Francisco J. Chaparro. MUPAM. Málaga.
Catálogo exposición “Juego de Espejos” Museo del Patrimonio Municipal (MUPAM). Marzo 2012.
BEHIND THE MASK: A CONVERSATION WITH CIRIA
Francisco J. R. Chaparro.
(It could be said that José Manuel Ciria lives inside his paintings. La Guardia Place is also, or rather is primarily, a central street in Downtown New York at the foot of Washington Square Park. It was with great warmth and generosity that he welcomed me into his home-studio. Eric Clapton’s guitar could be heard more and more clearly as I went deeper into his territory; the huge canvases piling on top of each other. The conversation tried to be lightened up with a beer, but it was impossible. These are hard times, and there are a myriad of faces watching us from the walls.)
-Donald Kuspit has spoken about the “tragic presence” of your work. In a way, the term helps to situate it within a very broad aesthetic tradition that’s finally become freed from strictly national parameters – the explosive “veta brava”–. There are some great tragic figures in American painting as well, like Franz Kline, Clyfford Still, or Motherwell even more so. Along those lines, what exactly might one expect from a Spanish painter in New York?
I like to think I lead an isolated life, in a kind of bubble, where I concentrate on doing my research and making work without stopping to think whether there’s someone who expects something from me. If I were aware of some kind of expectation looming over my shoulder, I think I’d end up getting completely paralyzed. In other words, I paint what I want and don’t wait around for what other people have to say about it. I always try to enjoy myself -and suffer as well- and surprise myself with my research and the formal results. I think next year is going to be extremely important for me. I’ve decided to stop working in series, at least for a while. My intention is to go into the paintings in a much freer way, without the rigidity of a structure with predetermined characteristics. Later on, I expect separate blocks or families of related work will emerge, but that’s inevitable.
– And, what about the Spanishness of your painting?
I’ve thought a lot about the notion of “Spanishness” and I always reach the same conclusion, which is that my painting is immersed in a specific tradition; its form and facture and its emotional and spiritual components, in memory. I’ve never intended to detach myself from that tradition. What’s more, I believe I get deeper and deeper into it every day and I don’t let myself get influenced by doing what you might call “American” painting, by which I mean the look of (empty and naive) “freshness” that people think is so important on this side of the pond. When a collector or gallerist asks the eternal question, “How long does it take you to make a painting?”, you always give evasive answers, because it might seem like the more time you spend working on a piece the better it must be. That reading people often make of the complex way my work is made is completely wrong. My work exists immersed in all the ingredients that could be applied to a painting; be it “fresh”, resolved, alla prima or “automatic”, but there are enormous differences. On one hand, there is a studio practice (in the sense of a way of painting) that is all our own (in reference to the Spanish and European traditions), and on the other hand, the shattering and disappearance of the hand or the brush stroke. I can’t deny, however, that building up the grounds sometimes takes weeks, or that certain paintings are planned to be resolved in two sessions. And, there are paintings that need “fixing” afterwards; a particular color or area needs to be cleaned up, a shadow or area of light needs to be brought out, a component or plane needs to be changed, atmospheric elements need to be generated or an element of tension or traction on the edges needs to be added that alters the composition. Iconography and being concerned about whether it’s contemporary is another question.
As far as the “tragic presence” in my work and the so called “veta brava”, I agree with the former but not with the latter. The first painting that really stuck in my mind and my eyes was Saturn Devouring His Son by Goya, which I saw on a visit to the Prado organized by my school when I was a child. A lot of my classmates were fascinated by Bosch, in particular The Garden of Earthly Delights. The only part of that triptych I’ve always been interested in is the third panel. I think that points the way for what’s to follow. I’ve tried to recreate the dramatism of Goya’s Saturn countless times in abstract painting. It’s a painting that looks you straight in the eye and overwhelms you. Needless to say, those intentions have been achieved more successfully in figuration, in my Rorschach Heads series. Going back to the “veta brava”, my painting is too excessively conceptual and sophisticated for me to be comfortable in that narrow category. At any rate, I’m more sympathetic to Kline than Still, with all due respect, and when I’ve gotten close to Motherwell, it’s been to show how the paintings he makes with our way of doing and feeling things can be resolved.
