“On a daily basis, I walk a lot, take photos and collect images from old books, generally low quality black and white photos. All this helps me to have different aesthetic experiences in my head that help me when I create.”
Where are you right now? Are you on holiday? How’s your August looking?
This August I am in Tunisia, I’m spending this month between my home and my studio. With the help of the gallery, a few months ago we found a place in my neighbourhood, right in front of the sea, where I set up my new studio.
The studio is located in a popular neighbourhood in the bay of Tunis, between the ruins of Carthage and the seaport. As this is a very hot summer, the days get a bit heavy and I try to combine the day between working in the workshop and short dips in the sea, although I try not to go out too much during the hottest hours of the day.
You were born in Hammamet, Tunisia, into a family of artists. How do you think your surroundings helped shape your artistic practice?
My family environment supported me in deciding to pursue an artistic career.
I remember it very well.
I must have been about 21 years old. It was summer, and I had to go back to Madrid in September and decide what I was going to study. I spent the summer full of doubts and without any clear solution as to which profession I might like and feel fulfilled by. The last night before travelling to Madrid my father suggested to me why not study something in arts and crafts, and somehow my ideas became clearer. I had stopped drawing since I was a child but being surrounded by an artistic environment, that environment was familiar to me and I felt comfortable in it.
When I arrived in Madrid, I found out about the art schools, and I spent a year in preparatory academies and drawing classes that prepared me for entry to the art schools. I finally entered the school of artistic ceramics and later the school of Fine Arts.
“I try to give my work the aspect of a calm, contemplative painting, in which silence is of great importance.”
While looking at your works, I noticed you often depict the seaside. Is the sea, and perhaps water in general, an inspiring element in your practice?
The sea is a place that has always been accompanied by literature, a space full of stories, enigmas, imagination, utopias and dystopias. I think that in my case, the fact that water has an important presence in my paintings is not a premeditated thing, I think more of the fact that I have changed the context of my life. I grew up in Madrid, a city far away from the sea, and a few years ago I moved to Tunis, a city beside the sea.
I think that the sea has its own poetics and always produces something of astonishment in us. Now that I am talking about this, I am remembering the film, “The 400 Blows”, by Truffaut, where the adolescent, Antoine Doinel, manages to escape from the city and his problems to flee towards the sea.
On arriving at the beach, Doinel is astonished to see the sea for the first time, the sea being the space where his escape ends and which in turn constitutes the place that frees him. Perhaps there is something of this in my relationship to the sea.
“Since I was young, I have always been interested in the countries of North Africa, I think that this complex region has always helped me to see things from another perspective, so whenever I have been able to travel, I have always gone to visit the Maghreb countries.”
You portray indoor and outdoor landscapes that seem to capture the small pleasures of everyday life. A quiet day at the beach, a natural and leafy scenario viewed from a window, a pink house seen from afar. What do you wish to convey through your paintings?
Well for me thinking about the surface of the painting through colour is already a form of expression in itself. Usually before I start a new painting, I mentally try to compose the canvases through colour structures to see how they communicate with each other and what interactions there might be between the colours. This makes me think of the painting as a physical object of colour, almost like a sculpture or a relief on the wall.
In terms of subject matter, one of the parts of my creative process is to constantly study other painters. For a long time, I have been studying the avant-garde period, they are a great influence for me as it is a very rich period in terms of the creation of new images. My interest stretches from the cubism of F. Leger, to the metaphysical period of G. De Chirico or the Moroccan period of H. Matisse.
I try to give my work the aspect of a calm, contemplative painting, in which silence is of great importance. I try so that the viewer can enter inside the painting in a free way; the entry point to my paintings tries not to be complicated although once inside we can get lost finding different clues or cracks on the way.
“The sea is a place that has always been accompanied by literature, a space full of stories, enigmas, imagination, utopias and dystopias.”
Mixing reality and imagination, you create these dreamy, yet familiar life scenarios in which anyone would love to live. What inspires you from the everyday? Do you have a favourite time to paint or sketch?
Since I was young, I have always been interested in the countries of North Africa, I think that this complex region has always helped me to see things from another perspective, so whenever I have been able to travel, I have always gone to visit the Maghreb countries.
On the other hand, there is the literature of Latin America, I think there is a common thread between the Maghreb and the magical realism that we find in Latin American literature.
On a daily basis, I walk a lot, take photos and collect images from old books, generally low quality black and white photos. All this helps me to have different aesthetic experiences in my head that help me when I create. The photographs I use and my paintings are not usually formally related, but these images have awakened something in me – being images of very low quality there is always a hidden mystery that surrounds them, a veil that shrouds them so as not to reveal something to us.
Regarding my work in the workshop, I usually start working early in the morning between 7 or 8am and stay until lunch time. I usually come back at dusk before it gets dark, it is a time of the day that I particularly like as I usually meditate on the work, make small touches on the canvas and think about the tasks of the next day.
As we are in August and we can still talk about holiday plans, where are you thinking of travelling next? Is there a place you really want to visit?
I hope to be able to come to London in October to visit the 1-54 fair, I would love to.