Over the next week (until 31 Dec) you’ve still got a chance to check out one of Argentina’s most exciting young artists, Gonzalo Anton’s exhibition at La Barrica Mall in Mendoza. Starting his career at the age of 25, Anton quickly rose to fame with exhibitions in Argentina and abroad. Invited as a VIP artist guest at the Art Basel Miami for the vernissage, he has been a regular at the Art Basel fairs in Europe and the US ever since and earlier this year was one of the first South American artists to be invited to participate in the prestigious ‘Art Revolution Taipei’ fair in Asia.
With 25 large paintings on display, there are over 75 sq meters of Anton’s art to muse at the art gallery in the new mall in Guaymallen (open daily 10 till 10).
Amanda Barnes interviews the artist to learn a bit more about his inspiration, downing a bottle of wine, and what making love has to do with art.
Tell me how you went from web design to art…
I wish I knew! I guess it´s one of those love-at-first-sight, intimate experiences. Do clairvoyants really see anything when they claim to see the future? I know I certainly did not.
Cortázar wrote “As if you could choose in love, as if it weren´t a lightning bolt that breaks your bones and leaves you staked in the middle of the backyard”. In the same way I suddenly had the undeniable and unquestionable certainty that I had to start painting. With the simultaneous absolute confidence that things would somehow work out eventually.
A magical and intuitive thinking with no apparent rationality behind it, really. An experience I have never sensed again since. There was little magic to it really, just a raw certainty.
After your own experience, would you recommend anyone to lock themselves away for a few months and paint?
Certainly not! I wouldn´t know how to distinguish if I´m doing that person right or wrong. I did that for a year before a gallery from the US started representing me. But it´s just how things worked out in my sinuous path; not a sure recipe to share.
It was very challenging for me. With the added pressure of your savings running out, with no income, and some other personal challenges of similar flavour. The love and emotional support of my close ones was of the outmost importance to me in that period. And, most surely, the one thing that saved me from sure insanity.
You only started working as an artist professionally in 2008, and are now one of the highest-paid artists in Argentina. What’s the secret to success?
I´d really like to be able to make it sound like an American dream, white picket fence and all, but the personal experience of it is quite different.
There is, on the one side, this unutterable inner garden we all carry inside. At times, full of mythical creatures and blossoming flowers. Art expressions are born there, and then forged through the ascetics of study, effort and tradesmanship.
And then, there is this other parallel universe called the market where the fruits of the former are inserted into. Historically artists always worked under paid requests from a patron. Higher skilled artists received the better commissions and payments. Things were quite simple then compared to today's standards.
In a postmodern society where no objective truth is recognized and everything is questionable, contemporary art museums are filled with artistic expressions that no layman understands. These decisions are made by an establishment. And, most of the times, experts have a hard time understanding the act as well. It seems to be largely about novelty and shock value.
In this universe of supply and demand, market is king and so are its rules: if there is a demand for it, demand shall determine the price. I guess some people, mostly in New York, decided that what I do had potential or value.
In the other universe of the inner garden, things have an inherited value, not determined by demand.
Tell me a bit about the process of making one of your pieces.
I don´t know if I have the capacity of translating these things into words. I think this incapacity is common to actors, stand-up comedians or illustrators as well. It is quite a good question. But trying to answer it feels like someone addressing a person at work and asking to describe their love making process. A long stuttering and some blushing might be all the answer someone could utter. You certainly know it if you are good at it, but might find it challenging to write a how-to guide of it!
What inspiration do you get from Mendoza in creating art?
I guess I´d have to say the silence and the solitude I get in my hometown are the inspiration that enables the rest of the creative process. At times some gallery from US have tried to convince me to paint in Miami or New York. I would save much time and shipping costs this way, but I have found myself shying away from the option so far.
Ironically, my difficulties and limitations in making more paintings a year has improved their situation in the market, being that extremely low production original items are coveted in our era of mass production.
Has wine ever inspired your art?
Certainly. It´s hard not to, living here part of the year. Mendoza is a wine country with a thousand wineries. Everybody knows some winemakers personally. You live amidst wineries, vineyards, harvesters and their seasonal dance. Every friendly gathering has some top-notch wines.
My grandfather was a small vineyard producer. I grew up running between the vineyards and playing with the harvesters. When I was a kid I used to think everybody had the same upbringing, and that the wine process was as familiar and intimate to everyone as it was to me.
But the inspiration I´d have to say has been more indirectly from the general way of life and how that led me into painting, and not necessarily has the inspiration been in painting usually picturesque wine related motifs. I do behave and comply with the usual painting request of wine related motifs when I´m asked to though.
Do you ever drink when you create?
I tend to avoid intoxication of any kind when I´m painting. But there is that one time I drank a whole bottle by myself once while painting, with only a side dish of black olives. I have to confess I woke up with a headache and quite a good painting I still have. Don´t tell anyone though.
Reflecting back on 2014, can you give me three words to describe the year?
Hard. Exotic. Surprising.
Hard, because the winter here (May to August) was quite challenging personally and creatively, with its cold dry grey days.
Exotic, because I did my first exhibit in Asia, in the international contemporary art fair Art Revolution Taipei 2014, in April. It was quite a cultural shock.
Surprising, because I had no high hopes for my end of year exhibit here in Mendoza. I usually avoid making exhibits here, because of the lack of local interest. No one showed up for the opening for example, except a couple of people, lost in that huge art room. However, much of it ended up being acquired. Mostly by private art collectors from New York - no surprises there.
And how about three words for your aspirations for 2015?
"I-hope-I-have-room-for Improvement-and-capacity-for Continuing-to-learn." One two three, there you go.
What will you be doing for New Year’s Eve? And do you know what wine you’ll be toasting with?
Surely something intimate with family.
About the wine, anything I can weasel my way into aquiring from vineyard owners at The Vines, hands down.
Amanda Barnes is a British wine writer based in Mendoza. She finds herself most creative after one glass of wine, but after the second glass she is most decidedly too abstract. www.amandabarnes.co.uk