Digital collage artist Luis Toledo is a collector of multi-cultural digital ephemera relating to anatomical illustrations, religious symbols and historical textiles. His magnificent works are hyper-detailed and nod to ancient textile designs and adornments, Victorian flora illustration and Baroque architectural detail.
Toledo’s compositions are built up bit by bit with exceptional detail that demand a second, third and even a fourth take. On each encounter, a new feature appears and viewers can expect skulls, flowers, skeletons, plants, insects, fungi, bodies and animals all making up one distinct and cohesive image.
Adding to his repertoire, he is celebrating cultures from across the globe from this and past centuries. It’s almost as if Toledo is a visual sponge, soaking up all that he sees to reproduce a cocktail of visual splendour.
Outside of his fine-art work, he is an art director and designer in the music industry and has worked with super-brands including Heineken, EA Games, Intel and Warner Music.
We had a chat with the surrealist artist about his inspiration and discovered where some of his remarkable ideas come from.
CZ: Tell us about where you grew up and what your early influences were.
LT: I grew up in a working class neighbourhood in Madrid at the beginning of the 80s. My first influences were TV, music and comics but also the religious imagery of the churches where my parents took me as a child.
CZ: Can you tell us a bit about your town & studio, please?
LT: My studio is in the centre of Madrid, very close to the Plaza Mayor, the Royal Theater and the Royal Palace. Everyday I see many of the most representative buildings of Madrid's architecture; it's great to be able to work in a place like this.
CZ: How has growing up in Madrid influenced your work so far? Has architecture, the history or anything else played a part in realising your style?
LT: Living in a city like Madrid, surrounded by great museums such as the Prado Museum undoubtedly played a part in realising my style. Since I was a child, it was very easy to find works by Goya, Velazquez, Miró and Dalí. Also, music has greatly influenced my work. In Madrid there is an active music scene, I try to go to concerts whenever I can.
CZ: How and where did you develop your unique style?
I love to travel. All the trips I have made in Asia and Latin America left a mark on me, and you can see it in my style. Traditional and religious art has always been a great influence and my work is a mix of cultures.
CZ: You’re a collector of digital ephemera and a builder of art using found imagery, but how do you visualise your compositions?
LT: I always start each work by developing simple pencil sketches and then I select the images that I will use. I then put them together to form a single piece so that everything fits perfectly.
CZ: As a visual artist, what is it that you want to communicate with the world? Do you have a message?
LT: Each work is different; I use symbolic and mythological themes to talk about life and death, the complexity of the human being and the mixture of cultures.
CZ: Please tell us about some of your commercial clients and what are some of your favourite projects to date?
LT: The commissioned works I enjoy the most are the works related to music, gig posters and album covers. Right now, I'm doing the art direction and illustrations for an exciting video clip for an American artist.
CZ: You have a fascination with a wide range of biological and anatomical illustrations, pattern and textures. Why do these appeal to you?
LT: I like to study the designs of the cultures that I am discovering through travel. I love the traditional patterns of Japan and the motifs of Peruvian and Mexican textiles. They are my inspiration and I try to make my own versions which I incorporate into my works. Regarding anatomical images, I have always found that way of simplifying the functioning of the human body fascinating.
CZ: Are there any artists, writers or designers that you admire, whom should we keep an eye on?
LT: Artists include Sixe, Saner, Okuda and Cristina Daura. Writers Frank Herbert, Roberto Bolaño, Borges and Palahniuk. Designers Alex Trochut, RelajaelCoco and of course, David Carson.
CZ: Where can we see your work in real life? Do you have any shows coming up?
LT: In 2019 and 2020 I would like to exhibit in the USA, go back to showing in Singapore and do something great in Madrid and Barcelona.
CZ: What’s next for Luis Toledo?
LT: I would like to publish my first book and start making sculptures.