By Michael Solender
Those commissioning mixed-media artist Nico Amortegui to create a painting or large-scale installation shouldn’t be surprised if they don’t get the opportunity to review a sketch before the work is undertaken.
Even Amortegui doesn’t know exactly what he’s going to create until he is midway into a project.
“It’s all free flow,” said Amortegui. “The way I work is based upon energy. Fast movement and how I feel in the moment. Halfway through the work, I’ll get an image, a memory or something in that moment, and only then will I know exactly what I’m painting.”
Amortegui’s Colombian heritage and Latino identity fuel the creativity behind his large-scale murals, paintings, sculptures and installations.
His inspiration comes from deep-rooted folk art, especially that found in South and Central America and the Caribbean Islands, he says. “While my home country is Colombia, I paint and create art based on other Latino cultures, too.”
Charlotte residents have seen Amortegui’s work across the Queen City, including exhibitions at The Mint Museum, Levine Museum of the New South, Elder Gallery of Contemporary Art, Waterworks Visual Art Center, Hart-Witzen Gallery and CPCC’s Ross Gallery.
Amortegui has created large scale murals and installations for Charlotte Douglas International Airport, the Abraham Hostels in Jerusalem, Israel, Charlotte’s Advent Coworking, Get Fit Foods on Park Road, and the Art for Art’s Sake and Benton Convention centers in Winston-Salem.
Viewers drawn to the intensity of Amortegui’s work find bold bright and almost iridescent colors, primitive figures and passionate combinations of the two.
“The first impact you have with someone is usually the biggest one,” said Amortegui, explaining why color plays such a large role in his creative process. “Color represents an energy. When I started painting, I painted about sad subjects, but realized that color has so much influence in how things are seen. Even if it was a sad story, if it had beautiful colors, people were able to view the painting without judgement.”
His plans for his 2019 ASC Creative Renewal Fellowship are to immerse himself in his latest passion – ceramics.
After receiving a gift from his wife of a six-week ceramics course at Charlotte’s Clayworks, Amortegui fell in love with the hands-on experience of working with clay.
“I have an addictive personality and once I get hooked into something, I have to keep working on it,” he said. With his fellowship, Amortegui will travel to Oaxaca, Mexico to work with indigenous artisans who have been creating ceramics in traditional ways for centuries. There, he’ll be working with black, green, and red clay.
“I want to learn the techniques of how their traditional folk art is created so I can apply it to my contemporary work,” said Amortegui. “I’m hopeful my learning will transfer over to all my creative work. I never want to stay static and have everything begin to look the same.”