Transforming The Image Of An Artist In History Is The Reason Why Roland Santana Creates

Introduce yourself

My name is Roland Santana and I am currently a painter based in Chicago.

When did you first get interested in art?

I’ve been interested in art for a while before painting. Music and film dominated my interest, and drawing was something kinda personal for me. It is a good time being a young artist today because access to art is easier than it used to be. I never really studied paintings until this year actually, I always knew the greats because of media and people throwing names around like Picasso, Dali, Da Vinci, but I only knew their names and maybe a reference to their style of painting here and there. Moving to Chicago from Virginia and living here became kind of a reinforcement to show what was hidden. I was surrounded by people who were constantly sharing their work and made me think I could do that too. So I painted, first on my closet door, then on t-shirts and on whatever surface I could find. No-one told me to stop, and I continued to make my mark. 

Let’s dive deep into the inspirations behind some of your pieces. First, Shadow of a Dream

This work is based on a dream I had while I was visiting my girlfriend’s family in Texas. My dreams and the idea of dreams always made me curious. I never really recorded them before, until my girlfriend’s sister gave me a small book purposely for my dreams. I started writing that morning after and drew what I could remember while listening to a cover of “Clair de Lune” by Isao Tomita that was being played in the background, it was perfect dream music. I called these drawings “shadows of dreams”, this particular shadow was full of imagery where three figures were awed by a giant, and what looked like mechanical yet still organically moving creatures rising from a large body of water that ran underneath a city. This drawing inspired me to make it into a painting when we got back to Chicago.

Shadow of a Dream (full)

Discuss the inspiration for your piece Ruptura

Ruptura” is one of my recent works. I began it two months ago but completed it within a week. At first, it was a painting with a couple white lines running across a large un-stretched black canvas. With no clear path of what I wanted to do next, I put it away like I do sometimes with other works. I forgot about it until my friend Clarissa, who is also a painter was like ‘hey, we are opening this shop called Pop Box and we have wall space. We want to sell a painting of yours.’ I immediately sent her pictures of my paintings that I already had but they weren’t really fitting the layout. I sent the shop some concepts of work I was doing on paper from my apartment and I look over at the black canvas that was in a corner and told Clarissa that “if you like those I can do something like that bigger and on canvas”. They really liked it, so I began.

The process was automatic and was easy to approach the painting confidently since I had some reference from those small concept drawings I had prior. “Ruptura” is one of the first works that I wanted to include color into, my works earlier were either black & white or had little accents of color, but I wanted this piece to explode with it. My process is a constant morphing of space, I don’t try to concentrate too much on one color, or figure in the piece unless I am obsessed with it. The feeling while painting for me can come from my music background where I am playing notes with the color and line work instead of sound. If it comes together it can build a certain rhythm or melodies visually throughout the painting.

The painting was titled after a trip to the Museum of Mexican Art, where I noticed a small abstract painting by Gunther Gerzso, who was part of a movement called Generacíon de la Ruptura. This translated to Breakaway Generation. This work was my official breakaway from my past work, so “Ruptura” became the perfect title for this painting.


And how about, “dream, when reality continues to sleep”

Before I was explaining a little bit on how figures don’t drive my paintings unless I am truly obsessed with capturing them, well for this painting there were many figures that I needed to layout. The painting itself is supposed to recreate a dream-like state, the blur and choppiness can make you feel uncomfortable at first, even a little lost at times, but you find yourself around it with the help of the recognizable figures. I believe the figures in this work such as eyes, human bodies, and stars mainly come from memories of people and objects I’ve observed throughout my life thus far, so it is not specific. The title is a bit philosophical; the idea behind it is that it separates the act of sleeping with dreaming, that even while we are physically awake we can still be sleeping or ignorant to our surroundings so we are more awake in our dreams than the real world, because of the hidden truths and uncensored thoughts.

Dream When Reality Continues to Sleep (Detail)

What drives you to create for a living?

There are lots of components to my drive. One of them is the exploration of my work and the technologies that are going to help me make them possible. Then it would be creating a large enough body of work that will allow me to see my growth as well as leaving that work for my family, friends and anyone who would be interested to see them when I am long gone. Transforming the image of an artist in history is more of an outcome that I would want from my work. Studying art history recently I’ve noticed that there were no painters who looked like me, they were prominently white, so contributing to not get rid of, but adding another face into the history is the responsibility I’ve placed on myself that drives me to continue working, getting out my comfort zone, taking risks and eventually showcasing my work any way possible, then letting the future decide what to do with it. 

If you had three words to describe your artwork, what would they be?