By Jaana Yli-Kauhaluoma
Who is Diego?
Diego Estebo, best known as Tebo, is an artist born in 1982 in Barcelona, Spain. He studied Graphic design in Vigo and illustration in Coruña in Galicia. After graduating he moved to Madrid where he worked in various part-time jobs such as digital press and conducting surveys. After two years he decided to open his own web and graphic design studio with two of his friends.
Still it was art that had always been his passion and illustrating was the way Tebo spent his free time outside his regular working hours. As an illustrator he also carried out many projects for instance for record companies, festivals and magazines. Having never been completely satisfied with his day jobs and feeling they were rather just for earning money he finally, after four years of working in his studio, decided to take a step forward following his dream to become a full-time illustrator. Unfortunately things did not go quite as planned and after two months he was offered a job as an online marketer and in order to make a living, he accepted the offer. Once again he was stuck in a job he felt was lacking creativity. However, Tebo seized his window of opportunity when he heard that the company he was working for was closing down.
“I started to plan other things, not just searching for another job. I did not want part of my creativity to be stuck in a job I didn’t like.”
Codes – beginning of a journey
Tebo made the change he had longed for and started working in an art residence, Alfara Studio in Salamanca, Spain. There he began an art project called “Codes” in order to create a portfolio to present when applying to other art residencies. The idea of the project was to go to different places in different countries and search for local things that caught his attention, for example writings, objects and places, and then create art inspired by the things he had found.
The first location his project took him to, was another small town in Spain where he found his inspiration in the landscapes. In his own words, he used “the language” of flags to create flag-like landscape inspired artwork with a printmaking technique. The first part of the project was born, carrying the name “Códigos_Encina de San Silvestre”.
Towards the unknown
The second part of the project ended up taking him a lot further, all the way to India to the Uttarayan Art Residence. In India he immediately paid attention to the writings of Hindi and Gujarati and the styles of the alphabets. What also caught his attention were the posters on the streets and the labels in local shops with their simple, humble, and easily identifiable style. In his artwork he wanted to combine these styles and details.
“We often ignore other cultures, travel too fast and miss a lot of small things. The idea behind my art may not be understood by others without explanations but it doesn’t matter. It is good that people can make their own assumptions and have their own feelings about the artwork. It is good not to give too much information for the viewer.”
He based his artwork on the writings of Hindi, which he combined with the style of the posters, and Gujarati, which was combined with the style of the labels seen in local shops. As a result there were two art series: an acrylic collage “A Quick View from a Tuk Tuk” and a silk print “Zoom in Gujarat”.
From the busy streets of India into the heart of South America
The second part of the project had come to an end, but the project itself was not yet finished. After recovering for two weeks back home in Spain it was time to leave again. The next art residency was offered by Sustainable Bolivia in the city of Cochabamba.
“Always when I go to a place I don’t know what I will be working with. In Bolivia the public buses and Micro’s caught my attention immediately. I wanted to start working on that and I soon realized it was a perfect idea. They are a local icon. If you see a Micro you know you are in Cochabamba. That is what I want from my artwork.“
Originally the whole Code project had served as an excuse to travel to different art residencies but soon it became an important part of Tebo and his work. The explicit theme of the project Codes allows him to know what to do and where to aim with his artwork.
“I like to make signals. If you are not from Cochabamba and don’t know what Micro’s are you might like the artwork or not. But the thing is that you don’t understand it if you have never seen the Micros or the other origins of my work. There is encrypted information in the artwork.”
In Cochabamba it has not only been about the Códigos_Cochabamba project. Working on a project requires a lot of energy. Tebo says, taking time to do something totally different makes it easier to concentrate and reenergizes you. In Cochabamba that meant working on an additional art project at the Universidad Mayor de San Simón Architecture faculty in the EDAV (Estudio de Artes Visuales) studio, creating a more inspirational learning space for the students.
For Tebo the reason for choosing the locations of his art residencies has never been about where he wants to travel but rather where it is the best to practice his art. Bolivia was no exception. He searched for many residencies in South America however most were too expensive or otherwise unsuitable. Tebo chose the Sustainable Bolivia art residency because he had heard good reviews from his friend who had completed a residency with Sustainable Bolivia and Bolivia was also economically more attractive.
“I wrote an email to Sustainable Bolivia proposing my project and attached my CV. They said the project sounded interesting and told me I could start in October. It was perfect, as I was leaving India in September. I spent two weeks in Spain recovering from my travels and on the 28th of September, I arrived in Bolivia. Staff kept in contact with me while I was in India. It was really nice to feel that I they were expecting me at the next residency.”
To date Tebo has spent a month in Cochabamba and feels comfortable in the city. Especially in comparison to the energy consuming cities of India, Cochabamba has felt really quiet and calm. He enjoys how people have a special kind of relationship with the city and how people interact with each other. The life on the streets is one of the city’s best features. There are people and vendors everywhere on the streets, for example you can just ask for a fresh orange juice and someone makes that for you, he mentions. The constant interaction between people has felt unique. Also the Cancha, a huge outdoor market, has stolen a part of his heart.
“I love and hate the Cancha. When I go there for a walk I might buy for example some cheap clothes but if I ever want to go back to the same place it is impossible. I have a really bad sense of direction. But in the Cancha I don’t mind getting lost. And I love that.”
Still, Tebo feels the Micro’s are the coolest thing in the city. Tebo’s wish is that if the Micros are ever replaced that at least their easily identifiable style should be maintained as it is a really important part of the city’s identity.
Living and working at Sustainable Bolivia main building has also felt enjoyable. Though it is a communal residence where there is always someone coming and going it has not felt overwhelming. Living in a place with people from many different countries has helped Tebo to improve his language skills and furthermore he has been able to offer assistance for those trying to learn Spanish. In addition he has enjoyed the opportunity to learn from different cultures.
“This kind of place gets you out of your routine. It is more dynamic here. People are really nice and staff and volunteers are always creating different activities which makes it easier to get to know other people.”
Tebo’s art residency in Cochabamba will end in December 2016, however the plan is to continue the project maybe for two more years:
“It would be nice to go to at least three more locations. Maybe another place in Europe. Also North America could be really interesting. I never planned to go to India or Bolivia even though I like to travel. This is traveling for my art. I have no idea what will happen next year which is exciting and scary at the same time.”
Tebo will complete the Codes_Cochabamba project with an exhibition held in the museum la Casona Santivañez on the 16th of December. After that the future lies open. With an exceptional talent and an eye for details, only the sky is the limit for “Codes”. With so many places to explore in the world we cannot but eagerly wait to see what hidden beauty he will reveal to us in the future.
Are you passionate about art and working in an international environment? Find out more about Sustainable Bolivia Art Residency and how to apply at https://sustainablebolivia.org/art_residency.html and for any further questions please email firstname.lastname@example.org.