LOURDES FISA: “I FEEL CHALLENGE IS WHAT MAKES ME GROW”
Challenge is the first stimulus that inspires visual artist Lourdes Fisa (Barcelona, 1964) to play with materials, shapes and textures in a true endless discovery path. And that is the exciting part of it! The continuous change in our lives that invites us every day to evolve and to adapt to the environment is the trigger behind “Atlas” (Tinglado 1, Tarragona, from April 26 to June 3, 2018), the artist’s next exhibition. Change is also a constant and persistent thread in all her work. Fisa lives immersed in an aesthetic-poetic or poetic-aesthetic that swathes her and accompanies her from her beginnings. That is, always. Thus, itinerant and clearly identifiable, her works evolve and mutate. Her works vibrate with new sensations and take care of the routines and the dynamics of their daily lives. And so, they travel from Barcelona to Tarragona and from Tarragona to Lisbon (her next exhibition: “AQVA on AGUA” on September 30th at the Roman Theatre Museum of Lisbon). And from Lisbon to who knows where! Always at a dynamic, restless and curious rhythm. Like her. Genuine. Painter? No, observer of the environment.
Lourdes, you’ve been exhibiting since 1989. About 30 years of dedication to art. Did you know from a very young age that you wanted to make art your world?
It was not a sudden decision but more like a slow build-up of circumstances. I had always been interested in anything that had to do with art but at first, I didn’t consider it as a profession. I studied fine arts, but not with the intention of being a painter. I was interested in everything: design, photography, drawing, painting… and my thinking was: you’ll decide along the way. And the way takes you places: you expand knowledge and experiences, you open doors. And, after studying engraving and printing in several universities in Germany and then at the Art Institute of Chicago, I started exhibiting.
Leaving home, learning from other cultures – did it greatly enrich your work?
It was the key to my evolution. When I went to Germany, I barely knew the language. I was totally out of my comfort zone. Suddenly finding myself in a new environment that I had no control of was the basis of my self-knowledge. I had never done it. And this helped me ask myself new questions: “What am I finding? What am I seeing?”. It also allowed me to discover a different society. I stayed in a city near Berlin where The Wall still divided the two Germanies. This impacted me gravely as did the realisation that: “Fortunately, I live in freedom, but had I been born elsewhere, I could be the one on the other side“. This made me consider concepts such as freedom, borders… very broad concepts that are still in my heart today. Germany represented a very important change for me.
A before and an after.
Yes, and it was also reflected in my works. I painted what I saw: human figures, landscapes, still life… I always needed a referent. When I went to Germany and the United States, the way I looked at things instead of focusing out, began to focus in. It changed my way of interpreting the world. I began to question more abstract concepts that brought me closer to more abstract art. In fact, when I work I don’t want my work to be a decorative object for a space. I want the person to receive something else beyond that. I think a lot about the human being, the obstacles we are forced to jump, and the need as a society to seek the light. That’s why I play with light so much in my work. In fact, working on the light I work the darkness. I’m interested in the dualism of things.
Your work is a continuous exploration of subjects and mediums but, in the end, it is easy to identify “a Fisa”. How do you define your style?
I have been always told that I have a very clearly identifiable style. I don’t know how I’d define it, but my intention is that in doing whatever I do, I have to feel myself. I have to feel with absolute sincerity. That’s why what you find in my paintings are my doubts, my joys, my sorrows. The superpositions, the idea of collage: putting and removing. Ultimately, all my searches are transmitted in my pictures. What am I seeking? I’m searching, searching… and only when I’ve finished the picture, I know what I’m searching for. While I’m doing it, I’m talking, but I don’t know what I’m looking for.
Is your day to day your source of inspiration?
It is everything that surrounds me – both personally, as well as in our society and at humanity level. This vision has also brought me to different disciplines. I want to think about where we move forward as a society, where we come from… Art is a way of channelling the concerns that human beings have. I work with a lot of mediums and techniques just because life itself is complicated. We don’t walk over a flat path. I have lived the Franco regime, the before and after of the Cold Wars, the communist regimes and we are currently living through a very delicate time where some of the rights we assumed were untouchable are now being questioned. And that worries me a lot. Art is a space for reflection, for seeking certainties.
Do you have a creative routine? How do you work?
I need to force myself to go to the studio and have the routine of being in a creative space. All the thoughts that I have been acquiring outside with the observation, come out creatively in the studio by playing with the materials and finding this empty space where things start to emerge. Creativity and inspiration – as Picasso once said – must find you working.
In the end, over the years, your work has become a lifestyle?
Totally. It’s a way of thinking. It’s like a philosophy. I don’t have to always be creating, drawing, or painting. Very often I do it through thinking or observing. It’s the way you look at reality, the environment, the things that surround you. I give everything I do a meaning which then I develop, helped by creativity. I hear some news, I stumble upon a problem, I have a pleasant conversation with a friend… Everything is channelled towards an investigation that I can translate into my creative project.
We’ve always believed the myth that the life of the artist is a Bohemian life. Is that a cliché?
First, we should ask ourselves “What does a bohemian or a standardised life mean?”. Bohemian thinking exists because thought is unlimited. Obviously, art is free and it expands you, but this doesn’t mean that, as an artist, you follow the typical romantic concept of the artist of the last century that chases after the Bohemian life in the sense that you only do what you want. In fact, my life is very similar to that of many others. I have a family and I respond to many of the typical activities. But as an artist, I always look for a space that allows me to leave everyday routines – because art goes further than that. Art is to look for open paths that don’t limit you. The key is knowing how to find a balance.