– Did you find what you were looking for, a way to make a big shift in your painting, in the United States? This city gives the contradictory impression of being completely open to people from other places, yet at the same time it keeps you at a polite distance, behind the line. It’s definitely something that begs observation and indifference. It’s as if the taste for variety existed side by side the fear of the foreign, of the other, of the strange. I must admit, I’ve seen how that feeling comes together perfectly in your faces/masks series.
In my experience, the best thing about New York is that it’s a place where I can isolate myself and do research. I needed to leave Madrid and get some air, and most likely, get back to my own sources. I’d reached a point where I was suffocated by commitments. There was a lot of demand in the market, but it was only for one series in particular. But, I wasn’t willing to stop researching. Another thing, which I spoke about recently with Laura Revuelta, is that for the isolation I talked about any city, or even a quiet little village, would’ve worked just as well. It’s true. But, for years I’d been fascinated by the appeal of New York. And, even though I might have originally thought about going to another city that’s closer to Madrid, like Berlin or London, I eventually threw those options out. If you want to isolate yourself, why not do it in a city like New York that, furthermore, has a huge art scene… It wasn’t so much using the United States as a way to make a move in my painting, but a way to transit a space saturated with information.
I think your comment about how the city is open to foreignness, but also keeps you at a certain distance without ever being able to integrate yourself is really interesting Maybe being someone who was born and spent my childhood in Manchester (UK), before my parents decided to go back to Spain, gives me a different perspective. For many years I didn’t feel Spanish. I didn’t accept it until I was a teenager, however Spanish my parents were. In the same way that it took me a long time to accept myself as an artist. I never finished university, and I had to work at different jobs until I was thirty years old before I could paint full time. I don’t feel alienated in New York. And, I haven’t felt that way in other cities I’ve been to in the United States, not even in the backwaters of Texas. I’ve gotten grants in Paris, Rome and Tel Aviv, I’ve lived in Germany. I think I have a special gift for blending in with people and landscapes. I’ve felt at home ever since I got to New York.
One thing I’m certain of is that the Americans, more than anything else, think of themselves in the first person and defend what’s theirs until the very end. It’s exactly the opposite of what we do in Spain.
The faces of my Rorschach Heads express a lot of things. All of us fear and distrust the other, the different, the unknown.
– Perhaps, even by this point, in an age of fragile multiculturalism, we still haven’t confronted our relationship to the other. In Twentieth Century thought, the path taken was first opening up the self to the “world”, and then opening up the “body”, and later on, opening up to “other” -Heidegger, Merleau Ponty, Lévinas and Buber. Your figures are brutally deictic, they go straight for an emotional response towards the other. But, it’s a complex, contradictory, I’d even say threatening, relationship…
Carlos Delgado, a good friend of mine and I think the critic who knows my work best, along with Donald Kuspit, have hit the nail on the head as far as that relationship by drawing their observations from Maurice Merleau Ponty and especially Emmanuel Lévinas. What set off that way of seeing my work was the idea of the mask; what we believe we are, what we truly are, what the other sees in us. I put that idea together with my painting in a text written in 1996 in Rome: The artist’s intention, what a work really is, what the other interprets, thinks or feels. Levinas, from his situation as an exiled Jew, set out to reconstruct ethical thought. In my opinion his work, apart from his many writings on Judaism, should be seen from two sides; being Heidegger’s student (and the enormous influence he had on him), and his lifelong friendship with the poet Blanchot. I like to take note of how, in Levinas, you can see the progress of ideas, how he goes deeper and deeper in the same direction. From Between Two Worlds, where many concepts that would be developed fully are sketched out, to The Trace of the Other, and ending with the conclusive Being and the Other(L’être et l’autre).
