that have totally blown me away and reduced me to tears. Our connections with the landscape can be so emotional. And when we share those reflections with the world, that’s when the magic happens.

“Every time we see these kinds of landscapes, we begin to connect with our inner self. It’s such a beautiful thing for us to see things for ourselves without the input of anybody else or somebody
telling us what we can see – it’s all about interpretation.”

Getting out and about in nature is a big part of Enrique’s creative process. When it comes to taking that inspiration and putting paint to paper in the studio, it’s a slow and thoughtful process, he tells me.

“It’s all about the process for me,” he says.

“It’s far more fascinating to see how something develops over time rather than planning it to perfection. My paintings are all about evoking a feeling, so you’ve got to go with your emotions, which can change a lot in the life-cycle of a painting.

“Even still, an empty canvas scares me. I’ve never been able to get over that in all the years I’ve been painting. The emptiness is always a daunting thing.

“You have to conquer that fear, but also understand that it is a process and not put too much pressure on yourself. It’s a battle between the emptiness and yourself. You can think about the colours and the texture, but everything else flows once you get going.

”Sometimes it can take me a week or so before I actually start putting paint on the paper.”

As Enrique’s visit to South America comes to a close and he prepares for his Northumberland homecoming, he’s looking forward to the new opportunities that come with the new season.

“The creative world really comes to life for me in spring,” he says.

Enrique Azocar“The winter weather doesn’t bother me so much, it’s more about the lack of light. So when the brighter days roll in, I find it helps with my work – particularly when I’m spending a lot of time in the studio.

There’s lots of exciting stuff in the pipeline for Enrique this year.

“I’ve been working with my agent, Ashley Gray from GrayMCA, for 12 years now. He has helped to position my paintings in art collections across the world, from Moscow to London, and art fairs in Palm Springs, for example.

“We continue to work together with some exciting new projects, including a collaboration with a sculptor in Manchester.”

When he’s not in the studio or travelling with his paintings, Enrique unwinds by spending time with friends and family, or cooking at home.

“I’m a social animal,” he says.

“So when I’m not painting, you’ll find me surrounded by the people I love most.

‘I also really love cooking. My work, in a way, is a little bit like cooking – it’s all about proportions and creating something for enjoyment. A painting isn’t just a painting – it is packed full of ingredients.

“Work doesn’t feel like work for me,” he adds.

“If I’m not in the studio, I’m reading and researching about art. It’s what I do to unwind – it’s a lifestyle, in a way.

“When you create something so honest, the connection is real – and that never really goes away for me.”