Blending traditional oil techniques with digital tools, Anibal Argañaraz is a leading figure in the digital expressionism style. The Argentine artist sat down with Georgie Miller to explore the layers of meaning in his art and why NFTs are a revolution that changed his life.
“NFTs revolutionised art. They're truly the artistic avant-garde of this century. In my particular case, they changed my life.” Anibal Argañaraz initially struggled to navigate the eclectic web3 ecosystem, experimenting with a range of styles and platforms to find the right community to support his craft. But with encouragement from other artists who motivated him to keep creating, the Argentine painter sold his first piece in autumn 2021.
The catalyst sale was ‘Phone IV’, a quaint, old-world iteration of a mobile phone; a symbol of modern communication technology, forged in his signature expressionist style of sweeping brush strokes and vibrant colours, blending digital and traditional oil painting. Like many artists jumping into the space last year, the unfamiliarity of the territory was outweighed by vast possibilities and the promise of expanding artistic talents all participating in a new distribution channel. For Anibal, an artist already proven at the intersection of traditional art and digital technology, web3 allowed him to claim greater control over his style and forge new collaborations with artists from across the world.
“I aim at topics that move or shake the viewer.”
— Anibal Argañaraz
Anibal began painting when he was fourteen, soon gravitating to an abstract and gestural expressionist style, drawing lessons from artists like Willem de Kooning and Hans Hartung. He became known for his unique embracing of the classic style, creating large-scale oil paintings with emotional layers and moving textures, accumulating glowing accomplishments and several solo exhibitions in Argentina.
In 2003, when smart contracts were only spoken about by academics and cryptographers, Anibal was already immersing himself in the concept of digital paintings and was using it to enhance the composition of his physical work. An artform he dubs “digital expressionism”, Anibal has contributed to defining the genre as an advocate over the years, blending his “pictorial style” with digital techniques.
Like the juxtaposition of old and new in his work, the Tezos artist is a case study on how traditional artists can foray into NFTs, crossing the gap with his authentic approach to a new community, whilst paying homage to the classic art of the past. It's a change that only a few have successfully embraced. “My challenge is to be able to move freely through the digital environment in the same way that I do on canvas,” he suggests. In doing so, Anibal seamlessly brings a storied style to an innovative, forward-looking space.
Anibal’s large collection of works all generate a dialogue with the viewer, playing with precise colour choices and vantage points that arouse intrigue. “I aim at topics that move or shake the viewer. I show everyday situations with something extraordinary,” he explains. His portraits all carry a strong sense of motion, with palpable feelings that, as the viewer, you are witnessing a fleeting moment in time.
Anibal portrays the mundane moments of human life, like friends sipping cocktails at a nightclub in ‘Ornette playing lullaby to Lou’, a girl using a telephone in ‘Morning Phone Call’, or, as in ‘Pacific sunset of blue seas and yellow skies’, a family swimming in the ocean. While the moments appear ordinary at first glance, the abstract brush strokes and sharp contrasting colours create a sense of action.
Anibal’s other collaborations have seen him partner with like-minded artists in web3. The collection Concordances is a compelling offshoot of his signature digital expressionist style, in conjunction with the monochromatic photographs of the Latvian-born Roman Drits. After exploring a gloomier style of painting, portraying the mysteries of the dark with his own Liquid Night series, Anibal felt a connection to Roman’s dimly lit, mysterious trademark, and reached out about a collaboration. The result is ten works of art encapsulating Drit’s sultry photographs with Anibal’s bold brush strokes layered on top in poetry.
Indeed, his expressionist iteration of a simple life scene obscures a sharper political edge. His ‘Pacific sunset’ piece is a subtle reference to the war in Ukraine, contrasting the peace of summer with the violence of Russia’s February invasion. “I identify myself with the work of photojournalists. From my early paintings, I show the power games that take place in political circles; the corruption and the social consequences they provoke.”
If ‘Pacific sunset’ is subtle, 2001 Odyssey - Chronicles of Two Glances, is anything but. The collection is a commentary of the Argentinazo, the Argentine political crisis of December 2001, and was debuted last year on the crisis’ twentieth anniversary. Minted with the photojournalist Martin Acosta, the collection of side-by-side works reflects Acosta’s photographs in Anibal’s paintings, illustrating the strife caused by the government’s attempted ban on citizens withdrawing cash from their bank accounts.
Anibal is part of a wave of artists who, having synthesised traditional and digital techniques, are now moving away from what he calls “the stagnant structure of the art market before NFTs”. From the endless possibilities to develop his artistic style, to a welcoming community built on supporting others, the web3 art world is one that Anibal is proud to embrace. “The constant communication that exists between collectors and artists is new and transcendental. This was not so common in the ‘old’ art market.”
With many new projects and further collaborations on the horizon, Anibal is only at the beginning of his journey in the NFT space. “This new way of living art is here to stay; it is beyond the fluctuations of cryptocurrencies,” he continues. “The art community lives and feels this in a concrete way. The artist develops his art, shares it, gets paid, makes collaborations, and does not need intermediaries to start seeing fruits. That's why I say that all this represents a revolution and will continue to grow.”
“The artist develops his art, shares it, gets paid, makes collaborations, and does not need intermediaries to start seeing fruits.”
— Anibal Argañaraz
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