The “estrangedness” of my figures and their deixis premeditatedly seek an emotional response in the other. I think the fact that the title of the series, using Rorschach, marks the idea of the viewer’s projectivity in front of those paintings. I don’t question the complexity of the relationship, but insofar as threatening, I prefer to think that the figures on the canvas are the ones who feel threatened. Who isn’t terrified by the situation in the world today? Who among us, with or without a good reason, hasn’t lost their nerve at one time or another? Who hasn’t felt sadness, desolation, rage, loneliness or frustration? A few days ago, I had an argument with a friend I’ve known for years. For no real reason other than a simple difference in how we saw things, he started to insult me. When I insulted him back, he suddenly picked a letter opener up off the table and wanted to stab me with it. When I left the room I could see the twisted features of my face and my eyes full of tears in the mirror. For a split second, I’d become one of my “heads”.
But, in the Rorschach Heads series, the first painting of which was a representation of death (my father’s), there’s not just fear and despair, there’s also room for the grotesque and humorous, caricature, seduction, surprise and madness… In that series, which is driven by emotion and not concept -in contrast to my abstract work-, I tried to unite tradition with contemporaneity. I tried to talk about the sensual and the spiritual at the same time, to create a dialog between the past and the present.
– Masks have a tremendous iconic power, and they’re also essentially ambiguous, detaching the gesture of a specific personality. They’re generic feelings, but they’re full of depth. You’re painting miraculously hovers at an equidistant point between those two poles; visual depth and indeterminateness.
I’ve always tried to make my work have a volumetric presence and, despite that, to also have its “reading” retain a high degree of ambiguity, of total indetermination. But, I’m not talking about Stella’s “What you see is what you get”. My work has always had the aim of going for the gut and not just the retina. In the current resurgence of painting (the eternal question), it would seem that the new trend is narrative figuration, the kind where the painting tells a story. And, there is also a lot of “palimpsestic” painting where a lot of things are going on and there are multiple disconnected layers, cartoons and a pop-comic look, from Baechler to Majerus and Bevilacqua. I’ve gone back to the icon-mask-head idea a million times, but always with the intention of showing (capturing) an instant, moods, generic feelings like you say, and always keeping as much distance as I can from what I see happening.
– Moreover, they’re figures that are decharacterized, anonymous and strangely bald, like prisoners, soldiers and most subjects under the control of disciplinary institutions -hospitals, institutions…- have traditionally been. The reason, I suppose, is to subsume the individual within the group. In Aristotle, you can read how the defining characteristic of tragedy is that it universalizes from the specific.
Maybe we should start with where it comes from. In the mid eighties, after working with figurative representations for many years, some heads without hair that represented men emerged. I’d worked with the female figure a lot before that, and my intention with that group of work was to get away from “beauty”, from potential sensuality, and embrace other discourses and a more contemporary bluntness and “ugliness”. The first Rorschach Heads(I) series started off with just an “accident”. After years of work and research with abstraction, I was in the middle of doing the Masks of the Gaze series. In some of the paintings in that series, I’d sometimes put in a few strokes made with charcoal where I let my hand wander freely over the paper or the canvas. In the summer of 2002, I started drawing some lines unconsciously on a medium sized piece of paper. The surprise came when I finished and I saw that I’d drawn a head and, right away, I put some brush strokes of red oil paint on top of the drawing. I had that piece hanging in my studio for a few weeks without managing to understand where it came from or what it meant. The title appeared all of a sudden, and after that I wanted to give the heads feelings. In 2001, while I was working in Tel Aviv with a grant, I came with three big collages ready (3×5 meters each) that were going to be part of the show at the Givatayim Theater-Museum. During the months I spent there, and with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at the front of my mind, I managed to finish six 2.2 x 2.2 meter paintings representing heads that were titled Victims, and that functioned as a formal and conceptual counterpoint to the abstract collages. I also thought about my fate and my own death. I’d been awarded a grant by the Port Society to come to New York. With the grant offer in Tel Aviv and commitments for two shows, I decided to turn down the American grant. That decision saved my life, because the space for the grant winners was on the 80th floor of the south tower of the World Trade Center. You talked about the tragic?
