Since I became interested in contemporary art I have always read and heard about the "end of painting" and especially the hyper-realistic one because it has been supplanted by the photography. This is the reason because every time I see high quality hyper-realistic paintings I think of those critics and curators who judge before they even look and I smile! An example is the practice of the Spanish artist Kepa Garraza.
Well known in Europe for his paintings representing the action of an imaginary group of terrorists known as IBDA (International Brigades for the Destruction of Art) Garraza uses a traditional media as the oil on canvas to give voice and form to an extremist and revolutionary idea that is the destruction of the contemporary art world which is dominated by a market and economical logic. His projects are very interesting also because they are conceived as work in progress to be developed during the years and trough different artworks.
His last project is This is the end of the world as you know it started in 2013 and on going yet. With the author’s words its “narration is composed of multiple scenes, presented in chronological order, to recreate a story which shows us a dystopic future. A Kind of negative utopia, a future consequence of modern society but with completely undesirable results. This project aims to think about the economic crisis and its social consequences. Also tries to show the constant feeling of no future that emerge in contemporary societies”.
I had the chance to meet Kepa Garraza in Barcelona on the occasion of his solo show at Galeria Vitor Lope and talk with him about this project, his artistic practice and future projects.
Could you please tell me about this project and new artworks?
This new project is directly inspired by science fiction, especially catastrophic and apocalyptic movies that have become so popular in recent years. Following this genre, I have attempted to produce a project that borrows some features from the language of contemporary disaster movies mixing it with historical painting and journalistic language. It may seem confusing, but my intention is to think about the relevance of painting nowadays and that's why I face the traditional languages of painting with the aesthetic inspired by movie or television. It is a way of reinventing the medium, taking it to the limit not really in a technical way but in the purely conceptual.
Another keyword of this project is to reflect about all the images we are exposed with the difficult to separate what is real and what is unreal. In this sense I remember the lesson of the French sociologist Baudrillard who talked about a proliferation of images and symbolic signs that simulate the reality trivializing and cancelling it at the same time. For him the contemporary world is a series of highly spectacular pseudo-events in response to which the viewer only proves short-term emotions as when we see a film. What is your opinion about this keyword and how do you have developed it during your artistic career?
Of course, as an artist born in 1979, I have grown in the culture of postmodernism and have lived my entire life under the influence of the society of the spectacle and its symbols. Personally I think we are reaching the limit in the development of the aesthetic of the spectacular. You just have to see the increasingly small limit between journalistic language and Hollywood movies. The imposition of the culture of spectacle and the increasingly virtual way of consuming information seems to have no turning back. Anyway, I do not think this has to be necessarily a negative aspect of the times in which we are living. The ability of the modern viewer to distrust mass media, seems to generate new fields for critical thinking and maybe even for an effective social change.
This is the end of the world has you know it (and I feel fine) is a song of the band R.E.M. of late 80’s, an historical period of many changes like the end of the cold war, the fall of the Berlin wall, etc. In your opinion we are living in a changing world like that? What are the keywords of these changes you include in your artworks?
R.E.M.´s song was composed in 1987 and symbolizes a time of change for the world. I was still a child when the Iron Curtain fell but I can remember it as the beginning of a time of optimism for all, well, maybe mostly for the West. This sense of optimism has lasted for some years until September 11th 2001. Since then the world has completely changed and it seems to me that the biggest changes are yet to come. It seems we are at the beginning of the end of American hegemony over the world and this fact may turn into a period of unprecedented volatility in recent years. The world is changing at a rate it has never done so it's exciting to live this moment. That's why in my work as an artist I´m trying to reflect the times in which I live and also to be aware of how fast the world has been changing trying to actively participate in this change (if only with my painting).
I talked about an “end of painting” often predicted by some art critics. How and when was your passion for painting born and how you have developed it in the years?
My passion for painting started relatively late. At first I was rather more interested in the language of cinema but little by little I started to become obsessed by painting and its language codes. I have always been interested in realism not really in a technical way but for its potential as an expressive language. I think the painting is still an effective art having the virtue to thrill the audience with a special magic that clearly differentiates it from the photography. Over the years, I have tried to master the technique in a precise way in order to be more efficient when setting and solving things that interest me. Anyway I am not obsessed with the technique and I am not interest in a painting that speaks only of itself. For me the modern painter (as any artist) must be in touch with the reality in which he/she lives in. There are no excuses to avoid it. Painting as a decorative element is a waste of time.
In many of your artworks we find the theme of revolution, sedition, subversion… What do you think about these concepts?
I've always been fascinated by the history and how it seems to repeat itself over and over again. The concept of revolution is relatively recent in tems of history, but in the last 300 years it seems to have become one of the key players enabling the social change, perhaps to an extent as wars or scientific advances. Currently both the idea of revolution and far-left ideologies seems to be rising from a period of dormancy imposed by the liberal capitalism. And the most interesting thing is that these concepts are mutating in a much smarter and faster way that the capitalist system. That is why I am interested in the concept of revolution, not only as something of the past but as an element that will help to shape the future.
What are your future projects?
My new project is a revision of the concept of historical painting in present days. It will be an account of the most important historical moments from September 11 until today. Also it will be something between fiction and reality. I can not say more!!!