DIALOGUE WITH THE ARTIST
(Urta is interviewed by Barbara Bacconi at his studio)
WHAT I MOST ENJOY AND GIVES ME THE GREATEST SATISFACTION BEFORE A NEW EXHIBITION IS TALKING WITH THE ARTIST, THE MAN OR THE WOMAN WITH WHOM I WILL SHARE AN ART PROJECT, A NEW PATH FOR GROWTH THAT GOES WAY BEYOND THE PROFESSIONAL. “DIALOGUE WITH THE ARTIST” IS A WINDOW OPENING ON THIS UNIQUE EXPERIENCE THAT I LIVE EACH TIME WITH RENEWED PASSION FOR THE WORLD OF ART AND FOR ALL THOSE WHO, AS UNDENIABLE PROTAGONISTS, WORK CEASELESSLY TO LEAVE PRECIOUS TESTIMONIES OF HOW THEY LIVE, SEE AND PERCEIVE THE WORLD AND LIFE IN ALL ITS FACETS.
“…this artistic adventure, like any other adventure, was born from my own small world. When I think I do not act and when I act I do not think. Thus the work starts developing, the journey begins, the piece comes to being and, almost unintentionally, one starts finding texts, music, images that conspire in one’s favour.”
Twenty-seven years in Spain, twenty-two in Valencia… tell me the story of how you arrived in Valencia and what was your artistic profile at the time. I mean, how was Urta the artist born?
I lived in my country until 1985. We went through a dictatorship in Uruguay from 1973 until 1984 which occupied a significant part of my youth. Indeed, those years coincided with the time when one was supposed to go to university. So, when the School of Fine Arts was taken over, my artistic training switched to participating in different studios of artists who trained young people who were interested in the world of art, painting, sculpture and engraving.
In 1985, my wife and I decided to come to Spain with our two-year old son. We lived in Móstoles for the first five years, and afterwards we lived for one year and a half in San Lorenzo del Escorial.
Were you already working as a sculptor in Madrid?
Yes, indeed. I have been doing things since before I even knew the meaning of the word ‘artist’. I have some photographs my father took of me when I was four or five years old making little pieces with mud. I would do this for hours on end. I think that that attitude of making in a state of deep concentration is the same that I feel today. I would mutilate my mother’s brooms to carve small pieces of wood; pine bark was also a good material to carve.
You have been in Valencia for twenty-two years, you have been able to see the cultural changes that have taken place in the city. Has this influenced your art and your personality?
Yes, we arrived in Valencia in 1990 and one month later our second child was born. Our situation back then was that of an immigrant family repeating the same experience as five years before, when we arrived in Madrid. It was very hard given our circumstances but our youth and hope sufficed for us to settle down in a new city. I believe that one emigrates because one is unaware of the true meaning of such a decision. These experiences leave a deep mark, if they do not defeat you, they make you stronger. Art is the result of your experiences, of your life. I think that the fact of seeing in person works that you had only seen in books has influenced my artistic work. I think I am beginning to really learn... Sorolla’s sunny Valencia, Valencia the seafarer, the paellas at Malvarrosa, the city of Barrachina, the Del Carmen district, have certainly had an influence on my personality and, therefore, on my art. The city’s golden age banner was the Ivam which, unfortunately, has faded over time. It used to be a merrier city and much more interesting from the cultural point of view.
Man lives under the influence of his environment and this influence is reflected upon his art, you seem not to be much influenced by the environment….
Artistic work is a solitary work and it is born from intimacy, it grows inside-out and it emerges to one’s environment out of necessity, regardless of what that environment may be. I do not believe the environment to be a determining factor at the time of creation, at least not in my case.
You must have known artists with whom you connected ….
I have known good people here in Valencia, of course. Galleries that have exhibited my work and to which I am grateful as they have given me the opportunity to develop my art. Despite the many ordeals, I have been able to keep along this path constantly. Some artists and critics have appreciated my work and this has made me feel “in”. In 1999 I was awarded the
Bancaja Sculpture Prize, I have finally won my own place in the artistic circle.
I met you for the first time at the vernissage of your exhibition at Kessler Battaglia gallery in Valencia, you exhibited plaster pieces that afterwards became bronze sculptures. These plaster sculptures serve you as models. Why this material and not another one?
I have been working with plaster for years, I know this material well. It comes from a stone that is turned to dust and that I reconvert into stone. From stone to dust and from dust to stone, a metaphor of the transformative nature of the artistic work. In sculpture it is generally used as an intermediate material, that is, as a prototype from which a cast is made to create the final piece. In the case of the pieces you saw at Kessler Battaglia, the sculptures were treated as sculptures and as prototypes simultaneously. This means that the original pieces are the plaster pieces you saw at the exhibition, but they are also susceptible of being reproduced in another material, for example, bronze. Thus, each piece will have a different weight, colour, a different nature... while being the same it would also be another one.
So the sculptures I saw serve you as models but are not models, they are not sketches, they are pieces born in plaster.
Yes, indeed. The work is what you see and I allow the possibility of reproducing it in another material. This was the case in this exhibition.
Would it be possible for a buyer to purchase a plaster piece without its bronze counterpart? Would it mean the same to you?
In this case, each of the pieces you saw at KB would allow for another 5 pieces. As an answer to your question, I would sell the plaster after making the cast for the 5 reproductions in bronze.
