Interviewing Francesc Ruiz Abad
julio, 17, 2015
Manuel Christoph Horn: I got to know you some years ago at the University and your main interests at this time was first drawing and later painting. And this transition between both disciplines was quite a paradigm shift for you. Tell me about it.
Francesc Ruiz Abad: I remember that when I came to the University of Fine Arts, I wanted to learn techniques and how to improve my skills in painting. At this moment I was, like, really figurative. Drawing has always been with me, I’ve always been drawing, like cartoons, superheroes, my family,... I guess while I was starting my studies, I was trying to invest in painting, and at some point I realized that the paintings I was doing were really influenced by how I ‘should’ do them. The place were I come from, Girona, has like really conservative views on art. Like landscapes, still life, and portrait painting. There's not such a thing like modern art. So it’s common that family and friends will be really impressed if you are good at drawing realistically. And I think I had this in my bag and I think that I was really influenced by others’ opinions when I came to the University. At some point, I started to ask myself if I'm painting for other people or if I am painting for myself. I decided to make a change and to start from zero, and then a lot of things came up, like new questions and new images.
MCH: I remember you were painting in quite an expressive way, with a lot of pigment and texture. There was also a search for certain narratives or poetics in them. Could you try to explain what you wanted to express through these paintings?
FRA: After the decision to start from zero, one of the rules I made was to not know what the final painting would look like when I began a painting, to not have any planned reference. I think that in an intuitive way, when I made a stroke of paint or color, I would always try to understand the image as an image: I would always think about shapes and textures as elements in dialogue with the space. So that is why I think that those paintings have these narrative elements. It was always a search for an action inside the painting. I guess that introducing a lot of texture was a way of breaking my own rules, sabotaging myself, instead of painting with very thin layers to make a nice image. I would do the opposite. I would start with no paint or I would start with a lot of paint. And also these kind of exercises made me feel like this kind of material universe was beginning to get a life of its own.
MCH: After that, you started to edit the fanzine Vols Russos, and I think that more or less at the same point you started a collective exhibiting concept that was like, "There is no official gallery accepting us, let’s do our own thing in our own spaces." And that was a project that has had a really interesting development over time, so tell us a little bit about these two projects.
FRA: The idea for Vols Russos came about when I went to London in 2011 to spend the summer there, and I realized how strong the do-it-yourself movement was in that city. And when I came back I was really inspired, like, “Oh my God, in Barcelona we don't have this (or I thought we didn't have it).” And with my University friends I proposed to create something with our own resources, so we came up with the idea of working on a fanzine, with five artists, all of the same age and friends, and also to make a performance event in conjuction with the publication. The aim we had was to build up a network or to make a cartography of what was happening in our surroundings, like representing our self in the art scene. And I guess that that was really connected to La Ghetto, this project you said, that also started in 2011. It was actually the same, like we don't have any channel of representation, so we will build up our own channel with our own connections and network. So basically, the first show we did was like we don't have a gallery, so we will do it at home. But then we started to get more conscious about the idea that it's a show that is being made in a private space, and also an exhibition, where the participants are changing all the time as well as the location where it is being held. So I think now it’s becoming more interactive with the idea of a nomadic, context-based project.
MCH: Your paintings and drawings became more relatable when you went to Leipzig, is that right?
FRA: Yes, when I was in Leipzig, I kept thinking about what I was doing with the more experimental, abstract imagery. But I started, probably because these other projects were so collaborative, to worry about viewers understanding my paintings. So I got more focused on what's happening while you are making a painting rather than in painting itself. Then I did an exhibition in Leipzig called Jeder Kann Zeichnen- which means Everyone Can Draw- that was based on an instructional drawing book for adults. The idea was to make, like, a step away from making images in the studio alone, and try to interact with the people that are in the show. In the show you could see art objects and installations and videos and stuff, but the aim was more about making it interdisciplinary and playful.
MCH: So you went from a traditional point of view of painting, understanding the evolution of painting, layer by layer, to a substantially more pedagogical or community-based view of painting. In this sense, your work seems to use painting or drawing as a starting point, eventually moving away from of the painting, but always using it as a starting point.
FRA: Yes, definitely. I'm getting, like, really interested in what happens outside of the frame of the painting. I also did another show in Barcelona called Elephants, Sabates i Papers. The content of the exhibition was to transparently show residual effects and all the constellations of elements that happen while you are painting. Also right know I'm doing a movie about a sketchbook, but the movie is more interesting than in the drawings that are inside. It’s about what happens when someone loses a sketchbook and how the person that finds the lost sketchbook interacts with it.
MCH: I think another important moment is when you started to travel around the world with a grant awarded from Fundació Guasch Coranty. I think that your first idea was to make a sketchbook on your travels.
FRA: The idea was to do a trip without any destination, and during the trip I would create drawings.
MCH: I think that it's another point of importance because you use drawing as quite a tool of documentation in this moment.
FRA: Yes, yes. That is really true. What happened when I was traveling, which is quite interesting with my painting background, was to live 8 months of my life without a studio. And then what happened was that I was drawing and doing watercolors, so I had to carry everything with me, like, carry the studio with me. And definitely, like, all my influences were my surroundings. I think I got really affected by that, that's why it is really documentary. Because I was constantly interacting with what I had in front of me, drawing was a way of understanding and measuring the limits or borders by appropriation or by creating situations. When you draw someone, for example, you have a situation of connection with another. And also it was interesting that when I was traveling between Turkey and China, no one spoke English, so drawing in this case was a practical tool of communication. When I wanted to talk with someone I had to use drawings, an iconographical way of talking.
MCH: When you came back you started a new La Ghetto and it was quite performative and less object-orientated. Tell us a little bit about that.
FRA: I think it has a lot to do with the situation of the collective, because everyone is spread around and everyone has busy schedules. Before, we were all at the same University and it was really easy. So, this time it was in Madrid and we only found a week, where everyone had time. I think I like it more, it’s really cool: everyone just arrives there with no pre-conceived idea. And with the conceptual framework of a domestic flat and an exhibition, there is no absolute thing about it, it's like a challenge, a collective challenge. And in this case, the La Ghetto we did in Madrid was the result of another one we did in Leipzig, which was organized as a fake apartment open house to look for roommates. We proposed an alternative way of showing the flat. And in Madrid we did the opposite, instead of letting people come into our place, we went into other flats where they were looking for roommates and make performances there.
MCH: I think there are no images documenting this actions. How do you think this may evolve without documentation? Do you think there should be someone making images?
FRA: It's interesting, but I mean, we took some pictures when we where there with a hidden camera, but they don't fully describe the experience at all. It's really special because the work, or what I would call the work, was the situation of 3 or 4 people visiting a flat and what happened there. It was a performance only for the people showing us the flat, and they didn't even knew that they were becoming part of a performance. I don't know, I think that it was really beautiful and that's the thing.
MCH: How do you imagine your future art practice?
FRA: Really varied. I like to, as I said before, sabotage myself in many cases. I have obsessions and worries, and they always came up to my work. But at the same time I need to refresh. Every project is like a challenge to me. I don't know which way it will go. I guess it will keep going that way, or maybe at some point it will be too much and I return to painting again.