The second moment of the series, happened in New York in late 2005. I’d done a few tributes to Malevich’s suprematist period in Madrid. But, for various reasons, in Manhattan I started making some paintings that were based in his late period that was dedicated to peasants. They were just studies where the abstract stains, dripping, and splatters – the expressionist part- was “bound” to the structure of the drawing, to line. It was a short series with analytical experimentation once again, but the faces still hadn’t been given features: or souls!
With those three specific antecedents, I had the opportunity to think about problems of representation, like about how the figures were bald. In the more abstract heads the hair didn’t fit, because it would have been hard to represent it and would confuse their reading, in addition to diminishing their transcendence and being confusing. In the Post-Suprematist paintings the referent would’ve inevitably gotten lost. That’s how we get to the third phase of the Rorschach Heads III. The first one, like I’ve said earlier, came about as a result of my father being terminally ill with a brain tumor, and an initiatory journey to Easter Island while I was still immersed in the sadness of my loss. Oh! (Wild Days) (2009), emerged right after that as a representation of death and its surprising and unexpected presence. My father had lost his hair from the radiation, the Moai of the Rapa-Nui are religious representations of deceased people…
Obviously, the entire series intentionally expresses something tragic and, I believe, universal. In my abstract work I’d already dealt with the theme of the concentration and extermination camps. The idea you’re expressing is completely valid. They cut the prisoners’, soldiers’ and institutionalized people’s hair for hygienic reasons, but also for submission.
– That almost leads us into an aesthetic entry to problems dealt with by Foucault, among others, which is the conflictive dialectic between institutional frameworks, mechanisms for imposing order, and the raw fluid of facts and circumstances that make up the world. Analogously, that tension is shared by your Abstract Memory series. It’s a kind of visual “confrontation” between rigid visual structures –checkerboards, grids– and free, completely painterly, forms.
The Abstract Memory series is a natural continuation of the Masks of the Gaze series. When I re-thought my own painting and five years later took up the series I’d stopped in 2005, the evolution of the geometric elements had begun to take on an unusual importance and to completely “flood” the backgrounds of the paintings. I always liked the tension of combining the two classical modernist traditions on the same plane: gesture and geometry. The image created in the first painting in the series Flowers (for MLK) (2008), caught me completely off guard. The stains that had always been the principal actors were suddenly trapped inside windows or cells. You can only see the stains flow freely over the geometric ground in a few of the compositions in the series, and in painting after painting the idea of a dominant grid is repeated. In order to create an even more claustrophobic idea, in most of the paintings in the series you can also see a series of concentric frames around the paintings that closes (or closes in) the compositions.
It’s not hard to find relationships to Foucault or Derrida. Foucault, who began as a structuralist, is a hugely important social theorist, and his critical studies of social institutions, his analysis of the French prison system, even his thinking about human sexuality, always show us the individual as a passive actor enclosed within the systems of social and governmental power.
The Abstract Memory series, aside from its formal quality, clearly shows anonymous “individuals” immersed in a cold, inoperative and castrating rigidness.
– We live in times when the individual feels obliged to protect their privacy more and more jealously; privacy which is, of course, also more and more articulated and multi-faceted. And, at the same time, the same person revels in propagating them self as a repeatable image online and the social networks, like a res extensa aesthetica. In a recent book, Boris Groys declares that Beuys’ prophecy has been fulfilled: everybody is an artist in their own right, exhibiting their own personal ready-made. Does that cause a reconfiguration of the role of the body and expression in painting, or a rejection of it, a reinterpretation of it?
I haven’t read the book by Boris Groys you’re talking about yet, but I’m familiar with his previous work. History dictated by Stalin and the conquest of demiurgic power of art through Socialist Realism. I love it when Lenin’s tomb and the way its symbolism has been done is compared with a Duchampian ready-made. Once when I had a show of my work, I got the opportunity to visit Moscow and see the tomb in Red Square. I understand just what you mean with that comparison, with the mummified body of Lenin as an object-icon-place of worship that justifies the whole “installation”. Ironic positioning and utopia as the only way out for the following decades.
