Artist explores landscapes closer to self

Be it as an architect, artist or graphic designer, Edgar Yanez Zapata finds himself focused on the relationship between art and urban space, or what he calls “laboratories for the arts.”

While the physical location can’t help but affect his work, it’s the ‘inner self’ that makes his work come alive.

“That’s the idea behind why I call this show Inner Thresholds,” said Yanez Zapata, who is in his third year of pursuing his PhD in Hispanic Studies in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures at Western. His work is now on display at the Spencer Gallery in the D. B. Weldon Library until the end of the month.

“Inner landscapes are those landscapes that are part of your mind. I can be on Dundas Street and I can paint it there. Or I can be in The States or South Africa, but I still have Dundas Street with me,” he said. “I can paint Dundas Street in South Africa, or paint South Africa in Venezuela. Those are not Canadian or Venezuelan landscapes anymore, they are my landscapes, it’s the memory and the place in which you put all the fragments of history you’ve experienced; it is because you are also part of the history of the city you are in. When you paint you try to express things that are in your mind.”

Born and raised in San Fernando de Apure, Venezuela, Yanez Zapata knew in his teens he was attracted to the world of art and architecture.

“My dad shared with me the world of architecture and I simply began drawing cities and buildings with a lot of detail,” said Yanez Zapata, whose favourite artists include Hieronymus Bosch and Rembrandt. “When you mix in all the things – your culture, your background, your expectations, your education – everything is there in the painting in some way.”


Pictured is Umbral de fe II (Threshold of faith II), part of the Inner Thresholds series now on display at the Spencer Gallery at the D. B. Weldon Library.

He would graduate as an architect in 1986 from Central University in Caracas, Venezuela, and begin teaching courses at Jose Maria Vargas University in Caracas. Later, Yanez Zapata’s skills would take him to the School of Art and Graphic Design of the Faculty of Art at Universidad de Los Andes and the School of Architecture of Simon Bolivar University, where he would be appointed head of the Department of Visual Arts and, a year later, head of the Department of Graphic Design.

Add to that his passion for foreign languages, which led him to study Brazilian Portuguese and English, Yanez Zapata now teaches Portguese at Western.

“It’s been a great experience; it’s one of the things I’ve liked the most about being here, the teaching,” he said. During his masters in fine arts work, Yanez Zapata also taught at Northern Illinois University.

He chose Western’s Faculty of Arts & Humanities, which he said is a “pretty open program. You need to work hard, but they take you seriously if they see you have promise.”

Since 2010, he has lived in London with his wife, Sonia Bravo, and two children, Maria and Daniel. The city continues to impress him with its diversity.

“You can be on the bus and hear 10 different languages. And having all the students from so many different backgrounds to teach has been a really great experience. In The States, it is just Americans in the class. But here, you have Africans, Asians,” he said. “It really adds to the experience.”

His studies at Western are allowing him to research the connections between cities, people and communications, in particular, Latin American cities.

“It’s not just research about language, but how language can, in terms of communications, help to develop cities, whether physically or in the mind,” he said.

After two years in Canada, the country has even found its way into his work.

“You’re never the same artist. You are always adding things to your experience. It’s also about improving, the more you incorporate things into your experiences the more you are actually improving,” Yanez Zapata said. “Maybe not so much in a technical way, but in your creativity. The more things you bring to your experiences as an artist, it will show improvement in your work.”