Artist Spotlight José-Maria Cundin

Jun 11, 2018

Hi Friends!  I hope you had a great weekend!  Today I am thrilled to feature the amazing Spanish painter and sculptor José-Maria Cundin!  His exceptional abstracts, portraits, murals and sculptures are truly inspiring.

When taking photographs for my latest book, SEGRETOvignettes, I was enamored by this beautiful painting in my client’s home, whose designer was Susan Blankenship, and wanted to know more about the artist who created it.   I love his bold use of colors that seamlessly blend together in such a natural, soothing way. 

photo by Eugenia Uhl

Born in Spain, José-Maria has lived all over the world  and came back  to New Orleans in 2004 with his lovely wife Marion looking for a large studio space.   With no luck, they crossed the lake and in the Northern vastness of terra incognita (St. Tammany Parish),  and found a house on an acre and a half of land with room to build his studio and have been there ever since.  Marion from Dublin and José-Maria from Spain–how did they meet?

José-Maria and I met in New Orleans just before Mardi Gras. I was visiting my sister who had married a young lawyer from there, and after meeting José-Maria that was it!  –says Marion.  Three weeks later we moved to the Basque Country in Spain and that was 39 years ago!  How time flies!  Although born and raised in Dublin, Ireland, Marion says she felt completely at home in Spain and now loves Louisiana. This is a cute family pic of them and their son on a visit.

José-Maria was gracious enough to answer some of my questions about his evolution as an artist, and what inspires him to create such unforgettable pieces and he in turn has inspired me.  I hope you enjoy getting to know the remarkable José-Maria Cundin as much as I have!

Leslie Sinclair:  When did you discover your passion for painting and what inspired you to be an artist?

José-Maria Cundin:  As a young child (9 or 10), I received a prize from the local newspaper for a submission to a drawing contest and that became a constant that endures today. One of my father’s friends was an artist and he took time to nurture in me a love for the arts. As an artist this gentleman never made it but inspired me to carry on. I am probably his best work by proxy. I believe that in every artist there exists a pulsating desire to create, as an homage to The Almighty, but in any case, this subject is pretty mysterious and intimate.

 LS:  Have you always painted? What other jobs have you had?

JMC:  Yes, I have always painted and that has been my only occupation for the past 65 years. At times I have extended this activity imparting classes at The University of Bilbao, at INBA (National Institute of Fine Arts, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico), and NOAFA (New Orleans Academy of Fine Arts). I should mention that in my youth I relapsed and took jobs to relieve precarious situations: I spent one summer together with a companion of the Academy of Art (Bilbao), painting huge advertisements on the sides of the local buses and humongous washing machine on the wall of a building. I also worked as a watch-dog (barking included) on a farm not far from Paris.

LS:  Where do you find your inspiration?

JMC:  I believe inspiration must find you. You only have to supply the medium.

LS:  How long will a custom painting take?

JMC:  That all depends on the scope and emotional commitment….it is a matter of time and my experience tells me that a larger size work (50”X 60”) should be finished in three months.

LS:  I so admire your use of color – bold yet soothing.  This is something that I have struggled with in my own canvas art. Any tips?

JMC:  One must consider that a painting offers a narrative consistent in color, lines, rhythms and the conversation between these elements will only be fluid and convincing through their own organization. For example, a color should not contradict its neighbor, a line should be allowed to singularize itself, a rhythm must be allowed its course without antagonism. The rest is luck.


 LS:  What are your hobbies besides painting?

JMC:  If I have any time left to waste after painting, I watch birds, squirrels and little creeping critters.

LS:  If you had an entire day to do just what you wanted what would it be?

JMC:  Such a day in Utopia would be consumed sitting and daydreaming.

LS:  Where is your favorite place to travel?

JMC:  I have done plenty of travelling in my life but since the invention of the Internet I travel on this ‘appliance’.



LS:  Your frames are beautiful, I know they are custom as well. What inspires the wording?

