The Result Is What Remains, Rather Than What Is Created
Carlos Herraiz Artist Interview
In this SomoS Artist Interview, Spanish visual artist Carlos Herraiz speaks about creating painting and photography during lockdown, and his fascination with memory, process, aging and chance. The interview was conducted Spring 2020 as a remote studio visit as part of SomoS Virtual Residency Program.
Likening himself to a “street archaeologist,” the exploration of his surroundings and the search for aged and discarded objects and surfaces are an important inspiration for Herraiz’ abstract work. After his motto, “The result is what remains, rather than what is created,” the artist allows the natural elements to decide the appearance of the work. This loss of control over the changes performed by nature and the confidence towards the achievement of an unknown result allow him to create paintings that carry the profound traces of time, place and action.
Herraiz has spent the past several years studying at the Glasgow School of Art and Barcelona Academy of Art, and completed an artist residency in Kavala, Greece. He has held three solo exhibitions in Barcelona, and participated in group exhibitions in Barcelona, Glasgow, and Edinburgh. He received the Spoon Prize at the Leith School of Art, and was nominated for the Richard Ford Award.
Carlos Herraiz Interview – Full Transcript
I’m Carlos Herraiz, I’m from Barcelona and I’m 24 years old. I’ve lived in Scotland for the last 4-5 years. I paint and I photograph, but in the last few years I’ve started to open up and allowed new things to diversify my practice.
A lot of my work takes place outside of the studio; I like to see myself as a street archaeologist. I literally go outside and gather things, taking photographs of the things I see. Then, when I come back to the studio and see all the things that I’ve collected, I can start playing with them. Most of the time, I have no idea of what I’ll do, but I have confidence in the process. I believe that if you have preconceived ideas of what you’ll do, you will limit yourself, there’s no mystery, no chance.
I believe us artists can become really attached to our works, and see it as a very precious and holy thing – but finally it’s only a piece of thread, just things. The value is all in our minds, and we have to let go of this attachment and see our artistic practices in a playful way. My idea is to play and see what happens, this leads to something really exciting. Eventually, when you see the work hanging on a wall, you can get attached to it, but while you’re playing with it in the middle of the process it’s just, you know, matter.
How to depict memory, time and trace in painting
I am interested in the ideas of time and memory, in the traces of something and the tension between its presence and absence, what is left after something is gone. I think that abstract painting allows us to make such connections more easily. All these ideas of time and trace are metaphorical, nothing physical is gone, but just the same we are left with their absence. We may say the same about memory, as it starts disappearing over time and then all that is left is a memory of that memory and so on. Finally, you end up with a tiny bit that is only a small suggestion of that initial memory. I have no idea how this can be reflected in the painting, but the process of making the painting itself carries so much history in its layers. For me, it is more about what remains than what is created. And for this reason, I expose the paintings to situations I cannot really control. Two months ago, I threw two canvases into the sea and I left them there for two weeks, releasing control of the result. I could only recover one canvas, the other one was completely buried. The traces and the marks of the waves, the sand and the wind were left on the canvas. I captured a visual representation of these two weeks that the painting has been submerged.
Paintings as vessels of memory
Paintings, the colors and materials used, are personal pieces of memory to me. I think that’s the cool thing about being an artist: when you see a work that you’ve produced, it brings you back to the moment when you were working on it. When I see my paintings from years ago, I connect with the moment I was painting them and with my mood and my emotions at the time. You can grab it, truly feel it and transport yourself to that moment when you painted it. It’s no longer a visual thing, we only start with the visual element, and then, over time, a memory might come out thanks to the association of the memory of the senses, like for example when you smell something or when you read a book. Like this, the memory comes out in a different way, in a more sensorial way. It’s really abstract, it becomes an abstract thing, a sensation and then it’s gone.
Life and art during lockdown
I was going to the studio in my town and I was working on an exhibition, but then of course it got canceled because of the pandemic. The lockdown did not influence much of my daily routine. Of course, it’s annoying not being able to see my friends and to be a “street archeologist” but I’m lucky that I have a little studio in the countryside. The studio is at my grandparents’ old home in a small village in the mountains about 40 minutes away from Barcelona. When I am there I do nothing but go for walks, read, or paint. I have a studio in the house and when it gets a bit warmer I paint in the garden. In the end, lockdown is not too bad for me, I’m not much inconvenienced.
I have a few paintings on the go here and I’ve got two canvases buried in the mountain. When the coronavirus situation started, I wanted to begin something different so I painted two canvases, I dug a big hole and buried them. I will wait a couple of weeks and I will see what happened to them with the rain, the humidity and even the animals that live there. I have no idea of what is going to happen but I know those canvases are there, I have also buried some photographs I took.
The effects of the pandemic in Spain and in the art community
I guess that this pandemic has been unpredictable and radical for everyone, no matter the context or country. It has forced everyone to stop our accelerated lives and to force ourselves to spend time with ourselves and whoever we spent the lockdown with. On this level it has been amazing. Of course it has been easier for certain people and incredibly difficult for others. Luckily now people are starting to go back to normal life, moving where possible and socializing, but of course we still have to be conscious and respectful otherwise we will be locked down again in a few months.
I read an article that listed the jobs that were less affected by Covid-19. The first one were the woodcutters and the second one artists. In a way it’s quite true: my life hasn’t changed drastically since the pandemic. Isolation and working in solitude is something artists are quite used to. But of course it has affected the art market. On one hand I think it is good; there were so many things that were no longer sustainable and this is going to force the artists and the galleries to find new ways to show artworks and make connections. I know that most of the galleries in Spain have started to digitalize their collections and to sell online, hopefully soon we can start having physical exhibitions and enjoy the art again with the senses.
Residence at SomoS
I’m really excited about my residency at SomoS. I just want to expose myself to the same process as mentioned before, allowing the space to guide me, walk a lot and collect as many things as I can… I would like to try different things, for example work with installation or maybe with video that is something I have never worked with. I will try to be exposed to the city as much as I can. I’m sure I’m going to love it.
Artist – Carlos Herraiz
Video Interview, Editing & Graphics – Guillem Delás
Text Editing: Angelica Lanza
Music – Yung Logos
Produced by SomoS Art House 2020