In a new turn of the screw, it’s not surprising to me that now people think Joseph Beuys’ prophecy that everyone will be an artist has become reality. I don’t think we had many doubts about it since the first time it was said. As far as social networks, I have neither the time nor the inclination to get involved.
Many years ago, I made a straight line between the Dadaism (Anti-art) of Hugo Ball and Tristan Tzara, the positioning of Marcel Duchamp and the attitude of Joseph Beuys. One of the main characteristics of Dadaism was how it opposed the concept of reason handed down by Positivism and how it rebelled against any kind of established convention or structure. Amongst artists who use the (assisted) ready-made I include a lot of people, for example, some times Miró, almost all of Schnabel’s paintings, and my own work. It’s enough that the “found” can be located within our own memory, afterwards it will only need more or less help.
– The visual relationship between a natural face and a mask, (a synthesis of the former), never ceases to be an artistic convention, albeit an easily intelligible one. In a way, the relationship is parallel to the tension created between abstract form and extra-artistic content –the emotions, ideas, evocations…– that emanate from it. Is there a point of contact between both directions in your current work? Between the Rorschach faces and your Abstract Memory series?
Maybe some of the comments made in this conversation might lead to confusion; I mean when I talk about figuration and abstraction. In 1990, I finally made the leap into abstraction, which was a goal I’d been striving for for years. I’ve been an abstract painter ever since, even when I paint a head with a figurative face. You only have to get close to the canvas to understand what I’m saying. I can explain it two ways. I’ve always had great admiration for Velázquez. When you get close to the central head in The Spinners, or the hand holding the brush in Las Meninas, or even the drapery in a lot of his paintings, you just see stains that look completely abstract but that become representational when you look at them from a greater distance. In 2005, when I started the Post-Suprematist series, I didn’t know that the simple gesture of returning to structure, line and drawing was going to lay the groundwork all the following series would rest upon. The interweaving of the colors and the chance determined textures are common to my entire body of work. In the beginning, many of the Rorschach Heads are completely abstract, and it’s as the composition develops that the stains start closing in to form a specific “silhouette”. The Rorschach Heads could be made to stay down on the picture plane like the Schandenmaske Masks with just a simple profile or more developed outline. The nature of how my stains are painted is expansive (explosive). And, when I want the result to be figurative I have to restrain their flow so they fit into the conventions of the painting I’ve decided to make.
All my series are intimately related. The Rorschach Heads and the paintings from the Abstract Memory series are the same thing. In an earlier series titled La Guardia Place (also Rare Paintings), I played with the viewer’s reading by putting in intentional mistakes (tricks) to throw off the visual interpretation. In the series, there were totally abstract pieces alongside piece that were clearly figurative, and a group of paintings that moved between both blocks. Once a figurative reading is made of one of the pieces the tendency is to “read” all the paintings the same way, which causes a stutter or desynchronisation of the reading. This was a lot more pronounced when common base matrices were used in several compositions that produced images indiscriminately for any one of the three groups.
– There’s a certain literalness in your work, as if the painting limited itself to impartially show from outside what is expressed within them. The Rorschach method is a neutral test, after all; an invitation to build creatively from your own psyche and not to identify something that’s already present. It’s something that has suggested titles for your work throughout your career –Possible Head for a Landscape (Posible cabeza para un paisaje), Abstract forms becoming figurative (Formas abstractas convirtiéndose en figurativas)…– or at a visual level, by the grounds you use, I’d say presentative structures, that are separated from the immediate plane of interpretation.
I like ambiguity. It’s probably my way of looking at things and relating to things. In the avant-garde room at the Tretyakov in 2004, I was struck by the idea that Suprematism and Constructivism are exactly the same painting, the only difference being opening the shutter more or narrowing the view. In the same way, I’ve related Malevich’s angular suprematist forms floating over a neutral ground with Miró’s sensual and zoomorphic forms floating over a ground with a bit more color.
