Growing up, Camilo Arias, the 31-year-old Colombian painter, overcome pain, tragedy and war, to become what he is today. The psychedelic artist favours bright colors, over the colours of a monochromatic war. While Arias invites you to tell the story behind each of his paintings, we invite you to read his story yourself.
His childhood revolved around a number of traumatic experiences: army checkpoints, gunfights, and death during a 3-hour ride to school that started every morning at 2 A.M. In the midst of these battles, he remembers living in a countryside setting, hidden in the deepest parts of a Colombian mountain. This setting embraced him with its colourfully vivacious elements: animals, plants, and jungles, Arias was surrounded by a beautiful natural setting. It was full of life and natural patterns, regardless of the senseless ongoing war. “Right now, you can see my paintings as full of life and colours, but the back-story to the paintings is related to war, political turmoil and difficult social situations; things that I have experienced firsthand, and have in turn influenced me,” Arias says. One of his war-inspired paintings, is called "The Hungry Girls"
Arias resides in Cairo nowadays. Arias says, “I decided to come visit Egypt for a month, see the place and decide if it is a good art deal or not. I was trying to make a smart decision, and not merely follow my heart because my soon to-be wife was moving to Egypt. Eventually I found out from a cruise to Luxor and Aswan, how inspiring the history and culture could be, and that opened a lot of opportunities for me.”
Arias is now preparing a collection of new paintings – largely inspired by his country- to display them at an exhibition in Cairo. He is also preparing a huge project in Zabaleen area, where he is “going to cover a 7 story building in recycled material, and paint over them. It is a new and huge challenge because I am afraid of heights, but I am going to do it anyway. I will be strapped with a safety line so hopefully nothing bad will happen.”
His greatest childhood supporter has always been his Colombian English teacher. When the teacher discovered his talent, Camilo says, he told him that he would have to study, practice painting and prepare himself for a much bigger world, a world beyond the limitations of war. Also, Camilo saya that his grandmother Carmen Garcia and aunt Beatriz Arias "have been my backbone and the greatest motivation I got! As a child, I didn't have parents to take care of me, but thanks to my grandma and my aunt, I could survive and study to become in who I am right now."
His first step towards this bigger world was his move to Panama, where he was challenged with the passionless job of bartending. Although it introduced him to the city and allowed him to live comfortably and enjoy life, it never made him content. He says, “I was working as an audiovisual professional in TV in Colombia, and I had very good life, but I wanted to do something meaningful. I didn’t quit all of that to end up as bartender for the rest of my life.”
One day, he painted the living room walls of the apartment he lived in. His Venezuelan roommates shared the picture and that was when he got his big break.
Growing up, Arias’ paintings were inspired by a variety of cultures, experiences and histories from the countries he visited: Egypt, Panama, France, Netherlands, and Spain.“Every brush stroke leads to the next because there is this spiritual connection between me and the paintings. Every time I talk with my paintings, there is something new to learn about them. It is exactly like raising a child.”
The children Arias raises grow up with his experiences. Salvador Dali’s, Van Gogh’s and Monet’s painting styles appear very much in Arias’ work. Living in Egypt has also very much influenced his paintings; specifically, Ancient Egyptian and Islamic architecture have influenced his work.
Arias’ style has always been about blending several themes, elements, and colours seamlessly into each of his paintings. The capacity to unite these eclectic elements is associated with a specific message that Arias is always trying to send through his artwork: “If we can coexist with our differences, life will be much richer and there will always be an opportunity to grow.”
“War taught me to live the moment all the time because the only certainty we have been offered in this life, is not knowing when it is going to end. Hence, I try to be happy, passionate, and committed about what I do every day.”
By Adel M. Fakhry