We’re excited to show Venezuelan artist, Benjamin Garcia’s newest body of work Panacea in the Thinkspace Project Room. Garcia’s emotive and gestural painterly style allows him to create figurative subjects in a state of transformation or becoming. In anticipation of Panacea, we have an interview with Benjamina Garcia discussing dreams, his creative process, and artist toolbox.
SH: How do you approach developing a new body of work? Were there specific themes or techniques you wanted to explore in Panacea?
BG: Well, the development of this particular body of work was a kind of revision of old themes and ways of working and also experimentation with new ways and trying to combine them. I’m always on the search for a kind of balance between the completely figurative and planned aspects of painting and the emotional and primitive approach to abstraction and freedom. The perfect combination of this two aspects eludes me still but in a way, there has been sizeable progress towards discovering some facets of it.
The themes and symbols of the paintings really came to me subconsciously. I believe a big inspiration for most of it is the sense of isolation that comes from being stranded out of the country I grew up in and the sense of loss that comes with having to escape dictatorship separating from friends and family. The horrors of loss and the pain of seeing basically the worst of human nature in a sort of 1984/Soviet Union style. The real deconstruction of the basis of society is something that when experienced permeates your work whether you want it or not because it makes you question reality itself. I really did not intend for it to be about that but I can feel a taste of those emotions in the paintings.
SH: Is there a particular piece in this exhibition you feel really challenged you? If so, why and what makes you proud of this piece?
BG: There is: Dia Secreto. It was a really difficult piece for me to develop because the compositional aspects are really complicated and also it took me like a month to plan. Really got into trying to paint this regular scene like really bucolic but then there is something mysterious that happens in that story. Also, it was really difficult for me to execute.
SH: How do you plan out your compositions? Where do you source inspiration?
BG: I start looking for inspiration in movies or photography, magazines, video clips. I´m always being bombarded by stimulus from all sources and an amalgam of all of it is what basically gets painted. I try not to have a preconceived idea of what I want. I like to see it done and then go back and try to figure out what it means.
SH: What excites you about your work / creative process?
BG: Basically what really excites me is to get out of my confront zone all the time. To try to develop and discover how my basic pictorial language grows.
SH: What frustrates you about your work / creative process?
BG: Not connecting emotionally sometimes with the subject matter. And get stuck in trying to figure out the next steps trying to not play it safe.
SH: What’s in your toolbox? AKA what paints, brushes, tools would we find in your studio? What do you wish was in your studio?
BG: I wish I had more people in the studio. I sometimes go paint with friends in a shared space. But my main studio is kind of lonely. Also, I paint with the cheapest brushes, I spend more on the canvas and paints mainly but I think I´ve never painted with an expensive brush in all my life.
SH: After a show what do you do? Do you take a long break, vacation, a particular ritual? Tell us.
BG: After a show, I try to take it easy a couple of weeks and just draw and be in like a free space outside the studio to then get right back into it.
SH: What is an aspect of other’s artwork that really excites you, what are you drawn too?
BG: I really love the freedom in the strokes of Jenny Saville. Also, I love the complex social scenes of Kerry James Marshall.
SH: Has there been someone or some event that has made a significant impact on you that lead you to where you are now? An artistic catalyst of sorts?
BG: Well, there is my brother Lucas. He is a real inspiration to me. He is a writer and illustrator. As he is my big brother I always look up to him and always thought it was possible for me to live being an artist because I saw him thrive.
SH: In a past interview you expressed your brushstrokes are a way of capturing your unique dream, “I can never focus my attention on more than one item at a time and sometimes it’s all fuzzy and disjointed, I want my paintings to be a bit of a window into that state.” As a person who remembers their dreams, can you share with us one that has a particularly interesting through-line you might remember?
BG: In dreams, one always see things in a sort of blurry way. And always everything is skipping like a broken record and scenes juxtapose in time. People are at one time one person and then other people. Reality is never still in dreams. I had a dream the other day where I was speaking with Bill Murray and also he was my father. Both persons at the same time. A dream character who is two people at the same time is something I can’t wrap my head around. Is more like the meaning of a character what you really interact within a dream. He was speaking to me about what it means to be an adult and have a family while we walked on the water of a river like Jesus.
SH: You have a time machine, and you could do anything / go anywhere for 24 hours, and would not interfere with the space-time continuum. What would you do?
BG: I would go to the beginning of time and see if there is such a thing and come back with the answer and possibly freak everyone out.