Cortes’ unique iconography makes his work clearly distinctive. Cow-boys, gangsters, pilots and saints share a similar fate, becoming allegorical characters that in-habit private worlds full of toy cars, architectural follies and strange contraptions. His exquisite technique uses layers and layers of very thin oil paint to render unique expressions and striking, colourful outfits, giving the characters the air of being illuminated by a strange light.
Many of his works are painted on found objects and recycled materials. He uses these elements as a springboard for developing narratives characterised by an acute sense of observation and a strong feeling of empathy. His paintings feature references to Greek myths, religious artwork and literary and cinematic heroes, which he shakes and steers with a joyful carelessness. The strong influence of his childhood in Spain is reflected in many of the religious references and in some of his “Altarpieces”, where painting, sculpture and architectural concerns converge. Whereas the sculptural element was, until recently, confined to the reliefs and 3D shapes generated by found objects, he has recently embarked on a number of “proper” sculptures where his characters come to life, full of the same colourful inventiveness and quirky expressions that we can see in his paintings.
Carlos Cortes has carried out projects and commissions for venues and festivals such as the Hayward Gallery (London), Turner Contemporary (Margate), Firstsite (Colchester), Kew Gardens (London), Oryel Mostyn (Llandudno), Royal Academy of Arts (Edinburgh) amongst others.