Guillermo Garcia Cruz is an artist from Uruguay who likes to break the structures and spaces associated with the institutional – instead exploring the world through happenings, performances and land art. He lives and works in Madrid, where he has been taking part in a residency at Atelier Solar; a co-working arts space project. There he is creating new works that will be displayed for the first time at JUST MAD, an avant-garde art fair in the city which is open between 26 February and 3 March.
Ahead of the fair Candid Magazine caught up with the artist to chat about his constructivist, neon works, the residency and art fair, and what makes him tick.
Candid Magazine: When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
Guillermo García Cruz: I’ve been drawing non-stop since I was very little. It was always what I loved the most, so I’ve been studying things related to art for a long time now. When I was a teenager I started going to various informal workshops. I started with caricatures and soon moved onto comics, and then to illustration. Finally, when I started painting at age of 18, I was quickly sure that I wanted to be a visual artist.
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CM: Did you have formal training as an artist?
GGC: Yes, my degree from Uruguay was in visual arts and communications. And in parallel to my university studies, I did various courses in drawing, painting and art theory. I also studied drawing and contemporary painting in the Corcoran College of Art in Washington DC.
CM: What’s a day like in your studio?
GGC: I don’t have a very defined routine. Generally, the first thing I do is work on the computer, responding to emails, writing projects or designing some sort of digital sketch. I don’t like painting in the morning. I usually prepare everything during the afternoon – and when I work best is a night. I can spend long hours in the night painting and sometimes I loose track of time slightly. But it’s when I feel the most comfortable producing work.
CM: Where does your inspiration come from?
GGC: I think it’s a mix of many things. Moments of inspiration come when I think up new projects – but then most of my time is spent working on an initial idea and exploring all its possibilities, until another idea comes along. But what I do believe is that the work of every artist, in one way or another, reflects their own personal experience.
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Ever since I’ve been working as an artist, the thing that inspires me the most is visiting other artists in my city, or in other countries, and hearing them talk about their own work. In my case, I also find that all my work stems from the analysis of one of the questions that interest me the most, which is the function of the contemporary art system as the principal theme of study or investigation. Being immersed in it means that the small, everyday things in my daily routine also become a source of inspiration for my projects.
CM: What's it like being an artist in Uruguay?
GGC: Being an artist in Uruguay is very difficult. Although there are various forms of government support available, through grants and awards, the size of the market means that if someone wants to make a living from art, they need to travel elsewhere, or find other jobs to be able to keep going with their art.
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There are some very good opportunities at art galleries, and the level of Uruguayan art has always stood out, despite it being a country of 3 million habitants. But almost all of the artists that have come to be successful have had to do so by way of the reception of their work abroad. In the country’s own cultural market it’s impossible to sustain the work of a large quantity of Uruguayan artists.
CM: Tell us about your residency at Atelier Solar?
GGC: I’m now coming to the end of my residency at Atelier Solar and I can say the experience has been excellent. Living in Madrid has allowed me to get to know its broad cultural offerings and also concentrate on developing my work here. Being able to dedicate myself totally to the production and analysis of my work, under the tutorial of Daniel Silvo (co-director of the art fair JUSTMAD), in a different context to my usual one, means that I can experiment freely with my work. This has lead to achieve very interesting results, which I’m very pleased with.
Furthermore, the dynamic of the Open Studio that is organised here is a great learning opportunity, because you get to meet artists, curators and galleries that in just one afternoon can give you extremely valuable feedback for you to then use to continue your work in the residency.
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CM: Tell us about your work with JUSTMAD
GGC: I’m really excited about what’s coming with JUSTMAD. Ever since my experience at the Pinta Miami fair last year, I’ve realised that participating with an individual booth in such important fairs is an excellent opportunity to transmit the themes of your work and the whole process that led you up to what you are displaying there.
This will be my first time at JUSTMAD but I have always heard very good things from artist friends from Latin America and Spain about the great opportunity that this fair provides. That’s why in the last few months I’ve been working hard to be able to present works that allow the public to get a real sense, both visual and conceptual, of my investigation.
CM: What has been your proudest achievement to date?
GGC: The truth is that I’m fortunate to have achieved many things recently that I wasn’t expecting, and this motivates me to continue working with the same effort. But the thing I’ve been proudest of for many years now is having formed my own art school in Uruguay.
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To be able to pass on everything that I’ve been learning and see how this motivates other young people – that’s something that really moves me, which is why everything I learn while abroad and during residencies, aside from feeding my own work, is also something I am always eager to go back and teach to others in my own country.
CM: What advice would you give to aspiring artists?
GGC: I would say that aside from the concept, the style, the aesthetic and the technique, the most important thing to becoming a visual artist is always working on what interests you the most. At the beginning, getting the best education possible is important in the world of contemporary art – but in the end, the thing that makes your work grow and mature is the time you spend on it yourself.
I don’t know any good artists that have gone far without solid and constant work – I think that’s the key. And on the other hand, don’t be afraid of any opportunities that come up in your early days – you have to throw yourself into them without doubt. Whenyou’re starting out there are no risks, you just have to do what you feel like, and to experiment. The development of your principal idea, your conceptual or aesthetic line, appears with time – you don’t need to worry about it to start with.
Words by Toby Mellors
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