Matias Bergara was born in 1984 in Montevideo, Uruguay where he currently lives. Bergara comes from a mixed background of European immigration mixed with native and African American traditions. Bergara states, “…[drawing] is the very center of my public existence, in the sense that outside the drawing, there’s not much to say about me that’s not strictly private and thus irrelevant to others.” For Bergara, drawing holds an important place in his life, however, even art is not above “…other forms of human existence, experience, and expression.” Bergara says, “It is my mean of life, my work, my main way of expression and it has positively affected, nuanced, and accompanied every instance of my life that is worthy of mentioning. That being said, it’s important to clarify that I don’t consider it a thing that is more important than other essential functions of my life and I wouldn’t sacrifice health, love, well-being, affections and other values of life over drawing.”
While Bergara has always loved visual arts, animation, comics, and books, he only took it seriously when he started attending drawing classes outside of high school at age 17. “At that point I…[hadn’t] done any comics or anything other than doodles in the margins of my school notebooks. I only started getting into art as work after finishing a career in Literature in college, age 23.” Bergara had a distinctly different path than his peers, having gotten a degree not related in art and having worked at a videogame company for five years that he and two friends created. “I’ve had a different path than many colleagues…in this regard, and it meant I arrived to certain stages of artistic development a bit later than other artists and with a substantially smaller body existing work by the time I was trying to access big publishing opportunities.” Aside from the challenge of starting later than his peers, Bergara also faced the challenges of living in Uruguay as an artist, and professional and personal obstacles. For Bergara, living in Uruguay was, “…challenging until the mid-2000s when internet-based communication and social sites allowed for easier access to much wider and diverse opportunities outside my country…the chances and outlets to find work as a creative person dedicated to the local media are very limited. Publishing is dwindling and shrinking every year and comic books in particular have never evolved past the stage of small-press, indie, and self-publishing production. A person will have real opportunities of growth and professional development of a certain kind only after including outside markets and environments other than, or in addition to, Uruguay.” Of course, this brings the problem of not being able to find work within his community and the obstacle of breaking into new markets within neighboring countries and overseas, bringing about personal obstacles within Bergara’s art. “In different stages of the development of a “career” in art, I’ve gone through different obstacles – at first, mainly superficial; not getting enough opportunities, money, attention and impact. Later on, more personal ones, like dealing with frustration, uncertainty of goals, creative platitudes.” Additionally, the feeling of not belonging to a specific community is another personal problem Bergara faces, “As a comic book artist and illustrator, I feel like I can’t access certain elite niches of visual arts like fine art prizes, museum exhibitions and academic recognition, like contemporary artists, photographers, or fine artists do.” Even with all of these challenges, Bergara has found a way to overcome them, “I always discuss things with other colleagues from all ages, cultural backgrounds and walks of life. Also, I value enormously the opinions and wisdom from people far away from the creative industries…Also I’ve gone to therapy as an adult to deal earnestly with subtler and deeper problems that hindered my best creative capacities.” Bergara has learned through this that, “…art is not a talent but a very developed and detailed form of intuition and intelligence, which is why a musician and a painter can share the same emotional response from, for example, a piece of poetry that has neither images nor sounds in it. I believe this gives all artists a common, abstract, shapeless set of shared codes of value, beauty and emotion.” Bergara adds that his inspiration comes from taking, “…technical, conceptual and craft inspiration from all forms of visual arts from all ages of history, regions of the world and traditions. Life experiences, dreams and memories bring emotional substance to my work that is essential to infuse a drawing of some degree of life and set it apart from a static exercise in demonstration of technical abilities and knowledge,” and that his successes in art are “Being able to project and generate strong emotions, and inspire, through my art, and making phenomenon as widespread and global as possible.”
As a Latinx artist, Bergara doesn’t his origin, nation or ethnicity as defining elements of his personality or day-to-day activities. “I don’t feel more a “Latino” than I feel a South American, a Westerner, a South-hemispherian, an Uruguayan, a Caucasian, and Atheist and ultimately a citizen of the World standing in the same level as anyone else.” Bergara adds, “This being said, I find a certain code of common humor, language, complicity, and socialization in between the various Latin peoples to be very valuable to us, and I enjoy to be a part of that very large community of peoples.” Bergara also doesn’t identify deeply, “…with the strong Native-American identities and cultural baggage that most other South and Central American contemporary peoples have.” Additionally, Bergara states, “Thanks to art I’ve had a way to experience a very deep, spiritually aesthetic view of life and had a way to positively provide art to everyone and ultimately contribute in a small part to enrich the visual arts for all.”
Bergara is now an Eisner award nominee and was named artist of the year by Entertainment weekly in 2019 for his work in CODA (Boom! Studios, 2018-19), which is his first creator-owned book in the US. CODA is now translated to four other languages within the international comic book scene. Bergara advises new artists to “…be patient because ours is a thing like a personality: it takes years to form and develop and you can’t rush certain personal processes no matter how hard you work. This is not a race and you won’t retire at 30 like pro athletes – and be grateful for that. And: follow your instincts.” Bergara adds, “There’s nothing wrong in working in things that don’t spark an interest in you to support your art making. There’s a huge amount of valuable things you will learn to make you a much better tempered artist and person along the way.”
You can find Bergara on Instagram (@matibergara) and on Twitter (@matiasbergara).