Artist Interviews 2017 – Pablo Mercado
Hey Pablo, can you pretend to be Ivan?
The following interview was recorded and transcribed by me. The words are as original as possible and so more like spoken English, rather than written English.
Many thanks to the artists for sparing their time and thoughts for this little project. Much appreciated!
What made you apply for the Kamiyama Artist in Residence program?
Erm.. I know Thu Kim Vu, the Vietnamese artist, and she was here before. I met her on two residencies and she recommended me to apply here (for the KAIR). She said it is a cool place and they have a great team that will build anything and also in this residency I have the chance to bring my partner. So, it was a combination of those two things.
Describe your work in one word.
I would say.. mutation.
Do you have a special method for generating your ideas?
I have a rational mind. I research in a scientific way. I like this way of working: get an idea, inspired by everyday (things), then go and research a lot. I read a lot about science. I read a lot about philosophy and literature then I try to combine those things in my works. So, it's mostly research. Yeah..
What is the most frightening experience you have ever had?
In my whole life? Scary story? Oh shit, I have to think about this.. I don't remember right now because every time I face something scary my memory covers it with humor! For example, one time, this was scary but it wasn't scary at the same time. It was just stupid bullshit. It was a Nazi in Germany. I was with a friend riding our bikes in Germany and (this Nazi) starts yelling at me in German! I was just laughing because I was on my bike and it was impossible that he could hurt me. He threw a bottle of beer at me and started running and chasing me and I was on my bike laughing like crazy but that was kind of scary.
But something else just came to my mind. One memory with my father. I went with him to collect wild asparagus from the countryside and I was with my brother. We got trapped at the bottom of a cliff and our car was at the top and my father had to climb all the way up the cliff. He tied us to his belt and just climbed with us hanging on the belt! I'm sure my father has shown me that cliff and it was like 10 meters tall!! I remember that like it was (Mount) Everest! You know your mind twists everything! That was kind of scary because I was 5 (years old) or something.
What is your favourite Japanese food?
Ah.. Sushi. I will say, like tuna or salmon maybe.
What do you enjoy most about creating art?
Eh.. The challenge to build things. To solve problems. I think this has to do with my personality. I like to find challenges and if not, I get bored and I hate that. Always in my work I try to develop new techniques and new processes. The challenge of how to do it and struggling with that; it's painful but at the same time it's a lot of fun.
What does Kamiyama lack? What does it need?
Oh.. I cannot think.. As a place or as a residency? What do you mean? Pictures on the menus in the restaurants! That's what it needs! I'm not a person that misses things. I can go to a country that doesn't have something and I don't mind too much. But, when I go to Spain, and I find my things, for example ham, Cerano ham. It's my favourite food in the world but if I don't have it I don't miss it. But when I have it I enjoy it. This is more or less what happens in general. I got used to it because I've been traveling so much. I don't miss anything. This is a wonderful place.
How did you discover your passion for art?
I think it was 4th or 5th grade.. 4th grade at school. I think it was in art class, we call it 'plastic expression'. I think I was drawing or painting or something. I don't really remember but I do remember what I said to my mother. I said 'Mum I want to study art', but I also said 'Don't worry, I will be a teacher!'.
Do you think you have a particular technique/style?
I don't know what to say about that. Erm.. I'm a former painter. I was painting for something like 20 years but at some point I started with installations. Fragmentation is more or less what defines the installations. Fragmentation connected to this idea that everything is in constant change. I tried not to use just one technique for each idea. I try the opposite: have an idea then try and find the best technique. I try to learn everything (about the technique) so nothing can stop the idea. And YouTube is my technique I think!
Do you find art difficult?
Yeah. That question is difficult because what do you define as difficult in art? For example, art business is a difficult, dirty business I think, and I can't manage that. But this is not art for me. I mean, it's social and everything but, I think it's the hardest part. So yeah, this is hard. It's hard to say art is hard because people give me grants to do it – art is a privilege. To do something hard is to make Nike shoes at 6 years old in China or in India. That is hard. I started working with my father when I was very young. I was already 10 and I was selling vegetables in the market. Between this and art, art is not hard.
Art is hard because my mind doesn't reach the level I want it to, but there are harder things in the world.
If you were a giant for one month, what would you do?
Ok. For a month? Well, my identity would be clear so everyone would see what I do so.. The first thing I think about when I think about super powers is to rob a lot of banks and spread the money all around, for the people who need it. But if I'm a giant.. I don't really know.. I guess traveling to places I cannot go. I've never thought about that, but it's a good question!
