Accidental Artist: The Search For Meaning

I meet Chilean artist Jose Romussi at his amazing temporary home and studio in Kreuzberg amongst mismatched furniture, reels of cotton and dilapidated teepees. It feels like a childhood dream, Romussi adding to this illusion by hurrying around excitedly like a playful imp, small pieces of glitter shimmering in his beard.

Unlikely Beginnings

Originally studying landscape design in Chile, Romussi became an artist both by accident and necessity after working in his studied field and finding no satisfaction. He explains how “One of my friends in America asked me if I was an artist, so I said 'Yes'! They asked to see some of my stuff so I went away for a couple of days and started some collages with things like pandas and photographs of my mother. I showed them and they liked it and asked if I wanted to collaborate with them; it went from there.”

Artist Jose Romussi, in his Berlin studio, with one of his sculptures. Photo: Chris Phillips

What started as such an impromptu beginning soon started to snowball, and within a few weeks Romussi was already garnering recognition. This was strange for him because “After one month doing work I was doing better than my friends who had been studying art for years.” These friends he refers to often worked with paint, a medium which Romussi enjoys but didn't feel as though he excelled in. Instead the young artist took to experimenting with different materials and collecting images from flea markets in his hometown and creating a scrapbook from his finds.

Beautiful embroidery from Romussi's "Dancer" Series. Image courtesy of the artist

Amongst these images was the beginning of his now infamous “Dancer” series, a collection of old found photographs embroidered with colorful threads, alluding to movement and breathing a new life into the old images. He says of these, “I didn't plan to do this, this series of dancers, but lots of people liked them and so I carried on the series and started actively looking for suitable images.” For me their popularity is not surprising, the delicate aesthetic the series portrays now know worldwide.  

Romussi's work is more than just ballerinas however, and his current show is eager to prove this. In addition to some of the "Dancer" series are a range of new collages, embroidery-based pieces focusing on identity through the use of vintage maps, and also sculptures made of beautiful calligraphy. The scupltures on display are made up of unusual materials including pins, skateboards and wood.  

Artist Jose Romussi working. Photo: Chris Phillips

There are also a number of new works based on the photographs of Rocio Aguirre featuring a collection of photographs which inspired the artist to continue to experiment with his sewing machine. He explains that this artistic technique was picked up by chance: “everyone thinks my mother or my grandmother taught me to sew but they didn't, I taught myself.” With a little help from his friends, he adopted this as his trademark technique.

Based in Berlin

Despite drawing inspiration from travelling around the world, particularly being inspired by the street art in London and his gallery visits in New York, it was Berlin which made Romussi think “Wow, I'm so happy here!” Like so many other young creatives he felt that the city was a more comfortable place to live in than his hometown in Chile where he didn't fit in, his father confused by his untraditional sensibility.

Article by Marie J Burrows