graffitimundo Interviews Poeta Ahead of His New Exhibition

We spoke with Christian Riffel aka Poeta ahead of his exhibition “A Ver Sólo se Aprende Mirando” (“You Only Learn to See by Looking”) which opens at UNION Gallery on Friday July 29th.  The exhibition features more than 15 original artworks, including canvases, drawings, sculptures and a video installation, and is curated by Pablo Frezza, graduate of art administration and curatorship who specializes in  geometric and concrete art of Argentina.

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The artist in his studio

Art came about by itself, when I realised it was the alchemist that helped me to deal with and overcome situations that I went through in my adolescence.  It was with graffiti that I developed my passion for painting. I started going out with friends in 1999 in Villa Ballester, in Buenos Aires province. At that time there were loads of walls, and there were very few people out painting. After a while I met some artists (Roma & Debo), with whom I painted for several years.


I think the personality of an artist is shaped by the difficulties that arise throughout the creative process. The process is like any other; where you focus on acquiring the discipline to work and on developing self-confidence, while you spend as much time as possible with the tool you’ve chosen.

I wanted to start composing a work that expressed my feelings, without the use of a figure or object, and that was how I decided to explore form, colour, and geometry. I had been painting human figures and objects for ten years when my work began to mutate into amorphous works. At the time I felt it was wise to start developing a plastic language, and that in turn demanded an intellectual practice. Since then it has evolved from the plastic to the theoretical.

“Magnánimo”, Acrylic on canvas, 120 x 140cm, 2014

I refine my ideas every day, the materiality changes, its opacity or  light and its beautiful shadows appear. I have been painting geometric works for six years and the evolution I have experienced in the process is really rewarding. Right now I’m interested in bringing all of my ideas together and drawing on multiple processes in the creation of my works.

Working with sculpture has helped me to develop my artistic language. My work, although flat, uses depth and perspective that simulate a spatial effect, or a construction. Sculpture has given me new ways in which to examine my work. It inspires me to keep moving, increase my knowledge and tools and to delve into things I’m unfamiliar with in order to reinvent myself.

Tirar de la Cuerdad, Victoria Tolomei
Sculpture from the exhibition “Tirar de la Cuerda”, at the Fundación ICBC, Photo: Victoria Tolomei

Being an artist who paints in the street and in the studio creates a symbiosis where one situation feeds into the other. Sometimes things that happen in the street inspire me in my studio work, or I discover something that I have applied in the studio that I can use in a mural. The two processes are different in terms of format, and you can develop more delicate works or use other mediums and techniques in the studio, for example.

I see a bright future for urban art in Buenos Aires because of the vocation and quality of artists that Argentina has. Hopefully the contemporary art circuit, both the institutions and the galleries, will stop disregarding urban artists, as I think this is the change which is lacking in the scene.


In the exhibition “You Only Learn to See by Looking”, I’m applying new artistic languages that I’ve developed over the last few years.  In this collection I’ve utilized diverse techniques in the creation of the pieces. I’m inspired by a problem I see; of how people seem to look but don’t really see.   It seems to me that we see and become familiar with one another through a sort of screen, which dictates to us what we see.  I’m interested in having people observe and experience these new pieces in a deliberate and active way.  I’d like them to be sensitized by the show and to question how they see or what they look at on a daily basis.


Images courtesy of the artist