The city is subtly splattered with his delectable images promoting Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal. Metro stations and billboards throughout the city are adorned with the product of his vision and search for beauty. His photographs are deep, sensuous images full of movement, flow and sentiment. They succeed in proving that beauty is all around us, even where we least expect it.
Beauty is an aging man or woman. Beauty is a straight, gay or transsexual person. Beauty is respect and understanding towards difference. Beauty is drama and a story as it unfolds. Beauty is transforming negativity into positivity. Beauty, for Damian Siqueiros, is omnipresent.
“When you treat beauty not as commercial beauty, as what a top model would look like, but beauty in the sense of having a positive view on things and transforming negativity into happiness; for me, that’s beauty,” said Siqueiros. “And finding that beauty in people or in places […] that’s what moves my work.”
With both art and photography as part of his education, Siqueiros doesn’t consider himself merely a photographer, but a blend of a photographer and painter—a photopainter, as he calls it. Painting is an essential part of his process; he pays close attention to makeup, set designs, lighting and retouching. He compares his work with that of a Renaissance painter, applying several transparencies and layers to his photographs, almost like brushstrokes. The final product is a photographic image with the aesthetic of a painting.
“I would say that even though I have both, as a photographer and as an artist, the aesthetic is always a very clear view of where I wanted to be as an artist,” said Siqueiros. “It’s strange because I think that’s one of the hardest things as an artist: to find your own voice.”
Siqueiros comes from a close, science-driven family from Baja California, Mexico. In 2009, he moved to Montreal with the hopes of starting a new life in a city where topics such as gender equality and gender diversity were being discussed regularly. In fact, these are two things Siqueiros speaks about a lot; one of his goals is to motivate people to be respectful and understanding with other people and with other people’s differences.
“Gender diversity is an intrinsic part of the identity of every person,” said Siqueiros with a thick but charming Spanish accent. “But it’s not the person. There can be good or bad people that are straight or gay or transsexual and it really doesn’t matter that much.”
Siqueiros, who specializes in artistic and editorial photography, is fascinated with movement. It’s no mystery why his favourite subject to photograph are dancers. He says movement inspires him because of the drama; not drama in the sense that something negative is happening, but that something is happening.
He seeks to tell the story behind a person as it develops through his work, and for him, movement and emotion are the perfect combination to do that. He tries to portray emotions that make people feel alive and connected to his work, even if they may be sad ones. He compares the feeling to the aftertaste of listening to an Adele song—although it is sad, it doesn’t make you feel bad, it makes you feel good and alive.
His latest series, part of this year’s Art Souterrain, is called The Journey of Flowers. Siqueiros draws a parallel between the life of a flower and the career of a dancer, both significantly short.
He aims to connect with his public on an emotional level rather than an intellectual one, something he thinks contemporary art has forgotten how to do.
In the series, Siqueiros also exposes the limits people feel they have when they age or if they suffer from a chronic illness. He wants people to overcome the preconception that being old or ill means not being able to be active or fulfilled and not being able to contribute to society.
He photographed renowned Quebec dancer and choreographer Margie Gillis, and Bobby Thompson, Montreal’s well-known Argentinian tango dancer, both in their fifties and still very active and popular, in order to exemplify how he would like people to see life when they hit that age.
”If tomorrow I can’t walk as fast as I used to do, then it means that I have more time to look at my environment and the place where I live and contemplate more,” said Siqueiros. “I want people to take this seemingly bad thing as an opportunity to become better people.”
Art Souterrain runs until March 11. Siqueiros’ work will be exhibited at Square Victoria metro station. For more information on Art Souterrain, visit www.artsouterrain.com. For more information about Damian Siqueiros, visit www.damiansiqueiros.com.