Why don’t you occasionally leave a clue to something figurative within the abstraction? The titles of the paintings emphasize that tendency.
As far as backgrounds go, I’ve always liked giving depth to my paintings without ever using perspective lines, but with a kind of interrelating superimposed planes. To get that, it helps a lot that the handling of the stain is done as if it were a body from classical painting, using believable light in the compositions and an assortment of small volumetric effects. And, everything is “rounded out” with a few atmospheric elements that go through the usual two or three planes in the composition sewing them together and making them all work. I couldn’t care less if those planes can be seen clearly, just the opposite. Logically, the last plane, with the stain, is the protagonist of the work.
– In your recent work, these structures have been extended to the figures themselves, they’ve crossed the distance between planes.
Even though I still have some exhibition commitments with the Abstract Memory series, and it’s likely I’ll have to paint a few more pieces, I’ve decided to bring that group of work to an end. The issue is that there were still quite a few finished, or half finished, grounds with their grids and geometric elements in the studio. I started to paint a few heads on those grounds, which united both series and traversed the distance between them. The “drawn” heads made from stains all of a sudden took the place of the abstract stains.
– As a painter you deal with two basic elements, gesture and expression, in completely different series, and dissolve, so to speak, the organic link they carried with them from 20th century movements like Informalism or Expressionism. I don’t know if this constitutes a somehow self-conscious vision of how these artistic discourses work, but for some reason it seems that 21st century artists are more drawn to questioning established narratives than integrating themselves into them as such.
Supposedly, art has to be a “child” of its time. Socio-political-historical conditions are always unrepeatable. Artists are, or should be, sensitive to their own time, aside from trying to break conventions. The present moment is hard because there might not be any conventions left to come up against. I’ve talked about it before: the only thing left for artists today is to commit the definitive performance, which is to grab a big kitchen knife and go outside and attack anyone who goes down the street. If the crisis of painting is hypertextualization, is there any kind of artwork that isn’t hypertextualized? It’s a strange and confusing situation where the system and the artists are both equally at fault. The historians, hermeneuticists and theoreticians elevate their discourses above the work of art to defend a series of ideas that, all too often, just don’t say anything anymore. Finding a good piece of art in all the mire takes a fair amount of work because there’s a million “jewels” out there, but it’s hard to separate the wheat from the chaff. And, the lack of education of many artists is added to that. When you go to an opening at the New Museum and you talk with one of the artists who’s just pulled off some pseudo-conceptual “knickknack” installation or some guy who just sorts documents, and see that they don’t know a damn thing about art or even about their own work, you start to suspect that something’s just not right. When you find out that the George Condo show has had more visitors than any other show at the museum and then you see that the direction that institution is taking is to be good and sure they don’t show too much painting, it really makes you wonder. I like to joke with a friend of mine, the painter Darrell Nettles, that we should start a new “anti-knickknacking” movement. Maybe “anti-crapism” sounds even better.
But, getting back to your comment, I’m not trying to dissolve the organic link and the connections my painting might have with Informalism or Expressionism. I like to look at those discourses as simple “tools” that can either be used or not. I think every artist tries to keep as far away from everyone else as possible and unites, if they can, “present” (contemporaneity) with a sincere, honest and coherent attitude.
– Following that line of thought, expression in painting has a history of its own that cuts across stylistic and temporal boundaries in Art History. When I saw this last Rorschach Heads series, the repertoire of gestures and grimaces reminded me of those catalogs of emotions translated into painting by Charles Le Brun for the French Academy, or the same concept of expressive varietà in the theory of Alberti. They’re major thematic currents that have resulted in unforgettable scenes in painting and theater, like Caravaggio and his boy terrified by the martyrdom of the saint, the haughtiness of the laughing cavalier by Frans Hals in the Wallace collection, or the inconsolable weeping of Masaccio’s Eve. However, they don’t seem to have much continuity in contemporary painting, as if their natural place were the transparent image of film or video – Bill Viola-?
