September 12, 2017

Handling Hedonism

What drives you? What are you chasing? When you look at yourself in the mirror, do you like the person staring back at you? Costa Rican contemporary artist John Paul Fauves hopes to ask you these questions in his new show “Loss of Innocence,” opening at HOMME Gallery in Los Angeles on Sept. 21.

The concept behind his show originated from the birth of his son and his realization that everyone is born with a certain innocence, an unflawed universal pureness. Fauves plays on how our desires in life start to change us as we grow; turning us into pleasure-driven people on the exterior who are losing that innocence. In this collection of paintings, Fauves uses the heads of icons, such as Mickey Mouse, that are universally seen as an example of that childlike innocence, and places them on people in situations where there is none scenarios that make some feel uncomfortable to try and express the essence of this loss of innocence that people have in today’s world. Fauves uses the term hedonism to describe it in its entirety:

“It’s when you are addicted to pleasure, whatever that pleasure may be. You love it so much that you don’t care about the consequences … you lose control over yourself because you want something so much.”

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He explains how these pleasures differ from person to person, whether it be lust, money or power; and how these desires are often sickening and can drive us to become people we never wanted to be.

“Maybe you desire sex and you see this attractive woman or man, but you are married with a family & kids and are still willing to throw it all away just for that pleasure; or you want to get a project or promotion at work so much that you are willing to go over your best friend to just get it just to get the money. And this goes on and on with any kind of desire. When your desire becomes better or bigger than yourself, that’s when you have a hedonistic style of living, and I believe that most of us are hedonists in our own way,” he explains.

Fauves wants his work to cause people to question what their desires are, how much value they actually have and what they will do to attain them.

“I want to ask how much energy do you put into your desires. Do your desires govern you or do you govern your desires? Is your happiness related to something external or is your happiness related to your own self? Are you happy with who you truly are?” he explains. “These are the things that I try and manifest through my art. I hope that through my paintings I can bring some awareness to the spectator to make them think about what exactly is their life’s purpose; because we are all going to die, and sometimes we put too much energy into things that are really vain and that we aren’t going to be able to take anywhere in the end.”

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Fauves believes that we are all portraying a somewhat false self to the world; that we are all hiding who we really are to some degree. Alongside these paintings, he incorporates different masks that he created to help dive deeper into this idea and make it more personal; to really make people look inside themselves. “The masks take on an important role in the whole concept; they are actually an extension of the paintings and make the paintings come alive.”

The masks are used to address one’s insecurities, but also to help people break away from who they portray themselves as to the public; they help to break down the layers that people have been building around themselves since they were young and when they first started losing their innocence. When a person has a mask on, their identity is hidden from the outside world and they can then become a new person; whomever they wish.

“I was in London last year and didn’t know anyone. I put a mask on and my personality started to change. I danced, I didn’t care. My friend told me that when I put the mask on, I kind of converted and became something different than my usual self; that’s where I got this idea of the masks being used as a tool for people. When you put the mask on, you don’t judge because you don’t know who is who.”

The show on Sept. 21 will consist of a limited number of masks that are related to the paintings. Fauves is also planning to have another event at HOMME in February where everyone attending will be given a paper mask. “I want people to come to the event and start looking inside of themselves.”

When visitors attend “Loss of Innocence,” Fauves wants people to peel back these layers and masks that they have created, and to look to find their innocence again.

“I believe that once you start working toward happiness within you, and start looking for the things inside of you instead of the external things, that is when you start to regain your innocence. Innocence is never lost forever, it will always be inside of you. The thing is as we grow up and go through life experiences, it is our responsibility to go back and get it.”

Fauves doesn’t plan on continuing this mask concept for too much longer. In fact, he plans to be done with it after the “Mask On” event in February. After that, he will be working on a new concept titled “Holy Exit” that will touch on death and life, and the fear of death.

“Loss of Innocence” will be at HOMME Gallery in Los Angeles on Thursday, Sept. 21, with doors opening at 7:00 p.m.

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Published by: Grady Olson