Artist Spotlight with Alicia Paz
Alicia Paz, B.Mexico City, 1967, APT Artist of APT Mexico city fund - With the upcoming solo exhibition “The Garden of Follies” opening on the 28th of November and continuing to the 28th of February 2016 at the Kunstmuseum Magdeburg, Germany.
We are honored to have Alicia Paz on our 'Artist Spotlight' right before the opening of her solo exhibition.
APT: Alicia, how are you these days and where do you reside currently? After living in many different countries, Mexico, USA, UK and France, would you care to share with us where and why have you decided to live at the moment?
Alicia Paz: I have been very happy living in London for the last 15 years, and feel quite settled here. I love this city for many reasons: the charm of its many quirky residents, the city’s vast international social fabric, the scope and breadth of its cultural life and unique history, as well as the fact that it sits somewhere between Europe and the USA, in terms of how things operate. I find that Britain as a nation does not take its identity for granted but rather constantly seeks to understand and reinvent it; it is a place of dynamic fluidity and openness. For all these reasons, I enjoy living and working here as an artist.
APT: Do you consider yourself as a contemporary Mexican artist, although the years of you developing yourself as an artist outside of Mexico?
Alicia P: I consider myself a Mexican artist, because it is the country of my birth and childhood, but I also consider myself an American artist, a French one, and a British one. That may sound a bit crazy, but having lived for substantial periods of time in all of these places, each environment has become a big part of who I am. These different identities coexist very well, for the most part, in so far as I am able to “mix and match”, so to speak, to tap into different contexts in terms of both the production and the exhibition of my work. My art education at UC Berkeley, Beaux-Arts Paris, as well as Goldsmiths and RCA in London, have led me to develop friendships and sustained dialogue with practitioners from very diverse horizons, all of which has been very enriching. In fact, I have met very interesting Mexican artists and learned a great deal about Mexican art and culture by living in California, Paris and London, by virtue of accessing film festivals, literature readings, art exhibitions, as well as specialist lectures and publications. So in this regard, things come full circle.
APT: Can you describe your ideal space to present your work? Is there a tension you consider between your artworks and the space it is planned to be presented in, and does it affect one another?
Alicia P: Whenever possible, I prefer to show in larger institutional spaces where there is an opportunity to exhibit several works belonging to more than one series. I think my practice is best presented expansively, because when there are just a few pieces on view, the semiotic gaps between works might be too wide, and richer interpretations may be lost. There are many inter-weavings and connections between the various phases of my practice, as I tend to revisit previously explored themes from new angles. In the near future, I plan to experiment with performance and/or sound work via collaboration, which may lead to a new negotiating of space.
APT: We can see throughout the years you give titles to your work such as: “Utopia”, “Dreamland”, “Garden”. What is your vision of Utopia/Dreamland?
Alicia P: My work has been included in diverse exhibitions and aligned with various curatorial concepts, sometimes to do with the idea of an enchanted utopia, but I feel closer to the image of the architectural garden “folly”, in the sense of depicting things that are so extravagant that they transcend their purpose and fall into the realm of symbolism and/or allegory. The garden folly combines aspects of whimsy, madness and delight, and although I do not specifically paint garden buildings or abodes, my landscapes-as-portraits, featuring anthropomorphic figures and plant-like forms, take on such psychological aspects.
APT: Could you describe your creative process? What triggers you to create a new art work?
Alicia P: I am very interested in baroque grotesque ornamentation and 18th century garden design as a source of inspiration for my work. There is an obsession with horticulture in Britain, which makes it easy to access not only historical gardens but also a great deal of information on the subject. I also look at decorative arts such as Anglo-Indian floral textiles, as well as European porcelain and jewelry. I pay close attention to urban life- if I see someone wearing an item of clothing with an interesting pattern, for example, I will ask them if I can take a snapshot with my phone, and then later paste the image up on my studio wall. I also collect colourful paper and rubbish lying on the street, if it catches my eye for whatever reason. In the winter, I often find the odd single glove lying around the pavement on my way to the studio. Such found objects are like treasures for me, and they often make their way into my textured amalgams. Another important influence is the history of painting; I love combining references to periods such as the rococo, Pop, or surrealism, and experimenting with multiple contemporary techniques, such as using acrylic impasto mediums, beads, collage and aerosol paint, as a way of “translating” the past into the Now... There is a great deal of ornamental excess in my work.
APT: Your signature as an artist is pop culture, fashion, theater and visual entertainment. How much of it is influenced by today's culture and your daily routine?
Alicia P: I am not sure that those elements as such are my signature, but there is certainly a processing or visual digestion of them in my practice, in which they emerge transposed into painterly allegorical concoctions. I spend most days in my studio, as the crafting of my work is very laborious, but I also see a range of exhibitions and films regularly. A favourite institution of mine is the Sir John Soane’s Museum, with its paneled walls revealing layer upon layer of art works and a collection of strange objects; also the V & A museum, which holds sumptuous exhibits about the history of fashion and costume design. Over the years I’ve developed a penchant for opera, as it is an all-encompassing “total” artwork, as rich visually and emotionally as it is musically. I think its tendency for excess, drama and an often absurd frivolity, are a significant influence on my work. An unforgettable experience was seeing Cocteau’s film “La Belle et la Bête” to the intense opera by Philip Glass.
APT: You described in a talk with Alison Green, that in the process of creating the trees in your paintings, you imagine them talking and singing. Is music influential in your work process?
Alicia P: Perhaps the influence is not so much from music in isolation, but more as part of a larger context or narrative, as in radio programming. I love listening to the radio while I work: the story-telling, dialogues, confessions and audience participation are constant companions to me during the confection of my visual works. In the paintings I discussed with Alison, we were referring to the term “Conversation pieces”, as in the Dutch painting tradition of group portraiture. In my paintings of trees, there are various characters and loose narratives that intertwine amidst the foliage and branches, allowing for multiple readings and discussions…
APT: Name an unnecessary item you could not live without.
Alicia P: My son made a small “troll” out of a piece of wood bark. It has moss hair and googly eyes made of seeds. It is funny and sad at the same time.
APT: What made you decide to join APT?
Alicia P: It was recommended to me by my friend and museum director Maria Inés Rodriguez, whose opinion I respect a great deal. I particularly enjoy the human relations aspect that comes with being part of APT, as I have been lucky to meet truly wonderful artists, curators and arts professionals through this organization’s globalized network. Also, by investing works in APT, an artist has the opportunity to keep certain pieces together for a long period of time in a single collection, which is rare. Works can be loaned and be included in very interesting projects and publications. I hope to expand upon my activities with APT, perhaps by taking up a studio residency.
APT: Could you give us a hint of what are we going to see in your upcoming solo exhibition “Garden of Follies”?
Alicia P: This semi-retrospective exhibit will present a large number of new and recent paintings, works on paper and silhouette sculptures, and will be accompanied by a bilingual catalogue designed by Fraser Muggeridge Studio. I am very honoured to exhibit my work in the context of such a beautiful contemporary art museum, housed in a historic medieval cloister. My thanks to the director, Dr. Annegret Laabs, and to the curator, Uwe Gellner, as well as to the whole team at the museum, for making this project possible!
We congratulate you for your solo exhibition “The Garden of Follies” at the Kunstmuseum Kloster unser lieben Frauen in Magdeburg, Germany. Thank you for participating in 'Artist Spotlight' and we wish you all the best!
Artist Pension Trust
The Artist Alicia Paz in her studio
Image courtesy: Alessandro Ceccarelli