In the studio with Bruno Ollé.

Words by

Noémi Martini

In the studio with Bruno Ollé.

You work with different materials ranging from painting through to video and text to sculpture and found objects. What are the pros and cons of the multidisciplinary nature of your work?

I'd say the "pro" of working with different materials is that I’m less likely to be bored, because there’s so much to discover. The "con" might be to get easily exhausted when some decisions end up not working out, or the fear that nothing will come of it beforehand. When you work from scratch, the chances of achieving what you have in mind are very low, and the worst thing that can happen is being exhausted before you start. 
There is nothing more tedious than mastering something and doing it repetitively, so I have the need to try new things. For me the interest lies in trying to achieve the impossible. Once it is possible it is boring and ruinous.
 I have never considered painting as different from sculpture or installation. Looking, painting, building, composing, are all part of the same thing. I am much more attracted to the idea of trying. and the curiosity that comes from it. Rather than obsessing over mastering a certain technique to its perfection.

When you work with paint or construct with mixed materials do you have a specific process? What significance do you give to colour?

When I begin a new project, the ‘physical’ element is usually the starting point.
The physics of the object and space. At the beginning I intuit the work based on a specific space. So sometimes it is resolved in the shape of a painting, other times in the shape of an installation, a video or a combination of everything. I have never been able to plan too much, which leads me to lose a lot of time in actually completing the project, but at the same time, this is also what allows me to find new threads to pull from. I tend to be impatient, I want quick results, that's why I don't conceive a big piece as a whole. I build the painting or the installation from smaller pieces, easy to execute, and then I assemble them.
In "Under the surface, surface", for example, I start with a base object, paint several modules separately and then I compose it. I tend to fragment, to pull focus part by part, without thinking about the whole work, and that helps me to build the entire piece. When I treat the work in small and independent fractions I pay the same attention as if it were a sketch or a quick drawing. The concentration is different for a small and intimate piece than it is for a large one. But I try to preserve the same intimacy of the small as for the big. I keep some parts. I discard others. I accumulate and then select which parts go with which and which parts are discarded. When I draw in a notebook, I usually turn the page quickly, it is a very similar process. If the result doesn't convince me quickly, the drawings can be left halfway and I go on to the next one, which causes certain surprises, spontaneous acts and the loss of chronological order. The first can go with the last and the last with the middle. Color is somehow like the alphabet, we don’t have to invent a new one every time a book or a story is written. With the 27 letters we have enough to write anything. With painting something similar happens, 5 colors are enough to paint something new. My use of color has more to do with expression than with meaning. I believe that art is not so much the commentary of a fact but the expression of a fact.

Temporal Continuo, L’ Atelier Kunst Spiel Raum (30.09.11 — 20.11.11) 2011 Berlin SOLO SHOW
Your latest exhibition, which is on display currently, Daily Papers, is more clean, minimalistic and two dimensional compared to previous installations. What was the inspiration and message behind it?

For me "Daily papers" is a unique project. A drawing cannot be dissociated from the rest, from the one that precedes it and from the one that follows it. I believe individual drawings have continuity just like in a diary, where I impose myself, and don’t throw any of them away, regardless of the result.
 As "Temporal Continuo" already was, there is no very clear intention beyond writing down undefined ideas, intimate thoughts, things that often remain half expressed and that which escapes us. These things, which are half expressed or hard to understand or grasp, or the ones that escape us, influence me deeply. This is were I allow myself to start reflecting from. I started by accumulating all the drawings I make every day, sketches of 28 x 44 cm. Every day I spend some time making these drawings, sometimes one comes out, sometimes three or five. I keep them all, regardless of their individual quality. Little by little they pile up. Almost obsessively, calendar-like, undated but chronological. I am interested in the idea of giving previous studies the same dimension as a "final work". In fact, the irony is that I speak of sketches when I never sketch to make any work. Previous studies make you run the risk of constraining it. I think that in the translation of a sketch to a supposedly "final" work you lose an infinite amount of valuable information, all those unreflected actions that makes it alive and human. "Daily papers" is an open piece in time, which I am still working on today.

Objects with emotional attachment through memories are in the centre of most of your work, do you have a specific object that is especially dear to you and takes you back in time? If so, what is it and what’s the story behind it?

When I think about contemporaneity I always conceive it as if it is a glance from the past. This look back is what allows me to take a small step forward. Revisiting the origins and rediscovering the same from this period of time: Polke, Guston, Nauman, even Velázquez or Tintoretto. 
The speed of life makes us go so fast, it seems that we always keep an eye on the future, when the only thing we can learn from is what others or even we ourselves have already experienced. I like to think of those processes that are discarded because of our speed. This is somehow linked to the idea of nostalgia, finding the future in revisiting the past. I build most pieces this way. 
The objects that I reuse, keep and collect have to do precisely with that nostalgia of preserving what once was, or could have been.

Daily Papers, from 2010 till now
Is there an artist who inspires you or who you look up to?

You start with the ones you can reach, in my case they were the ones I found in the four art books my parents had at home, artists who were already very well established such as Tàpies, Miró, Cy Twombly, Rothko, Picasso, Warhol... and with them I started to form my core of references.
 When I was 8 or 9 years old I remember that I was amazed by the existence of figures like Picasso, who beyond painting also personified free will. Maybe this part is what made it fun. Painting for the sake of painting. It helped me to avoid the weight of ‘the painting’ and focus on the delight of painting. I think that's how things should start: from something that motivates you and drives you to keep wanting to discover. Something that feeds your curiosity.
 I used to get obsessed by one artist for a period of time but as the years go by I enjoy things from another distance. I've stopped trying to learn by copying. For a while you take as a new fixation the act of knocking down all those references. This desire was finally expressed in my drawings "Killing my mother with my left hand". For me, the mother is still the central pillar of everything. And the belief that you get independence when you really get rid of it/her. Killing the mother represented cutting the absolute bond I had with these artists, but with the left hand, so "in a gentle way". I had so many references, that unconsciously I was moving towards these influences and it was almost impossible to dissociate myself from them. I thought I was moving away from being faithful to what I am. Now I realise that one is nothing more than what one has learned when one has discarded all of them.

Bajo la superficie, superficie, 
Alzueta Gallery
 (26.06.19 - 25.07.19) 2019 Barcelona SOLO SHOW
How do you find creating in lockdown? Do you think that physical exhibitions and the way we exhibit and present art will change in the future?

Sometimes I’ve been invaded by pessimism. In the beginning of the lockdown I was very confused and anxious. From one day to the other they took everything away from us. 
I began by being paralysed by anguish, I watched the news that treated the subject with the same bewilderment as everyone else. A non-future. A nonsense. A no-time. Facing the fragility of the world we live in, first sadness but then, slowly, you get used to it. Laziness. And somehow you find yourself enjoying this time, the time that repeats the same thing every day. Creatively I have not felt strong enough to do anything, but I have been able to enjoy reading and watching films. The uniqueness of the situation forces you to rethink everything and think about what will happen in the future. It opens up an infinite number of questions. I still think that art can't stand only in the digital world. The digital is going to be something much more present for sure, but I refuse to think that the future is only virtual.

Are you currently working on or planning any upcoming projects? If so, can you give us a glimpse into what they might be?

In these last months of lockdown, there have been two things that I missed: space and people. And the need to do collaborative projects and work in spaces with no size limit. I'm preparing a project which doesn’t have a deadline yet. It's for an art space in the town where I was born. I had always shunned the proposals that came from this art-space, fearing the confrontation with the place where I came from. I think that showing something in the place where you are from, with the people who really know you, produces much more vertigo than in any other place.

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Photos by Álvaro Arisó