JMC:  The texts are an explanatory part of some of the paintings, However, to accommodate and formally justify their “awkward” presence I go to the extent of handling them as a peripheral part of the composition. Let me add that I always try to fight to end the space of a painting abruptly. I use the frame as a transitory zone to dilute the radicalism of the edge of a canvas. My inclusion of legends on the frames is a nostalgic use of a recurring manner in the Spanish Baroque tradition

 LS:  How did your childhood in Spain inspire your art?

JMC:  I left the Basque Country when I had barely learned to shave. Since then, my beard has grown thick and grey, I forgot how to shave and at times I still feel melancholic about the Old Land.  I have several identities, Basque, Spanish, American, Mexican, Colombian…. all perfect and emotionally compatible which represents different circumstances in my life. First and foremost I still recognize the Basque in myself, and this means that I see and face life as a mysterious and ancient existential commitment.

For many years, although living in America, I had the opportunity to participate in cultural events and historical developments affecting the Basque Country and I am proud of that. Also I am aware of and committed to my American reality.  I like to believe that my work transcends a limiting nationality. Today, Art is liberated from the constraints of cultural neighborhood boundaries; seeking instead a universal realm for its’ basic human context, and that is wonderful.

 LS:  You have enjoyed such a long career.  What do you see in your future?

JMC:  Our future is made today. As I look around the studio at the many tasks in progression, projects that sooner or later will gain definition and completion, I find it difficult, if not impossible, to condense all this effort with a short statement. Nevertheless, all these works (paintings, drawings, constructions, bibelots, etc…) point to a dynamic of continual experimentation and renovation, with constant desire and aim for the best expression. I must confess that I am considering a re-encounter with my earlier work (many paintings, themes, ideas that I never completed are now calling my attention). I’m working to arrive, in a fluid, coherent and meaningful way, to reach that point. We will see!

José-Maria shows at The Callan Contemporary Gallery in New Orleans.  You also can pull up his work on his own website here.

José-Maria you are certainly a true inspiration on never giving up on your dreams and a reminder to always do what you love. You definitely inspire me to keep on PAINTING!  Thank you José-Maria and Marion for taking the time to share a little of yourselves with us!

Have a wonderful week!  Till next Monday!

xo Leslie

  • Nina Moncivais
    Posted at 08:24h, 11 June Reply

    Thank you for sharing Leslie! Love his art. Love reading your articles.!!!

    • Leslie Sinclair
      Posted at 16:26h, 11 June Reply

      I love his art too!! So much interest and Depth! Thank you so much for your comment and following along!!

  • Mac McGregor
    Posted at 16:46h, 11 June Reply

    I met Jose-Maria (not simply Jose) when he was in Miami. In addition to enjoying the visual aspects of his work I find the humorous titles to some of his work a glimpse into his creative spirit while working on a piece. Ask him about the ‘camophlage obelisks ‘ he completed when first in New Orleans…think what happened to statutes in the city recently…here, life imitates art.
    Jose-Maria and Mario are wonderful people and it is great to see his work getting its due.

    • Leslie Sinclair
      Posted at 11:24h, 18 June Reply

      Hi! You are so lucky to have met him in person. His outlook on life definistly comes though and inspires with his artwork. I look forward to when I can visit him in Nola! thanks so much for your comment!!

  • Pam Kelly
    Posted at 20:32h, 11 June Reply

    Love Jose Maria’s work! Enjoyed reading this interview… Greetings Cundin’s from Gainesville, FL Miss you!

    • Leslie Sinclair
      Posted at 11:20h, 18 June Reply

      Hi Pam! he is an amazing talent!! My brother use to live in Gainsville! So beautiful! Have a great week.

  • Joni Chandler
    Posted at 07:14h, 29 August Reply

    Jose Maria and Marion we knew one another in Coconut Grove years ago I have one of your artist proof on the wall have had it on the wall for years really enjoy your art Joni Chandler

    • Leslie Sinclair
      Posted at 08:43h, 30 August Reply

      Hi Joni, They are both so nice and he is so talented. I am so glad the art gives you joy! Have a great day and thank you so much for following along!!

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