Le Brun just copied Leonardo. I think Caravaggio’s terrified child is from the martyrdom of Saint Matthew. I love the background of Hals’s Laughing Cavalier, which came long before Manet. And, the way Masaccio expresses the pain and anguish of Eve as she’s expelled from paradise is so completely authentic. But, the line of expressions, gestures and grimaces of horror or estrangement can be found in a large number of artists: Messerschmidt, Goya, Munch, Nolde, Dix, Grosz, Ensor, Saura, Ydañez… I think my Rorschach Heads belong to a metaphysical universal and to this particular moment of uncertainty. Contemporary painting is whatever the artists want it to be. I think painting, like McLuhan’s distinction between hot and cold mediums, induces a kind of slower, even deeper, examination than a moving image does. I’ve never rejected the idea of making a video as part of the Rorschach Heads series. As far as Viola goes… What can I say about him? For me he’s the unchallenged and unmatched genius of contemporary video art, because of the means he uses and the beauty and plasticity of his images, the depth of his ideas and his ability to stir emotions.
Regarding video, it must be a challenge as an artist to transplant yourself into other visual registers. Furthermore, taking into account that painting isn’t a neutral container for you and also that how you negotiate the medium obviously conditions the way you approach the subject…You’re showing a series of collages in this show at the MUPAM. What does this incursion into a ‘constructive’ medium and technique, whose spirit is so different from painterly gesture, mean to you? Is there something that’s guided your decision to use this medium or another one?
I think that in the art world, we’re all conscious of the fact that artists are constantly trying to come up with a searching process that’s as open as possible, a constant “hunt and chase” condition. With that mental and visual attitude, it’s inevitable that a lot of stimuli appear that don’t fit into the parameters set out beforehand. In other words, the “influences” that cause associations of ideas usually produce certain concepts and “intuitions” that can end up being diametrically opposed to the actual work that’s being done in the studio at that particular time. In my case, when those ideas don’t produce painting, and if I really find them interesting, what I do is write them down or draw them. Consequently, I’ve managed to accumulate at least fifty “installations” and several hundred drawings of sculptures. In addition to a number of “actions” and a lot of ideas for making videos. Afterwards, it’s an issue of choosing what it is that you want to do. Personally, I feel comfortable researching within painting. Although I never reject going into other mediums.
Ideas definitely appear sometimes where the first thing you ask yourself is ‘what medium would suit the idea best’. Even in painting, a few times I’ve posed certain problems about representation for myself that have resulted in me making a series of photos, because the solutions couldn’t be understood in painting, or they weren’t convincing. There are things that are extremely hard to represent without it ending up looking silly, and other ideas that are straight up impossible to represent. Hockney gives us a lot to think about as far as that goes. And certainly, it can also happen, that at one point you’re not capable of reaching a solution and afterwards it turns out you can find a simple way to resolve it.
There are no singular frames of reference as far as discourse, or for the issues you try to deal with. So, all too often, you fall back on acquired formulas for resolutions that cut off other possible solutions for resolving the piece. There’s also a certain predilection for an apparent dyslexia, and I’m not talking about a problem with reading, concentration or learning, rather about choosing the thing you want to tackle, as if nothing else existed. All this is what I want to take on and modify in this new period, which I intend to make much more experimental.
I’ll get back to your question. Obviously, achieving an idea is negotiated through the specific medium you want to use. A specific structure for working on the Constructed Dreams series came to me in 1999, but I’d been working a lot with collage since the early nineties. The idea of that series is the same as the one titled The Perverse Garden, they’re intermittent series that have capriciously made their way into other groups of work. After I moved to New York, Constructed Dreams, or collage to speak more generically, came out very strongly in the Post-Suprematist series, but it wasn’t part of the following iconographic “adventures”: Rorschach Heads II, La Guardia Place and Doodles. But, it was in the Rorschach Heads III series that it took on a lot of relevance again. What’s more, the entire final cycle of that series is resolved using collage. It was logical to allow smaller work to appear and not just make those paintings in large format. Once again, structure has become drawing and the separation of planes, resolved in a constructive way and with scissors, instead of a pencil or brush.