How do you feel in Kamiyama?
Now that it has ended I feel sad because I've never had a chance to live in a place like this: it's so beautiful and sometimes you forget to look up and see the mountains and see the fog.. Also, the people are so nice. Incredible. I guess this is not the same if you were living here for 10 years. In our case it is very special because they know we are guests and they treat us special but.. I feel super good here. I'm really sad that we are leaving.
How would you like your art to relate to Kamiyama and its residents?
We've talked about keeping the installation (Pablo's camera obscura work) permanent so I hope that people come to the show from time to time just to enjoy it and see the images, and get used to the darkness like a meditation place. That's very romantic! But, the other way, and I think I touched on this already. I was experimenting a lot with the other technique, the silk screen and indigo. Some people really got interested in the techniques and some artists got interested in the techniques and it really touched them. They are going to try and develop their own techniques connected to these techniques (I used). This is a great success I think. On the other hand, I was talking to some women during my project about their experience of man / woman status (the theme of Pablo's indigo work in KAIR 2017) and one student said to me she's never thought about this before. I think it's what art is supposed to do. Make people think and feel things so I really like that that happened. I hope the other women involved also got a little bit of a shock about the difference between their way to live and my way to live.
What is the worst thing you’ve ever made?
I'm pretty good! No no! I guess it's a boring answer but I think I have some drawings from university. It was one of the first drawings from the graphic course.. a stamp.. not a stamp, when you do engraving. It was with water, but without metal. It was just paint and water and that was just like a kids' work! It was terrible! Yeah, that was kind of the worst thing I ever did. But I don't know, I'm sure I did a lot of shit.
What do you think about this ham:
This is ham? I think it's not ham. I guess it's processed meat. It's very Asian, they like cute things. I don't know what to say. It's shocking to me. I would never eat it.
What do you dislike about your work?
That it is too rational. I see other peoples' work and it looks more poetic to me, but maybe that's just my point of view.
What is the worst piece of advice you have ever been given?
It comes to my mind but I don't know if it's the worst.. One teacher from my Masters degree in Madrid. He came to me, to my studio, like it was personal. I invited him to see my paintings and I was very happy that he said 'Yes, I go'. He went to my studio and he saw my portraits that I had been painting. I was doing huge portraits. Very well painted. He said to me, 'You know, not everybody has to be an artist. Maybe you just need to paint portraits. You can make a lot of money with this. You don't need to be an artist. For example, this guy in our class, he is an artist. And he is going to be an artist in the future and he's going to make a living from art. You should go and make portraits and make them perfect and then sell them. And you can make a lot of money.' I felt that was so insulting. How can he say to me, when I was 20 something (years old), how can he tell me what I can't be just because I paint well?? That was shitty advice and I think it was loaded with bitterness of the teachers in university, that they couldn't do anything anymore. They couldn't be artists, they could just be teachers. They felt the necessity to destroy people. This wasn't advice I guess, but it was terrible.
What is the best smell?
The best smell? The best smell.. probably olive oil, to me. I don't know. That's one of the smells that came to my mind. Not a definitive answer.
Who inspires you?
I think people in general. I don't have anybody that I admire, that I put on a pedestal. The kind of people that work hard inspire me.
Can you describe Kamiyama in one word?
Astonishing. My English is not so good! Breathtaking. When I think about Kamiyama I think about mountains and layers of fog.
If you lived in Kamiyama forever what would you do?
Er, probably do an online business with indigo. Maybe make an indigo studio. I love it. I love it. I would love to find new Japanese techniques, not just about indigo. Also, craft and I would love to learn them. Like, I love wood working also. I would love to learn Japanese techniques. So if I lived here I would research and learn and try to mix in between contemporary and traditional and do an online business or something.
How do you feel when you show your work to the public?
99% of the time I'm tired because I finish everything at the last minute! I feel, mostly, nervous of what they are going to think because all of this is for them. I know a lot of artists say You do art for yourself, but I think that's bullshit. If I'm the last person in the world, I'd never do art. I would just go around. I think you do art for other people so I'm nervous and curious about what they are going to think but also, I'm very critical about my work so.. Normally, I calm down when I finish. I see the show and honestly, I get disappointed with my work.
Do you have a weakness?
I have many. Lack of confidence, I guess that's the biggest. Personally. I think art is a reflection of your personality so..
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