So far there have been people in charge of selling your work …
Yes, and I am truly grateful for this. The business side to my work is not my strong point. It is the part that less interests me, if at all, so whenever I deal with these aspects I think I never manage to do it well enough. I also know that it is essential to make a living and keep doing my work, that is why I find people who will do it for me in exchange for a retribution, of course.
Due to the current crisis artists have to find ways to reach the public, buyers…
Yes, it is common talk today. I think that social networks can be a useful means to exhibit what one does. I am not really familiar with this modality. What I try to do is to show my work to my circle of acquaintances so that they may help.
The pieces displayed on the Web are made of iron and I have to admit that the visual and aesthetic impact changes substantially (when compared to the KB works). Also, there are strongly symbolic sculptures… these pieces are very essential, polished, minimal, beautiful. Unadorned. You love simplicity and straightforward language…
Yes, symbolism is a constant in this work, as in all others. There is always an idea supporting the work, conferring it meaning. For meaning I understand that which brings a work of art into being, its reason for being. Meaning comes later and by then it is not the one given by the artist as art also belongs to the spectator. The work fulfils itself in the spectator. Symbolism represents ideas of reality, escaping reality as in no other way. In the words of Borges, with whom I have the honour of sharing my bloodline, “what is irremediable of reality is its very existence”, of course, nothing else exists. I think that symbolism is the body taken by the idea to make itself evident.
The iron pieces you refer to, bull, partridge, portrait, etc., have an ideographic nature and the aesthetic contrast with my latest pieces, the plaster arque+grafías you saw at the KB exhibition, is evident. The difference in the material and its synthetic figuration belong to an earlier stage than the arque+grafías where synthesis disregards any relation to figuration in order to delve into abstract constructions.
It is typical of the sculptor’s language to strip instead of to add… To strip matter from all that is superfluous, to take away in order to seek.
Yes, each piece is like a discovery and discovering is stripping so that one can see what is underneath or inside. This work is the synthesis I speak of, a quest for the essence in favour of clear and radical communication. Stripping allows to “animate” the piece, to imbue it with a soul. If a piece does not have a soul then it is nothing but than a thing. This is what makes a piece something more than a thing, this is what allows it to generate emotion. This mysterious and transforming plus is art.
The sculptures I saw at your latest exhibition are quite different from everything you have done so far, they are geometric games, open windows on a private world, embroidered and pregnant with symbolism…
I did the first sketches in Uruguay in April, 2010, three months after my father’s death. They are the fruit of an intense emotional state.
I think that in this kind of situations all obstacles to reach our depths disappear. Early in 2012, nearly two years later, I retrieved the sketches and continued drawing. These drawings came out in the form of writings, one after the other, until I could count around sixty. Taking the cross as the constructive structural element around which to build the geometry, I decided to transform what I had into sculptures. I use the nudity of geometry and the order of symmetry to express myself. The texture of the material and its whiteness also contribute to relate the intimate load with the spiritual, mystical contents. I am not interested in a formal, aestheticist geometry, this is the geometry of subjectivity. Artists whom I admire have been present throughout my work, such as Brancusi, Oteiza or Mark Rothko. Artists who communicate basic emotions, who sacralise their work using geometry in their aspiration to synthesis, taking the shortest path because it is the most direct one. You mentioned windows, I like that. I intend that they be opened within and towards the spectator, that they serve for self-reflection. I have always wished for my works to have a benefic effect on the people who contemplate them, that they may provide a solace amongst so much noise, some clarity amongst so much confusion.
What research have you done?
Well, this artistic adventure, like any other, was born from my own small inner world. When I think I do not act, and when I act I do not think. Thus, the work begins to develop, the journey starts, the piece is on the making and almost unintentionally one starts finding things to read, music and images that conspire in its favour. To give you some examples: “Cave of forgotten dreams”, a documentary by Werner Herzog on a prehistoric cave found intact in the south of France, makes me think of the timeless dimension of art and that the idea of progress is not within its scope; “The Circular Ruins” by Borges, where he turns illusion into reality, showing how literature in this case, creates a parallel reality, or the music by Satie that I listen to while I work, are some of the things that I find along with so many others, that prop up, not without hesitation, the work in progress. I ask myself the elementary questions, the ones that are inherent to our human condition, the concepts of life and death, masculine and feminine, duality and its ensuing conflict… These concepts inevitably appear whenever we reflect upon the human being, its condition and its origins. If we talk about existence, life and death are two aspects of it. For example, over there you can see two drawings of two sculptures I am currently working on, one has a feminine nature and the other a masculine nature, which is which to you?
To me they are both feminine, however, there is something masculine to the one on the right…
So you agree with other people who have answered this same question before you. If from abstraction, without using figurative obviousness, I can convey such nature and its corresponding emotion then the result is the right one.
You were telling me that when your father died you started drawing and that those drawings rested in a drawer for nearly two years, as if they were waiting for the right time to be resumed. Finally, beautiful pieces have been created, pieces on which to comment, pieces that relate us… Death therefore is not something ugly, there is a dramatic side to it, as there is a cheerful side, and they both make up a whole reality that is called life and it is not true that nothing good can come out of drama …
Yes, they emerge from my emotional intuition, but in order to develop the pieces one has to wait for the emotional storm to pass and see if what has come out of it is worth being developed. Drama and intensity give way to what is worthwhile and to joy, the joy of living.