January 30, 2012

Paul Garcia

After hours of browsing Paul Garcia's entire photography collection, I decided to reach out and see if I connected to the creator as much as I did the work. This is what he had to say. 

i am thirty five. i studied and graduated as biochemist, then journalist, before deciding to be an artist, albeit through no other choice; born with that natural gift for contradiction and a dream of finding the other end of the circle. this best explains my approach; a simple and practical view of the world. always that desire to simplify, to outline – so the child in me still believes in the magic, but i grew to prefer it defined.

all photographs are taken within walking distance of my home - a small farm on the edge of liverpool, england. most days i pick up my camera and walk my own paths to explore the various abandoned industrial sites and general dereliction - what overlaps between a dying city, the creeping suburbs and ever fewer, smaller fields. my aim is to recover the beauty of what others leave behind. so when the kids steal a chainsaw and chop down the woodland, i'll wait a year to photograph the wild flowers in the meadow. when the joy-riders crash through the wall, i'll find the spark that became the burning wreck. and where the drag marks through the grass lead to a shallow grave, i record the pattern, rather than dig it up. i have no intention of seeing through their eyes. whether this is denial, or enlightenment is unclear - for my sake or theirs - but it fills my days, and helps me sleep at night.

i am a painter, so the camera is a sketch book. i work in multiple layers of household gloss, polished to a mirror finish. as heavy as i can lift and as far as i can reach. each painting takes several years to complete. repeating and refining with each layer, to express that first instinct in its simplest and most effective form. working at the very limit of materials, and the edge of commonsense - the closer i get to perfection, the further it seems. the mirror-finish sometimes being too close to the truth. i enjoy the craft, discipline and routine. knowing any short-cuts come back to bite. when you live with each painting for so long, you can't escape the honesty. it is like making the key for a lock; when working means the same thing. 
a finished painting should be beautifully balanced, in form and colour, and easy to see – as a favourite window – one to walk past or spend a lifetime looking out. sometimes i use the string analogy to better explain - that is, if you dropped a piece of string a thousand times, just once that string might land in a way you perceive of as being 'correct' - repeat the process, and you'd pick the same each time. we are more subtle than we realize - like science tells us that reducing the temperature of the brain cures insomnia, when any child knows to turn over the pillow. i am interested in these moments of common sense and their universal patterns. there is even a cheeky part of me dreaming of a mathematical formula; that if each shape was assigned a value, and each colour had its number, the sum would cancel out - maybe to prove the thing called art, and do something else. never been afraid to believe in the word end. i never expect people to engage intellectually or emotionally with the works, more that i am just looking for acceptance. making the simple things real. call it solidarity.

i am not a conceptualist, capturing the very moment i disappear up my own backside - i hope what i give is more generous than that. so each painting has its own corresponding fruit tree - to offset the chemicals used in the process. each tree is pruned with the same attention/dedication - art only being a vested interest in a given observation. there is no better metaphor to composition than watching how a tree reacts to your yearly attention. both activities are treated the same, not to the extent i want my fan-trained apricot against the gallery wall, but those who don't like my paintings go home with a bag of apples. and which is more important? i don't sell my paintings, so have to grow what i eat. and it is hard to go theoretically hungry.

over the past few years the photography has become as important in its own right. i am looking for something. we are all mapping our own patterns - what we recognize ourselves by, and maybe what we need to see in other people. i like the idea if you overlapped all my images, most likely you'd end with the definitive pattern. what i'm heading toward - the last perfect picture of petals scattered on the ground. i have always seen each image being a continuation of the last - stepping stones to or from the loneliness. it is little like sculpting in that sense, seeing the other side - each strike of the chisel being as important as the previous, even if the ambition is to see no evidence of the chisel. i like to think you would recognize me in a room; that i would be standing in exactly the right spot, a compromise between the lighting, the fire escapes and the crowd on the other side. how we arrange ourselves, or what we choose to see, are both matters of survival.

