Julio César Parra


Julio Parra, a contemporary Colombian artist based in Medellín has achieved a huge success in his short life. With numerous successful exhibitions, awards and accolades under his belt, you would not be far wrong comparing him to the short-lived but epic artist Jean-Michel Basquiat.

Parra’s style can be described as minimalist, gurative, conceptual, neo-impressionist, abstract expressionism and even punk art. The concept of his work being derived from a “naive” almost childlike technique couldn't be a bigger misconception. His technique is skillfully and purposefully brought together and displays a host of disparate traditions, practices, and styles to create a unique kind of visual collage, one deriving, in part, from his urban origins, another his Colombian heritage and a more distinct visual interpretation of Basquiat’s most notable works.

His unique iconography are daring and captivating. They are bold and brash, strong and eye-catching. He is becoming one of Colombia’s most distinctive voices in the contemporary art scene. Borrowing from graffiti and street imagery, cartoons, mythology and religious symbolism, Parra’s drawings and paintings explore issues of being Colombian from a low socioeconomic background, providing social commentary and metaphors that are shrewdly observed and rebellious.

His idiosyncratic views of the world and raw honesty are reflected by symbols and imagery, which are complex and can be widely interpreted. Limitless skill and artistic vision go into Parra’s work. They represent an unprecedented expression or thought in time. He has mastered the ability to reduce a body to the clean lines of its component parts.

He marks his unique work with vibrant yet rebellious scribbles and brushstrokes that are not only emotionally, but psychologically evocative too. His use of words and expressions – with double and hidden meaning are often crossed out or misspelt to heighten their meaning. The fact that they are obscured makes you want to read them more. Furthermore, he is attesting to the mutability of language, the way it twists and turns according to the power status of the speaker.

Pictorial symbols with complex and hidden meanings, odd combinations or hobo signs interacting and further more a halo floating above his subjects head are reoccurring features to his graphomaniac style. The halo, a clear reference to Catholic iconography, which is deeply embedded within the Colombian community. It also may refer to the martyred status of the social and economic injustices within Colombian society.

Parra’s vibrant and rebellious scribbles and brushstrokes splashed against a light often stark white backdrop reflects his more positive and less racially charged view on the world that Basquit portrayed in his all consuming sombre dark canvases. Parra’s works’ raw innocence and tone of authenticity akin to the primitivism of Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso or, perhaps, even that of the infant mind. Be that as it may, there is nothing juvenile about the communicative power and coded messages of his work.

His paintings provide a lens through which to view capitalism, urban beauty and decay, and the social and economic inequality and exploitation in Colombian society. His work often depicts mundane items and consumer products working together in juxtaposition to socio-economically charged effigies. Small clips of montage images often make up Parra’s work and they represent memories or visual brain data – often more than one figure is represented - used to express the other side of the coin.

Parra’s art is already reaching elevated heights in the Colombian art scene. He is becoming an iconic artist and a constant source of inspiration for his peers. He continues to captivate his audience with unique subject matter and emotionally charged references to a society seeking to find its balance between the dark undercurrents of Colombian society and the idyllic land where the beautiful term “Magic Realism” was coined.

"To be an artist is to have a sense of life, it is to have the peculiarity of having a world that beats Independently through a whole universe. It is having a light of your own that is built in the different nuances of a prism. It is finding a pink colour in the contrast of chiaroscuro. It is the difference between black and white.”