Juan Pablo Velascos’s new series of photographs, False Paradises, is a strong reflection on the duality between desire as a propeller to achieve goals, and the Buddhist concept of desire as cause of all suffering. His practice it is not only a critique of consumer society, but rather a personal enquiry on the troubles of desire, and how someone’s daily life can be another person’s paradise. Velasco uses digital montage and collage techniques to portray this quest, where it can be seen how architecture and landscape merges with people, reflecting their inner thoughts and concepts of paradise. The warm tonal range, given by the material the works are printed in, brings a daydream sensation that unifies the series.
According to Buddhism, desire causes all suffering because it makes us live inside our heads and not focus on the present, which means that we are living in non-existing times (the past, which is not real because it already happened, and the future, which is not real either because it cannot be predicted). Desire also makes us unhappy because it makes us always want something more than what we already have, generating frustration for not reaching these other paradises. Velasco’s intention with this series of photographs is to portray some of those other desires and paradises we create in our own heads. It also intends to show how this Buddhist concept clashes with how contemporary society sees desire as a promise for a better future. In a consumer society it is encouraged to always have more, to consume and to desire something we do not have: more money, to live in a larger city or to have a different body to be happy. It is what HH Dalai Lama defines as unreasonable desire, which always has a limit: ‘And when you reach that limit, then you’ll lose hope, sink down into depression, and so on. That’s one danger inherent in that type of desire.’  Juan Pablo Velasco’s photographs also show how some people already live in those false paradises we want to achieve, without realising that we might already be living in someone else’s paradise.
In order to reveal this False Paradises, Velasco uses photographic montages and collages. In them it can be seen a personal insight into his own desires, what he wants to achieve, what he wants for a better world. In previous series, Velasco has used these techniques to communicate a more profound and inner world, it is as if the reality of the raw photographic image was not enough to represent what is on his mind.
In his past series Infinite Cities and Fragments of a city, he used architecture as a starting point to create his images. In this new series, Velasco also draws upon architecture to create geometries and integrate human characters into his compositions. Architecture and landscape photography are become a vehicle to represent his concept on the duality of desire. The artist’s background in commercial photography and graphic design in advertisement gives him an edge on the perfectly composed aesthetics of his collages. Although, it can be seen that the portraits he merges into his mindscapes have a more documentarian approach.
The use of colour is also important on Velasco’s new work. The images found in False Paradises are made in warmer tones, giving a dream-like sensation to the viewer, reinforcing the series’ concept and unifying the different images. These tones are given by being printed on metal plates that resemble gold. The golden plates are meant to reflect the viewer while they are seeing the work, as a way of involving the spectator and including them within the work, as one of the characters seen in his montages. This is of crucial importance for Velasco, for him the work is not finished until the viewer becomes part of it. In conversation he has told me that he hopes that he can print some of the future of works of this series on mirrors.
Juan Pablo Velasco’s work has both a strong visual and conceptual appeal. His meditations on the duality of desire have a solid research, where it can be seen the heavy thought each one of the images has to portray his concept. Also, the images by themselves are very powerful and beautiful. The series is unified in terms of composition and colour, and it also shows an evolution from Velasco’s previous works.
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 Howard C. Cutler HH Dalai Lama, The Art of Happiness (Adelaide, Australia: Hachette Australia, 2013). p 28.