How did you live art in your house as a child?
My family works in the hospitality sector. They are hoteliers and manage “Can Fisa” in Corbera de Llobregat, a town very near Barcelona. This has always made the movement of people, luggage, trips, changes very present in my life… The atmosphere at home has always been very enterprising, very exciting. In the end, the four siblings, we all have done different things, but there has always been a common denominator in all of us – the commitment to what we do. I had a very encouraging, trusting environment. They taught me a lot with one key premise in mind: “Do what you want to do but be involved and committed 100%.” I have had a lot of support from my home environment and this is to be thankful for because whenever I’ve gone against the current, I’ve always had someone that makes you see that what you are doing is valid – and that gives you a lot of confidence.
Is it difficult to make a living out of art?
Yes, it is! Well, you have to be very stubborn. It is an act of resistance. Believe in what you do and move on. Sometimes you must take small steps, others bigger but the key is to always move forward. I am lucky that everything I’ve done has been related to the world of art and that makes me feel very fortunate. Transferring creativity to other people it’s also very interesting to me, for instance… I think that every human being should have the option of knowing art and enjoying it. I am very grateful to art, it has given me a whole new look at things, because not everything comes in a single format or in a single colour. Between black and white there is an infinity of nuances and colours, and so is in life itself. Art forces me to look at things from the reverse, to find alternatives, to improvise and, above all, to have a broad spectrum.
“I am very grateful to art,
it has given me a whole new look at things,
because not everything comes in a single format or in a single colour.
Between black and white there is an infinity of nuances and colours.”
In fact, you can paint a picture with certain emotions and another person can interpret something totally different.
Yes, because it’s his or her look. I think a work of art is not completed until there is someone looking at it – a viewer. Why would there be a work if nobody is to look at it? Therefore, we need the observer’s view to complete it, regardless of whether the viewer interprets it the way the artist wanted or not. Maybe the viewer receives what is of interest to him or her. And this is precisely one of the most interesting aspects of any creative medium. This interaction causes things to move and never remain static.
So, it’s important to educate the look, and to start from very young, isn’t it?
In recent years I have been collaborating with some educational centres precisely on this matter. Why do we lose the child’s innate look? This worries me… Are we adults who standardise children and compel them to look at things in a more limited way? Our challenge is to accompany children but not to limit them in any way. Because otherwise, when we are adults, we look at things in a very unidirectional way. Art makes us freer and more critical of things. Art shakes us and help us understand that things can be interpreted in different ways and, therefore, it makes us want to change them.
Are there any changes in education?
There must be changes and reforms in this area – we must educate through creativity. Because creativity is not just something we use to make objects or paint a picture. Creativity is thought. Art is not going to look for results to make something look more beautiful. The interesting thing here is the process – what you learn with that process. It is thanks to the process that you understand things.
In other societies, abroad, learning as a human being is very important – a learning from the humanities – because it means training as a person and that complement you can apply in whatever line of work. Here we need this because we currently separate all disciplines too much.
In that sense, you feel like a little girl, right? Art allows you to experiment.
Yes, totally. Joan Miró said that he wanted to reach his 90s and still be exploring. That’s why, no matter what I do, my goal is to keep learning. Therefore, when I see that I have mastered enough a certain medium or that’ll I have no issues with it or that there is no longer an exploration, I leave it and start looking for another challenge. I feel challenge is what makes me grow. I look back and say, “how many things I know now that I didn’t know before?”. And then, I look forward and ask myself: “And how many things are left to learn?”. Knowledge is never ending! In fact, my work is closely related to the idea of path, exploration, route… these are my subjects. I also work a lot on the notion of imprint, trace… I am interested in where we come from and where we are going. It’s a road that never ends. That’s why it’s so exciting!
I am interested in where we come from and where we are going.
It’s a road that never ends.
That’s why it’s so exciting!
And apart from painting, what is Lourdes Fisa passionate about?
My passion is to travel because it allows me to keep a very alert and very awake mind, to see different things and different people. For me, it’s personal enrichment. If you cannot travel far, it doesn’t matter. You can travel closer or travel mentally. The key is to always be in motion. Sometimes just hoping onto a train is all you need. It’s about finding resources to avoid stagnating. That’s the main challenge: trying to always be creative. Things don’t come on their own, your mind always need to be active and full of enthusiasm. This kind of work must then be transferred to the work of art to make it spontaneous, fresh and daring.
Tell me about the next project you’re working on.
I’m preparing the exhibition “Atlas”, to be held at Tinglado 1 in the Port of Tarragona, a wonderful space in front of the sea. This project starts from the compilation of several works that end up giving shape to the idea of Atlas. I have always been interested in the idea of space and time. And, in this sense, an atlas formalises the space understood as a geographic space, location (where we are as individuals), the air, the earth, the space that surrounds us… and, on the other hand, time: we are a before and an after. In this exhibition, I mix works that I did years ago and that live with me in the studio, but I review them, transform them and make them interact in space of this new atlas as a whole. I am very interested in the idea of movement. Nothing is static, as Heraclitus said.
I will be presenting works made from cloth, wood, aluminium, iron and research on paper engraving which I have been exploring for years, but also engraving on glass, playing with transparencies. Because of the diversity in this project, the challenge is to see how I present it in a harmonious way and adapt it to the environment. I compose all my works according to the context and the environment because the space that holds them is also part of the process.