It all began when Juan Diego, as a child, visited his grandparents on their farm out in the Spanish countryside. He discovered the nature and everything that exists in it, and he became specifically attached to and fascinated by insects and bugs. Many years later, long time after summer breaks and science and art studies, Juan could finally vent his fascination. He started to create butterflies, stick insects and every kind of six legged creatures out of paper. The only insect he has yet to create is the spider, because he finds them terrifying.
– When I graduated as a graphic designer and an illustrator I didn’t really know what to do next, like most people in the same situation. I found my old collection of insects and started thinking about what I could do with that, says Juan.
About five years ago, Juan discovered paper cutting. For an art project in school, Juan conducted some research to find interesting artists, and stumbled upon Rob Ryan, the London artist who works a lot with paper cutting. Juan decided to try it out and loved it from that moment on. Today, Juan only takes private commissions from customers who place orders through the web site, or sends requests through social media. He doesn’t want to do exhibitions since he finds them too time-consuming and they demand a lot of effort. Since he really wants his work to be meaningful and genuine to the observer, he always works near his clients to really get an understanding of what they want and what kind of expectations they have.
– I really enjoy having a long chat with my clients, discuss back and forth, and I try to ask as many questions as possible. It’s because I want everything I do to have a meaning and be significant for the the person who wants something from me, says Juan.
Ex-Voto – the holy ritual
One of Juan’s art pieces was a so called Ex-Voto, a project where the client’s wishes and expectations are extremely important to have in mind. Juan did this project on commission by University of Valencia in conjunction with a big project regarding art and autoimmune diseases. Ex-Voto, or ‘votive offering’, is a religious ritual that mainly occurs in Spain and Mexico, where ill people can have their illness portrayed as a sculpture or painting, and later offered to a saint. The expectation is to get healed or helped in some way. If a person has lost a foot, for example, an artist can make a sculpture of a foot to be offered to the saint. This is an ancient tradition, and scientists have even found Ex-Votos from the Roman and Phoenician period. During Juan’s project, he had the chance to talk to a person suffering from the chronical stomach symptom, Crohns Disease, and he then made art based on their conversations. He used the concept Ex-Voto as a metaphor to express how this ill person offered his body to the medicine in order to be cured.
– Since his disease is chronical, he still is sick. But only the fact that I helped him portray the disease made him find some peace, and he was really satisfied with the art-work. It was a very interesting project and I learned so much about the religion and the ritual, says Juan.