For Gabriel Díaz Romero, a Doha-based Spanish artist, art behaves as a seismograph of everything around us. The art teacher sees art as one of the activities that define us as human beings.
Community recently interviewed the well-travelled artist about his creative works and ideas at length.
Please tell us briefly about your journey so far.
I studied art at the Complutense University of Madrid and received a scholarship at the Gesamthochschule Kassel in Germany, where I expanded my audiovisual communication studies in Rolf Lobeck’s atelier. I collaborated in the project ‘Let there be TV’, during Documenta IX (a quinquennial contemporary).
I have developed my professional life by working as an art teacher in high schools in Spain, but also by exhibiting in South Korea, Australia, Thailand, Colombia, the Czech Republic, Germany, France, Italy, Poland, Switzerland and Spain. I was a member of two Spanish collectives: My Mother’s Voice and Mountain’s Children.
How and when did you develop an interest in art?
It started after visiting an anthological exhibition from Francis Picabia, at the Spanish National Library in Madrid. This was in February 1985. I had to choose what to study at the University that summer and after passionately devouring the catalogue of the exhibition, I had something akin to an epiphany of art. Therefore, I started with my degree in arts.
What kind of work and mediums do you use for your creative pieces? Tell us about some of the exhibitions you have attended so far.
I don’t like labels because they put limits to us. But if I have to choose to something or to someone, I must say that I feel closer to post-conceptual and post-minimalist art, although I understand that we are living in a very different moment. My training at the classical art academy caused me a terrible allergy to hyperrealism and the academic painting, which led me to the opposite side, photography and video. I guess of conceiving my exhibitions more as installations, with pieces interrelated by a common concept, integrating drawing, painting, sculpture, photography, everything (when necessary).
With all your experience how do you best describe art?
Art is one of the activities that define us as human beings. One of the keystones of art is creativity, something that all humans possess, to a greater or lesser extent. In that sense, creativity is not exclusive to art. The artistic disciplines are many and diverse and each time they expand more and more, so called expanded art. The common thing is to think of art as a simple picture hanging on the wall or a sculpture adorning a roundabout (king size, if possible) but this is no longer so. We live in a very interesting time of hypermodern or super modern architectural re-expansion and that permeates the rest of the arts. Everything is interconnected under the butterfly effect. We live in a liquid modernity. Since art is one more part of society, it has some kind of strengths and weaknesses. Art behaves as a seismograph of everything around us.
I prefer the works that alter the perception of common objects that go unnoticed in our daily lives more than the arrogance of economic excess exercises.
I welcome the new augmented reality that will save us from suffering elephantine works for too long.
What is art for you?
We live immersed in the society of the spectacle — Guy Debord explained it very well long time ago — and it is difficult to compete as individuals against large corporations and lobbies. Art is a small gap with which to challenge individuals. In the words of Bertolt Brecht: Art is not a mirror held up to reality, but a hammer with which to shape it.
How do you spend your time at home during the lockdown? Do you think having free time at home helps improve creativity?
I think that in every creative act there is already a confinement within yourself. This is why most artists photograph themselves alone in their studios, not in the middle of a football match or shopping in a mall.
Many times art requires concentration and be able to leave the mind blank, without disruptive external elements. I personally prefer to walk, like Nietzsche said: All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.
I think about art very often, seven days a week, 15 hours a day, 365 days a year — this leap year one day longer. I try to connect ideas, feelings, reflections, all the time — Nulla dies sine linea (Not a day without a line drawn).
This confinement allowed us to think more about the meaning of everything, about the things that really are worthwhile, about the life we lead and what we should change. In that sense it has been a unique and outstanding opportunity — a glitch in the matrix.
How do you see the works of young artists?
I see youth full of hope and that is something very positive, we have all gone through it. You feel full of energy. You want to take on the world. The world is waiting for you, no fear.
What tips will you share with aspiring artists?
Travel as much as possible. Be a nomad, pass through ideas like one passes through countries and cities. Believe only a half of what you see.
What activities have you been doing in Qatar?
I did not come to Qatar with the aim of exhibiting. I came here as many expatriates do to work, with my wife and children. I have worked as a Spanish teacher and lately, as a tour guide. The opportunity to make a group exhibition came up at Recreation Center in the Education City, and I enjoyed the experience. This year I had a solo exhibition ‘The Road’ in Katara just before the lockdown caused by Covid-19, thanks to Nadiia Chernobil and Ibrahim Rashid al-Muhannadi. I really liked how it turned out.
What are your future plans?
The future is a very old promise; the present doesn’t give me much respite. Here many of us are passing through because working conditions are decisive for staying or leaving. My family have been here for five years, which is a considerable time. The world is very big and there are many ways to go. We should keep trying to do the best we can; we should not stop learning and we should put a lot of humour into it. In this regard, I am clearly Mediterranean. I hope I can continue creating as long as I live.
Ars longa, vita brevis [Art is long, life is short].
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