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Interview: Artist Yis ‘’Noségo’’ Goodwin

The global phenomenon is headed back to Paradigm for his latest body of work, ‘Died a Few Times to Live This Once’

Photo special to South Philly Review

Yis Goodwin, better known as Noségo, is a Philly-based contemporary artist whose psychedelic and harlequin creations have been seen in exhibitions and public art across the world. Famed for his dreamlike masterpieces which often feature ambiguous human-animal hybrids, Noségo is heading back to Philadelphia after three years. The international figure is returning to his roots at Paradigm Studio and Gallery where he’ll present some of his most personal work yet titled “Died a Few Times to Live This Once.”

The South Philly Review caught up with Noségo to discuss his recent creative influences and how it feels to return home.

1) Your scope of work, a fusion of fine art with a modern flair, is known for its whimsical, dreamlike elements with subjects of “boundlessness.” These images seems to be present in all of your projects, yet each piece is very distinct. Throughout your career, how have your influences evolved, but stayed constant?

Over time, it’s evolved in both subject matter and also technical skill. I paint every day. I’m in the studio or at home working. If you practice something every day for years, you’re bound to technically grow, and I’ve seen that across my own work. Also, over time, you change and grow as a person, regardless if you’re an artist or not. By allowing myself to create new worlds and new characters, it also allows myself to grow and explore and play with subject matter. My worlds and the characters that live in them will then also grow and evolve.

2) Colorful, cartoon-like creatures are also a recurring theme in your work. Most of them seem to be some kind of hybrid being — a synthesis of animals and humans. What do these peculiar creatures represent? How do they embody both human and animal elements beyond the physicality? Will we see these creatures in your latest work at Paradigm Gallery and Studio? If so, what makes them stand out from your other original creatures?

These elements are what I refer to as part of my “Seed Series,” which were characters I developed during the early stages of my career and have continued throughout my work. You could consider them to be little representations of emotions, without getting too specific. They’re painted very minimally, which I guess gives them what some would consider a cartoon-like quality, but inside when they open their mouths, you see highly detailed landscapes. So, while they have a chill, zen-like exterior, there’s a whole other world happening inside.

3) This is the first time you’ll be back showcasing in Philadelphia after three years, and people are pretty excited. From Mexico to Germany, your work has been showcased in exhibitions and public spaces across the world. Why is it particularly special to exhibit your work here in Philly?

I’m from Philly. I grew up here, I studied here, I live here, I grew up skating here and I work here. My family is here, both blood-related family members and art-family, like Paradigm. It’s only natural I show this important body of work in a city that has remained a constant my entire life — simply put.

4) Tell me a little bit about the genesis behind the Paradigm exhibit, “Died a Few Times to Live This Once.” Both artistically and mentally, how did you approach this work differently than your other projects? What aspects were easiest to execute? Which elements were more challenging to capture?

For this show, I removed creative expectations that sometimes a working artist can put on themselves. When you get noticed by painting in a certain type of style, or with specific subject matters, you can sometimes feel obligated to continue doing that because of how it’s received. With this show, I approached it from the perspective of, what do I really want to create? I really tried to practice freedom and limitlessness when it came to creating the body of work for this exhibit. To encourage yourself to be free can be both easy and also challenging. It’s easy because you only need to be you, but at the same time, being honest with yourself can be tough, like putting a mirror up to yourself and being honest if you’re happy or not with who looks back.

5) The subjects of this work are resilience and rebellion. The project itself is considered to be multidisciplinary, featuring acrylic paints and sculptures. How is this mixture of mediums an effective way of conveying ideas such as resilience and rebellion?

Being able to use different mediums outside of what you’re expected to use is rebellious. Not subscribing to what others expect you to create or how to create it is rebelling. You have to be resilient when you decide to approach a thought “differently.” You have to be able to stick to what you believe works best for you and fight tooth-and-nail to keep that level of honesty.

6) Like a lot of your work, this new exhibit has the impression of a lucid dream. For this project in particular, how did you harness your own subconscious slumbers and translate them onto the canvas?

Photo special to South Philly Review

It’s less subconscious sleep and more pulling from an internal inspiration. I could see how a lot of people read my paintings as dream-like; it’s because my subjects are fluid and exist in a space that’s both familiar and unfamiliar. It’s difficult to explain this type of process, because it’s a feeling, and the only way I can communicate that feeling is through creation. A lot of times, people will ask me when I know a piece is finished, because it seems like I could keep going and going, adding layer on top of layer. I know it’s finished when I feel it’s finished. It’s just a feeling.

7) This is your third solo exhibition at Paradigm. How does this South Philly space in particular lend itself to your art?

We all went to school together, and after a few years of not doing large shows or projects in Philly, it was only natural for us to work together on a show that, for me, is one of the most personally impactful shows I’ve done recently. I think that it’s a good milestone for myself and the gallery given how we’ve grown and matured over time. We’ve followed a very similar upward timeline, and it’s serendipitous that we come together again.

8) While many artists do not want their audiences to be confined to certain feelings while viewing their work, is there any emotion in particular you hope the exhibition can transparently convey to viewers?

Inspiration. I believe that infinite inspiration is important. In some of my work, you can find the infinity symbol. It’s to represent the idea of infinite inspiration. That is, if you’re inspired by something, it’s important to share that inspiration with others which will in turn, inspire them. If my work speaks to someone either positively or negatively, that person still drew some form of reaction from it, that’s what art is all about. Communicating visually and impacting someone.

9) Briefly share the story behind your sobriquet “Noségo.” How does “Died a Few Times to Live This Once” especially embody the “Noségo” spirit?

It’s a combination of my name and evolved over time. “Died a Few Times to Live This Once” is just that, evolution, experiencing different parts of your life to get to the next chapter or new beginning. Learning about who you are and experiencing highs, lows, wins, fails, to live this one big experience that is life. Life isn’t linear, but can be cyclical and you can experience many deaths over time, but you can also experience many rebirths. Death also doesn’t need to be viewed as a negative. Death also represents starting anew and life. Living and experiencing multiple lives means there is no doubt growth and change.

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