To be a contemporary artist today is to be able to find oneself at the precipice of information and innovation while also allowing shades of inspiration to organically seep into one’s work. Representation of an artist’s culture and context are paramount if they are to tell their story via their work. A LOT STUDIO prides itself in collaborating with artists who are sensitively embedding their stories and influence in their work. One such artist who is so thorough and committed to the arts, that to me, feels like a dynamic synergy of art & storytelling, is Nicolas Bolivar. He extracts from life and hence, his work is always evolving and taking new meanings, as our lives are constantly evolving and ever-changing. The work is a by-product of a strong understanding of craftsmanship and identity and the studio has engaged in unique discourses in fashion and design with Nicolas. An opportunity to understand the roots of his design pedagogy has resulted into this conversation. Nicolas’ authenticity makes him an asset to the studio and is representative of everything the studio stands for.
In conversation with contemporary fashion designer Nicolas Giraldo Bolivar:
My preliminary question would be on your artistic style. You make use of collages to juxtapose images from different time periods, cultures and contexts to create this cohesive image. Your work does not resemble a conventional mood-board and seeps deeper. Elaborate more on the style, intent and narratives that go behind your work (like the Marangoni Knitwear Challenge)
N: To begin with I'd like to describe my style as eclectic and naive, aesthetically promiscuous like I say on my instagram, nothing too conceptual or intelectual, I like real clothing. Going deeper into the eclectic bit, I grew up in a crossroad of many cultures and that contrast has most probably been the most influential force on my work. Being born in huge Bogota; from a coffee producing family coming from a more traditional and rural landscape; all the while growing up in the dynamic and beautifully modern and progressive Medellin; educated in an international school and a die hard Italian university. My head has been all jumbled up with ideas and references throughout my life, making me feel from everywhere and nowhere at all.
The Knit project that I made in collaboration with Mexican Mariana Labrada is a perfect example of that narrative process. The contest judged by Anna dello Russo, Marco de Vincenzo, Giuliano Calza and Andrea Incontri had the intention of creating projects deeply representative of authentic identity for the modern market; in that way we decided to create a sweater with a futuristic, almost Star Wars, or Blade runner volume and layering, and a knit pattern that looked almost like coding, or a glitch, mixing together mohair, cotton and alpaca; while really in a deeper and more literal sense we were using references taken from our model and collaborator Patricia's indian culture, which created a perfect synergy in the team and a result we were incredibly proud of; in part because at the time Mariana and me were coincidentally obsessed with Christies' jewelry collection, "Maharajas & Mughal Magnificence" and the Maharaja of Indore Yashwant Rao Holkar II, whose portrait by Boutet de Monvel, inspired the cut of the sweaters.
What are some of your influences? Your influences go beyond the realm of art and fashion. Their people centric and combine visual imagery with a thoughtful response. What works of contemporary art, music, fashion and literature do you derive inspiration from? Feel free to also recommend works that our readers would find interesting and explain how these works find themselves embedded in your own personal narrative.
N: I feel like it is a common thread among young people from post colonial societies. Not European, not entirely indigenous to my country either, and yet so rooted in my grandparents lands and traditions, growing up in a globalized economy, not having known the world before the internet has made my style hopefully a true melting pot, where anything goes, kitsch, minimalism, 80's nostalgia, the viennese secession, Milanese Liberty, a Caribbean flare and an Andean feel, my mother's Miu Miu style wardrobe in the 60's and my father's Armani style passion for fine Italian wool in the 90's; it really is a recollection of a bunch of non cohesive things that for me end up making sense together, eclectic.
As for the narratives, they have increasingly become about storytelling through identity. Sometimes it is artists like Anselm Kiefer and Balthus who inspire me to approach the parallels between my hometown's and family's cultural and aesthetic background- deeply infused with those of the Jewish people and their homely intellectual and sophisticated bourgeois feel during the 20th century; as a way to learn about parts of my heritage that had been long been forgotten and I have recently learnt about.
Contemporary work in today’s day and age is an amalgamation of influences that transcend medium and time. From the theatrical Baroque to waves of minimalism, from social media to printed archives, influence can be extracted from anywhere and the product is an almost multi-lingual patchwork that sees diverse blots of influence seep into it. Your understanding of art, space, people and form makes for the backdrop on your overlaying work as a fashion designer thrives. Where do you extract your influences from?
N: Speaking about all my influences would take ages, as you've probably already seen hahahaha, not because I'm trying to come off as a pseudo intellectual, rather because I am ultimately a fanboy of beautiful things, and I'm looking for references nonstop, just look at my instagram highlights. However, some of my all time favorite references are Yves Saint Laurent, Diana Vreeland and Miuccia Prada in fashion, talking about which, "The beautiful Fall" and "DV" are beautiful books that talk about these first two figures; In film Pedro Almodovar, director of my favorite all time movie starring dreamy young Antonio Banderas, "La ley del deseo"; In art Pontormo's Mannerism, Gauguin's modern exotism, and Salman Toor and Louis Frattino's contemporary approach to a modern aesthetic in painting; and as for music I am a die hard fan of super romantic feel good songs from the 60's and 70's, Latin American boleros by artists like Bola de Nieve, Celia Cruz, Beni More, Tona la Negra are mixed in with songs by Dinah Washington, Nat king cole and Sam cooke, with some Italian and french voices like Mina and Charles Aznavour here and there; In architecture Carlo Scarpa; and in literature japanese great Kawabata, and Italian Tomasi di Lampedusa have been two recent writers who have been very inspiring. I could go on forever, but I must say however, my ultimate reference is the pictures and stories of my mother as a child: a little Menina by Velazquez, a Little Miu Miu, a little Macondo or "Strange Pilgrims" by Garcia Marquez she's just the gift that keeps on giving.
What do the terms ‘artistic expression & artistic responsibility’ mean to you in today’s time. What are your core values as an artist and what is your hope for your work to do in the larger timeline of contemporary fashion.
N: As for a responsibility, that is a charged topic that I feel would take a whole other situation to discuss and converse on, I do not feel that is entirely on me to decide or pitch in on as an individual, I strongly believe it is a conversation among multiple people in different backgrounds and from different backgrounds; but I feel like one responsibility we've come to understand more deeply and found consensus on in the creative industries lately is the importance of inclusion and diversity as an active policy, sustainability is another one of those responsibilities. on my personal work I hope to make those two as well, inclusion and sustainability, part of the core values of my work, but on a lighter, perhaps more banal note, I think the biggest value that describes the way I work right now is curiosity.
I sincerely feel that one can understand a lot from a body of work via it’s core belief(s) but I also feel that these beliefs often evolve as an artist grows. What adjectives would you currently associate to your process and work, if any. Do you find associating your work with particular styles and words reductive or constructive?
N: On that note, the current adjectives that describe my work would be, referential and well researched, colourful and eclectic, people conscious, and with time more and more personal i hope. I do not think that associating myself with particular styles is reductive, I feel like styles are sometimes fun ways of approaching different projects or things you want to say, but I also do not think they are particularly important in respect to all the other parts of the design development process, they work as inspiration sometimes, just like any other visual or conceptual reference could, I in fact think the more references the richer the process so, it might be constructive even, if a single style is not something you rely on repetitively and solely to create the product.
Nicolas’ sensitive and intentful curations have have lead to fresh outputs. Constant re-invention comes from deliberate research, reading and curiosity. The values of sustainability and people-centric design that are so crucial in today’s day and age, are all resonated in Nicolas’ work, and the studio takes pride in it’s association with it.
Written By: Jahnavi Shah