The need to create and transmit a bit of ourselves is inherent to who we are as a species. Hence, art can be a window to another version of the world, an escape and a manifestation of the transformative power of the artist.
When art touches everyday elements and breathes new life into them, it forces us to reflect on the value we give to our surroundings beyond its function. Venezuelan artist Francisco Corso is a good exponent of arts transforming capacity.
Francisco’s relationship with art goes back to his childhood. “I started with my artistic activities at an early age, when I discovered my ability I have for manual activities, painting, drawing and sculptural modeling. I remember that the first striking thing I drew was Donald Duck in crayon, with shading and without tracing, which was wonderful. During the 1986 World Cup in Mexico I made the mascot of the World Cup in mouldable dough, with its colours just like the original design. From then on I knew that the gift of art was in me”.
Since then, the need to create becomes a constant and Francisco is dedicated to develop his creative skills, taking classes and workshops in oil painting, drawing and sculpture.
The new charm of everyday objects
Venezuela has been experiencing a political and economic crisis for 20 years, during which the Bolivar (the national currency) has gone through two monetary reconversion processes. In 2008, it lost three zeros and was renamed Bolivar Fuerte, in 2018 another five zeros were subtracted and it was renamed Bolivar Soberano. This situation has not been able to stop the constant devaluation of the currency, a consequence of the contraction of the economy and an inflationary process that has become hyper- inflated since 2018.
There is a popular phrase in Venezuela that states – that the highest denomination banknote is worth less than what it cost to print it.
However, in a country where the rules rapidly change and change becomes the norm, it boosts the creative capacity of its inhabitants. This leads Francisco to start using banknotes as an artistic medium. “Suddenly, all of us were left with some amount of unused bills and the best destiny I could think of for them was to paint Venezuelan personalities as an artistic proposal. So I started painting a philosopher that I still keep for being the first one, then plastic artists, musicians, Venezuelan doctors, movie characters, landscapes, portraits and animals“.
“In this way, I began to turn these banknotes into collector’s items that began to be in demand as pieces of art”.
In Francisco’s hands, the banknote is given a new life. The faces of the heroes give way to Frida Kahlo, Captain America or the Rolling Stones. Following an excellent handling of detail, the patterns of the 20 Bolívares banknote blur to become Van Gogh’s blues, with his characteristic brushstrokes. Detail is fundamental for Francisco:
“The artistic style with which I identify my work is Hyperrealism. I have always been attracted to the abundance of details and the attachment to reality of this style. Hyper-realist painting allows me to explore reality far beyond what we perceive visually, the study of light that allows us to appreciate the volume of objects and the way of representing them through oil painting and its mixtures in a limited space. I tend to think that there is something unexplored in the universe of art, that I will only discover it through experimentation and knowledge of history, which has allowed me to leave the usual and dabble in techniques, materials and media for my works”.
“Hyper-realist painting allows me to explore reality far beyond what we perceive visually, the study of light that allows us to appreciate the volume of objects and how to represent them through oil paint and its mixtures in a limited space”.
From his studio, where several of his paintings hang, Corso decides the drawing that will be the protagonist of the bill. There under the gaze of the Virgin of Coromoto, Patroness of Venezuela, he begins the process with a previous analysis of the surface.
“The main challenge is to adapt the model to be painted to the almost miniature format of a banknote. I achieve this with small triple zero brushes. Fortunately, I still have an excellent sense of sight”.
Corso usually takes advantage of the design of the banknote and its colours as an element to highlight the art. Therefore, when he established the motif he want to represent or the image in case it is a commission, there comes a process of analysis and selection of the banknote that best integrates to form a work as a whole.
“The composition of paper money gives it great resistance and durability, making it an excellent support for painting, especially oil-based painting, which is my favourite medium”.
Art as a transforming force
Corso is clear about the objective of his work:
“The value of currency is born of necessity, of its utilitarian sense. When our currency lost its value, many had no scruples to leave them lying in the street. My proposal is to, “Give a new value to the currency,” something that only art with its magical and transforming power can do”.
It is at this stage when Corso connects with the Money Art movement.
“I discovered that there is a worldwide movement of artists who also make their works on paper money, each one with a different theme and motivation. Some associate it with street art, others as a rescue or revaluation of a lost heritage, sarcasm, social criticism or resistance. I think the motives are very diverse, but all are united by the communion between art and paper money“.
His effort has paid off, thanks to the exposure of his works on social network; his art has reached a growing curious audience. His work has been reviewed in the book, “Cash is King II” launched in London’s Saatchi Gallery at August 2019. This book is a compilation of art about banknotes and their protagonists from all over the world.
Francisco wants to continue experimenting with techniques and themes, to him banknotes have become both a source of inspiration and an ally to capture part of his vision of the world. “These works on paper money will be part of the art history of this time in which many artists worldwide have dared to paint on banknotes, something that was unthinkable in the past. It is believed that paper money will eventually disappear and be replaced by some digital medium. In my particular case, what motivated me to paint on banknotes was to revalue a paper currency that was left on the ground, literally speaking“.
I seek to convey that nothing is impossible, that wonderful things can be done with the resources we have at hand and our knowledge and skills. Money Art is a great resource to embellish and tell a part of the historical moment in which we live.