Tell us about your journey
I studied economics in Valencia. I always wanted to be an artist. But I was the first one to go to university in my family, so I felt I needed to get a proper job; a lawyer, doctor something like that. So I felt trapped. Although I do love economics and how it affects us. Then, when I came to England, I was always drawn to museums and galleries so I wanted to be part of the action.
When I moved to Reading I was given a chunk of money when I was made redundant by my company. So I set up a group of artists where there was no cultural life whatsoever. But I have not been through the fine arts school - I did not have the structure of the critiques, so to meet other artists I had to go through the yellow pages. I was very lucky, I met two artists. I called one artist up out of the blue, and created a small circle. In particular I met the ‘it’ girl of Reading. I met a connector. So she managed to get empty shop spaces to exhibit and we would invite other artists to exhibit us.
How much time had you spent making art before you created your group?
I would say for about a year. Then I jumped into the exhibiting. Then I had a meeting with the founder of Art Quest. I complained I had not been given many opportunities. He said to me, if no one gives you an opportunity, you have to create your own. So that was a moment of realisation. You don’t apply for jobs, you create them. It was the best piece of advice.
When you were in Reading, was there any fear about whether you were making the right decision?
Always, always. I always have a chip on my shoulder that I don't have the fine art degree. It is not like I have not been involved in some really well curated shows. Even at that level and being treated as an equal I still have a chip on my shoulder. My theory is that you need good teachers. But it is better to have no teacher than a bad teacher. Lots of teachers are failed artists that teach how to fail. But at the same time I know a lot of amazing teachers that allow students to get to the next stage.
Is there anything that makes you different?
I think the metal work is very distinctive. People think I am a sculptor - but I am a painter. I use metal as a blank canvas. A painter usually uses a flat surface so you create the illusions through tones - the shadow and the light. But I love the contrast between the rusty metal and the oil. And the shadow is important. Pollock was the other way around. He was a painter but he was quite a 3 dimensional.
More on Lorenzo: http://www.lorenzobelenguer.com
How has your work developed since the early days?
In the early days, it was abstract, traditional paintings. I realised I could make pretty things, but never anything ground breaking. I wanted to find my trademark. So I moved on to metals and the drawings.
As you did not go to art school, what is your best advice to emerging artists?
I think an artist should throw away everything once in their life. All they have created. It is very re-juvinating. The paintings I used to do were like the sketch books. But then I realised I am not going to get any further with that so I threw them away. It's so liberating. The more you are able to liberate yourself as an artist the better you are. The best artists are the free ones, Picasso, Turner… they are heading away but they are liberating. They are trail blazers. Free ones are the ones that do things which are totally novel.
Who are your main influences?
Minimalists… Mondrian, Matisse. And for drawings.. Egon Schiele. Because he is the best drawer there is. He knew how to dismantle the human psyche. In as early as the 19th Century, he drew lesbians, or himself as a sexual object. Now we still objectify women, but for me he saw beauty in prostitutes and in the outcasts of society and beauty in the unexpected.
What is the purpose of art in society?
We live in a society that is overwhelmed. Possessions, capitalism. We lose ourselves.
I don't think artists lead society, I think society leads everyone else. I think society is a quick animal. Especially now with technology, Brexit, Trump- completely unexpected. Some artists have the capacity to spot it earlier than anybody else.
What is your relationship to branding?
To be a successful artist, for me I want to sell. To be able to sell for a decent price, you need to become a brand. That is the price. It has been seen with bad connotations. But I don't think it has to. I like some work by Damien Hirst but sometimes he is seen as a huge brand… like Jeff Koons.
I want to become a brand but it is not my main aim. You need to be harsh on yourself so you produce original, authentic work.
What are some mistakes that happen right now in the art world?
One of the biggest, most unpleasant things is that every rich person has to have an art collection even if they don't like art.
In the 60s there were educated collectors who brought from abstract expressionist painters - thanks to them, abstract expressionism did really well. The problem now is that there are less early collectors than there used to be who buy from artists who are not branded yet.
New collectors these days may not even talk to the gallery or even attend the open weekend. But in the 60s in New York, people wanted to get to know Pollock or Rothko. I am not sure it is happening now.