On hairs, paintings and the twelve apostles

In your way to the Compostelanian neighbourhood of Vista Alegre you can run into a rose-colored presumably english cooker who struggles to say the spanish word "fregona"; with a dressed-up gentleman guiding a group of presumably asian people and who struggles to explain that "wee has dis an dat"; a good-looking piper who struggles to interpretate what presumably is a Concierto de Aranjuez's adaptation, and a tuno who, well, simply, drinks in the entrance of a pub.

But my destination is way more interesting than this reality details you could see anytime on the stone pavement of the old zone of Santiago de Compostela. There are places that cannot be seen, unless you have a particular interest on knowing them, and particular is the workshop where a group of four artists work, along with a stylist who has set up an underground salon amogst canvas, wood, porcelain and pigments.

This feature's protagonists come from various contexts and, so that, their opinion depend mainly on the context we're talking about. They are Manuel Eiris (Santiago de Compostela, 1977), Pablo Barreiro (Meaño, 1982), Lúa Gándara (Vigo, 1988),  Joseba Muruzábal (A Coruña, 1984), and Trini F. Silva. They have been at this rented space for almost two years, ones came before, others after, but as those from A Peregrina's house, they needed a place to work in, and, to say it again: create, create, and create.

As I have been corroborating since this blog started, making a living out of art, is not easy. It depends on public budgets, prizes, scholarships, occasional sales and orders. If all of this factors could happen at once and every month you may say, being an artist is a profitable profession, but reality is way too different. They earn to eat and keep going on; ask them about his immidiate future and uncertainty will show on their faces.

Althought is not all about pessimism, Lúa affirms she "is going to achieve" even tough everything is jodido (fucked up); she is optimistic, what some "months is harder to be than others", she says. Each of them work in a different field and each of them hardly live off their production; even those who are doing well, aren't well off.  In the past few years, they say, prizes have been cut down, because councils, who have suffered culture cuts, have a really tight budgets. Joseba mentions the disappearance of the painting prize called "Terras de Iria", a very important award sponsored by three citys (Dodro, Rois and Padrón) and whose first prize was 8,000 euros. If you look up the 2011 edition of this feast on the internet you would find no award at all, but instead there will be a beautiful schelude with Panorama (an orquest) as the top invited artist. It seems that in crisis times, budgets need to be prioritized.

The exhibition, promotion or selling places such as galleries or museums are another vias which the artists need to get into, in order to live off their creations. Manuel Eiris has part of his artwork exhibited at the SQC gallery and soon he is going to be at the Galician Contemporanean Museum of Art (CGAC) in a collective collection called "Gravity in disgrace" but it doesn't mean he is actually with no money issues. Artists, depending on the context, are underrated. Joseba tells that, besides his realistic artwork in the "Mis amigos y sus perros" (my friends and their dogs) series, he is often hired to decorate pubs and clubs' walls and fachades and he says that in many occasions it seems that the employers "are making you a favor, but they don't pay you much more than a regular painter". It is also truth that in the past few years, thanks partly to Bansky, urban artists, who Joseba distinguishes from graffiti, are more glamourous.

The artworks at this workshop are varied. Pablo, whilest he is developing a porcelain and gress series planned to be part of various artists' decoration and also aiming to be part of an interactive exhibition, is manufacturing five hundred shot-glasses for a pub in Compostela. Besides his artistic production he needs this kind of orders, where they don't really do what they like, so he can survive with his job. The ideal situation? Lúa says, "like now but with more money", pretty clear.

Education: art for love, ou pragmatic contents?
Out of my question about the taboos nowadays art can have, it emerged a discussion about university education and training in art. At this round table (it's a saying, was an square table actually) for which I was guilty, it didn't appear clear to me if art studies should be imparted by teachers or artists, and if the students should finish their degrees having a formation in how to create art, but also in how to sell it. 

Joseba considers that it is necessary to teach the basis of the knowhow to create, so students will go their own way from the scratch. According to Pablo, at the German art studies' schools and universities the ones in charge of the teaching are mainly artists, althought Joseba thinks that they might "teach how to create, but not their way to do it". Pablo also affirms that the degrees in Galicia should be more "professionalized and serious", because a few years ago the mayority of the art students could get a job at public institutions, but it is not necessary to mention that nowadays there is no way, schools of art can cope with the enormous number of artists and fine arts students.

It is, perhaps, necessary to find out new ways to fund art with? Are the educational programs changing? Lúa, who European Space for Higher Education (SEES) took by surprise in the middle of her degree, comments that educational institutions are already teaching their students about how to pitch their works, so they acquire abilities in selling and advertising their own products.

The underground salon
You might think I have forgotten about something really important: the underground salon, and about Trini (who is, by the way, working at audiovisual productions all over Spain as a make-up and hairdressing supervisor). But, I didn’t. Nor do I forget her, neither got my camera’s battery off unexpectedly; what happens is that this salon is underground, and even though she has an average of three hundred, let’s say, guests, per year, on behalf of her is better not to leave any evidence of the salon's existence. But I have to say that Maria (fictitious name), who got upset to me for addressing her as “madam”, seemed to be very happy with her new haircut, and so do I.

I tried to discuss many topics at my visit to this workshop in Compostela and the participants’ opinions “depended on…” many times. But, despite the buts, there is something all of them agreed with, and it is that they always do what they really like. “Creating something you don’t like and failing on selling it would be really distressful”, Joseba considers. In fact, they don’t work with the same passion on the orders they get, purely mechanical work, than in those art pieces that emerge spontaneously; it’s something that have been repeating itself through the history of art: Michelangelo got trapped in a existential doubt when La Signoria (an old way of government in Florence) ordered him to sculpt twelve apostles. He needed the money at that time, and it was his first important work, but just the thought of having to spend twelve years of his life sculpting dress saints drove him mad. This moment was related by Irving Stone on the biographic novel called The Agony and the ecstasy. Micheangelo tells the great news to the Topolino’s family and seeks the Giuliano da Sangallo’s advice.
He told them about the twelve apostles’ assignment. The father brought a bottle of vine, the one for the special occasions such as weddings and grandson’s births. They all drank from a glass to celebrate the news. Why was him feeling unhappy? (…) He wasn’t sure if he was going to be able to resist that slavery after the great freedom he had sculpting the David. Even Donatello did just make one of the apostles in marble. How can he create something different, with freshness, for every and each of those statues? He went to Guiliano da Sangallo, and he found him at his desk:
-       Sangallo, this project was not convinced for me. Do you think a sculptor should accept an assignment that is going to take him twelve years to fulfil, unless he is really passionate about it?
-       Those are so many years – Sangallo says-, but could you reject a gonfaloniere’s [governor] offering? They are offering you the most important assignment since Ghiberti did the well-known gates. If you do not accept they will be offended, and that will put you in a very complicated position.
-       I know it. I can’t accept it, and I cannot refuse.
-       Accept the contract, build the house and your studio, sculpt all the apostles you can. By the time you’re finished, you will be saint and good. If you don’t finish it, as soon as you decide not to go on, you would be able to paid for the rest of the property in cash. 

P.D.: new and interesting features are about to come.  Stay tuned.
                                                                                                                                        Galego / Español

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