In the work of Billy Soto (Guayaquil, Ecuador, 1983), theoretical research and the intersection of graphic design and painting converge into one central concern: What is timeless in visual communication? What are the keys that activate our systems of perception and endow art with the power to move us? In that pursuit, he has delved into both the tubular seals of Jama-Coaque culture as well as into those figures in art history universally recognized as icons: the Discus Thrower of Classical Greece, Leonardo’s Gioconda, or Mickey Mouse. His study and understanding of the principles of Gestalt theory as to how we read and mentally complete images determine his parallel understanding that the threshold of our aesthetic and of our perception is now fully urban.
From these concepts, explored in his parallel work as an academic, are derived diverse lines of creation that share aspects such as the repetition of shapes that make up new visual systems through various strategies, for example accumulation or dispersion. The known, the identifiable, that which is already part of collective imaginations are subject to what Soto calls the contemporary “refiguration” – a mode of appropriating images assimilated by the culture, that in addition to evoking the images themselves, transforms them, changing the way we see them by making what is already known into something new.
In his paintings of 2007-2014, abstraction is an initial semblance that from the familiar leads us to estrangement and that demands a halt to the rapid pace with which we look without seeing. Thus, in “Asentamientos” (Settlements), a circular shape, seemingly abstract, is a realistic composition representing a grouping of houses captured from an aerial perspective. Similarly, in other geometric compositions, we end up discovering groups of serial objects found to be old antenna televisions. He also achieves the feeling of alienation by superimposing figures from diverse categories and media: an engraving of a flock of sheep is inserted into a hyper realistic painting based on a photo of an underground tunnel in Guayaquil, or a set of brushes, in the end, forms a crown of thorns. These types of inserts lead to the extrapolation of the levels of readings towards new systems of communication and to the creation of unexpected connecting lines, both visually and mentally.
In similar fashion, Soto expands the possibilities of painting with his “Street Art” interventions done beginning in 2007. That year, he painted “Paso cebra” (Crosswalks – literally, Zebra Step), with a series of moving silhouettes on street pavements that replace not only the normal pedestrian crossings (zebras) on streets, but also the placement of real silhouettes of pedestrians which have a perpendicular relationship to the ground. These shifts in perception cause effects of alertness on the onlooker. In turn, at Museo Antropológico y de Arte Contemporáneo (The Anthropological and Modern Art Museum), MAAC, in Guayaquil, with the “Identidad única” (Unique Identity) project of 2014, he created a “refiguration” based on the tubular seals of the Jama-Coaque indigenous culture. By digging into the ancestral elements of geometric composition used by pre-Hispanic cultures, Billy Soto developed a contemporary graphics proposal. The project was part of an investigation called for by the Sistema de investigación y desarrollo de la Universidad Catolica de Santiago in Guayaquil (Santiago Catholic University’s System of Research and Development).
Since 2015, his widening inquiry into the nature of geometric graphics has led him to painting polyptychs which incorporate the same process of constructing the optical illusion that causes us to believe in the three-dimensionality of painted forms. We are, therefore, in the face of a work that fuses diverse time periods and media and that explores the multiple possibilities of communication systems and of visual perception.
Adriana Herrera PhD
Translated by Antonio Reyes Bejarán
2013 – Master Degree in Art Research and Creation. Complutensian University of Madrid. Madrid, Spain.
2011 – Bachelor´s of Arts in Graphic and advertising design. “Escuela Superior Politécnica del Litoral” (ESPOL). Guayaquil, Ecuador.
2006 – Associate´s Degree in Graphic and advertising design. “Escuela Superior Politécnica del Litoral” (ESPOL). Guayaquil, Ecuador.
2007 – “Billy Soto, made in ESPOL, made in Ecuador”. Experimental Gallery of ESPOL. Guayaquil, Ecuador.
2005 – “Subjective Approaches”. “El Mirador” Gallery at the Catholic University of Guayaquil. Guayaquil, Ecuador.
2009 – “Overflows”. The Vanguard Group. Contemporary Art Hall of the Municipal Museum of Guayaquil. Guayaquil, Ecuador.
2008 – “Painless delivery”. The Vanguard Group. “El Mirador” Gallery at the Catholic University of Guayaquil. Guayaquil, Ecuador.
2005 – “Crema Criolla”. David Pérez Mac Collum Gallery. Guayaquil, Ecuador.
2004 – “Talents of the new generation. Part Two”. Culture House of Guayas. Guayaquil, Ecuador.
2004 – “Amount”. Municipal Museum of Guayaquil. Guayaquil, Ecuador.
2004 – “Es-Cupido II”. University House at University of Guayaquil. Guayaquil, Ecuador.
2003 – “Talents of the new generation”. Municipal Museum of Guayaquil. Guayaquil, Ecuador.
2003 – “Es-cupido”. Culture House of Guayas. Guayaquil, Ecuador.
HONORS AND AWARDS
2012 – Member of the Jury. Julio Hall. Foundation of Guayaquil. Guayaquil, Ecuador.
2011 – Member of the Jury. Category: Alternative Arts. XI Open Air Arts Festival (FAAL). Guayaquil, Ecuador.
2010 – Third place with the art work “People see, what they want to see”. X Open Air Arts Festival (FAAL). Guayaquil, Ecuador.
2009 – Ecuador’s representative. The Vanguard Group with the art work: “Reminiscences”. X International Art Biennial of Cuenca. Cuenca, Ecuador.
2007 – Honorific Mention with the art work: “Filters, resistors and capacitors”. VII Open Air Arts Festival (FAAL). Guayaquil, Ecuador.
2005 – First Place with the art work: “Sheep in Guayaquil”. VI Open Air Arts Festival (FAAL). Guayaquil, Ecuador.
2003 – First Place with the art work: “People see, what they want to see”. IV Open Air Arts Festival (FAAL). Guayaquil, Ecuador.