sometimes i do a walk-through of certain images to better explain what i see. the photograph above is a recent favourite. basically, i've always seen in layers. the compositional side is the most important to me, and the easiest to get right. the instinct the birds have to fly around. next is more about my own personal aesthetic - the beauty, the recovery - then the layers of time to instill something more interesting and lasting; process and decay, the gradual loss of form through interventions and absurdity. basically chaos within the order. cracks to step over. the story to tell. so in this example it is clear the bricks have fallen under their own weight, caused through the weathering and friction of the retaining plastic. i feel this, like the skin stretched across my hand or the shiver as a car passes behind. they have fallen systematically, with a rhythm and grace. sometimes see like i hear - not like a synesthete - not literally - but i’ve always felt things like sound – as though interpreting a graphical score. and things like this sing to me. if i would have kicked them over myself, the act would have broken the spell -  and no-one has the science to specifically place them like that. the maths is too complex to replicate. so i never move a twig or place an object. i'll just wait until it happens, or change my perspective. patience being my only honest talent. i have been described as the person who collects together the pieces of the fuselages of crashed planes, to work out how they got there. so when i flick through my pictures of leaves on the ground, i know which autumn they are from, from the order they've fallen, from the weather that season. if i were to spend the rest of my days in a padded white cell, i would still be daunted by the speed of the change; each day being unique if we chose to see it - all images are calendars to the facts. in this sense, recording almost becomes a responsibility, and you have to believe what you invest will eventually be drawn out. that if you stare at the white wall long enough, you will instill enough of you character that others might draw it out. art is only this shared faith, not a placebo. of course, the final reason i like this particular picture is because that magical element still exists - especially the anticipation created by the single resting brick in the bright, flat, shadowless light we get in early autumn in the uk. i suppose i could equally write about the comments it makes on the economy; though the abandonment of building materials, or society; through the uselessness of the old boundary gate. but the political side of images are less important.

when i am taking pictures i am a very beautiful thing. not the ugly creature carrying the camera. everything slows, as though hovering weightless above the ground. no beating heart. nothing behind. what starts with instinct opens out. sometimes i'll just wait like that, for minutes, for hours - asking and answering the questions of what it is i am seeing. a riddle to work out. the clues are always there, we just have to see what we normally take for granted. stripping back, rebuilding. reliving the layers of time. when i was a child i was obsessed with balancing things; the spoon on my nose, the stool on its two back legs – no mater how many times i fell, i didn't grow out of that ambition. lining everything behind my simple smile. the perfect overlap. then click. and i skip on to the next.

there are days you feel so strongly involved in each aspect of everything. times it is like the leaves need your permission to fall, or at the very least fell via our hands. slightly embarrassing to admit that need for control or explain that kind of commitment, until of course, you have that button to press - then it is like an elastic band snapping back. then stillness. calm. nothing. safely and quietly boxing it up; for later; for days of less moderation. and this is increasingly what a photograph is to me; the pause we share to tame the constant, blinding stream of information. making the familiar special. the point of balance. i think if a photographer isn't laying their personality bare, they are not really taking photographs. they are just assuming something about other people.

i never really believed in copyright. i like that the same swallows return each summer; i wouldn't want to cage them to learn their names. it would be an incredibly lonely world if these ideas where unique to me. i suppose one of my overriding philosophies has always been that nothing escapes the reason we do it - so if you paint for money it is your trade, if you paint for love, and manage to get paid, it is your craft. integrity is all. when i see ideas better than mine, it is like learning a new word to a shared vocabulary. art has always be an act of identity, not just identity. like trees have roots. there is no value in just taking the top half. the copyright, the fear, suggests that each piece was your last, or a talent is limited somehow. and who honestly worries where the next picture comes from? i have always believed i was in the right place at the right time. no-one can take our desire or ability away from us. stop us from retaking the 'stolen' image and making it better. isn't that the very point? it is more about what you reflect as a person - not what that image reflects of itself. if the first is up for sale, it is a different word. i wish more artists would work on relevance,  rather than fight for this permanence.

what we do is more like flying a kite. it is up in the air for everyone to see, but there is always that invisible thread through which we attempt to control it. of course, ultimately the wind decides, but both sides enjoy the illusion. yes, it might be our kite to fly, but that is not the reason it flies. a bit of humility would go along way in the current climate.

1 comment:

  1. what an incredible, beautiful mind--words that situate the photographs as secondary, incidental, to the intellectual process that precedes them. after reading this it seems impossible to return to the instinctual method i've always fallen into; as though understanding such a movement of thought has the capacity to utterly affect ingrained habits. patience suddenly occupies the most important space in the universe.