We present three young artists from Girona with widely varying creative interests: social and political criticism, narrative, and conceptual, formal and metaphorical art. It is fascinating to see how these artists approach criticism and/or research as a way of working.
Bòlit, Centre d’Art Contemporani, Girona, has been running research, artistic production and exhibition programmes since 2008. It is an open, participative space offering a service to artists and to the public. It provides support for creative work and artistic production, presents individual and group exhibitions, organises activities and educational programmes, and has a project for artists in residence. It works with artists from this country and abroad, and with guest curators.
For this project, the Alternative Art Guide, we present young artists who have experience in formulating visual concepts with a marked theoretical, thought-provoking or critical content: Núria Güell, Alicia Kopf and Marc Padrosa. Their creative work is at an ideal stage to raise their international profiles.
Núria Güell analyses the ethics of institutions, highlighting abuse of power. Alicia Kopf explores landscapes, contexts and stories, and combines them in her work. Marc Padrosa is interested in projects for research into form and geometry.
The process is fundamental in the works produced by Núria Güell (Vidreres, 1981). Her creations deal with social, political, economic and sometimes humanitarian issues, questioning the limits of legality, the contradictions inherent in systems of control, and the system itself. By altering aspects of everyday life, she creates other possible realities.
Her most recent work is more radical. Her project La Síndrome de Sherwood (The Sherwood Syndrome, Catalonia, 2013) made an artistic project from the censorship to which the artist was subjected after trying to use a document detailing the protocol followed by the riot police in Catalonia in a public debate. To carry out Demasiada Melanina (Too Much Melanin, Sweden, 2013) she asked the Göteborg Biennial to hire María, a political refugee denied asylum in the country, who lived in hiding with her family in the city. She hid from the audience, who then had to try and find her. After concluding her contract with the Biennial, María was able to obtain a residence permit and no longer needed to hide from the police. Ironically, in Kosovo, María was a police officer specialising in the disappearance and trafficking of women. Núria has received a number of national and international awards.
Alicia Kopf (Girona, 1982) is a multi-disciplinary artist who is very much at home combining video, writing and drawing.
Her project Articantartic features Edat Heroica de l’Exploració Polar, 1890-1920 (The Heroic Age of Polar Exploration), a period in which geographical research coincided with the early days of the cinema. She works using documents written by explorers, converting them into a first person narrative on resistance and the idea of conquest: “What led so many men to attempt to conquer these vast white spaces, of no apparent commercial or strategic interest? Articantartic is an extensive cycle which includes various exhibitions, including “Seal Sounds Under The Floor”, presented recently at the Joan Prats Gallery, the video “Àrticantartic” presented at the Tàpies Foundation as part of the exhibition Fugues, and “Endurance” presented as part of the IGAC digital art cycle Manual de l’artista líquid, curated by David Santaeulària. The project will conclude with a book focusing on the literary aspects.
As a precedent to this work we have Die Weltmeere Wunderatlas, where she brings together images and text within a file, searching for the aesthetic side of a research project and its context on the internet.
Before exploring oceanic and polar scenarios Alicia Kopf dissected more familiar everyday sites. In Maneres de (no) entrar a casa (Ways (not) to go indoors) she presented a series of narratives on the precariousness of young people’s lives: home, family and work.
Marc Padrosa (Girona, 1978) is a sculptor who is fascinated by the forms and poetry of fragility. His work is marked by subtlety, lightness and chiaroscuro, with a special interest in the possible links between art and science. He uses geometry through sculpture, drawing and photography to speak about man’s ability to generate symbolic and metaphorical spaces.
His work transmits sensitivity and contemplative depth. Introspection in research highlights the value of forms and gives meaning to shade. His variations and repetitions of geometrical forms on paper exercise a hypnotic attraction. The delicate, precise and meticulous finish of each piece does not hide the fact that each one is only part of a mental process which brings together metaphors of imaginary architectural creations, ephemeral constructions and ideal structures, which we see as more perfect, lasting and immortal than any organic form. They may be finished works or the preliminary version of a final piece which may never be created. According to Marc Padrosa: “mock-ups occupy an ambiguous space between two worlds, still close to the idea but prior to its materialisation […], they allow day-to-day experimentation and research to acquire a form and this form can be displayed as a work of art which is part of the process”.
Carme Sais (Girona, 1964) is a cultural administrator, exhibition curator and director of spaces devoted to art and culture. She has been working in public services in Girona since 1992. Since 2013 she has been the Director of Bòlit Contemporary Art Centre in Girona. She has also been the Director of La Mercè Cultural Centre and Head of Girona City Council’s Culture and Education Department.
She holds an arts degree from Barcelona Autonomous University and has undertaken further studies in art history and cultural and heritage management with specialised Master’s courses at the University of Barcelona, the University of Girona and the UNED distance university. Her career has focused mainly on contemporary art and culture. She sees contemporary art as a constantly evolving source of human knowledge and expression providing society with values, education and a critical attitude. She is interested in exploring new ways of connecting art and the public, creative work and the economy, innovation and risk, as well as opening up channels for discussion and exchange.
As Director of Bòlit Contemporary Art Centre she has developed Bòlit Emprèn, a programme to support creative industries and the visual arts. She has also set up the ETAC working group, formed by art centres in the Pyrenees-Mediterranean Euroregion, and is preparing a project for resident artists in Girona, with a view to opening up new channels for exchanges with other cities.
She is President of the Professional Association of Cultural Administrators in Catalonia (2011-2014) and co-author of the Guia de Bones pràctiques de la Gestió Cultural de l’entitat (Guide to Good Practice in Cultural Management, 2010).
Girona is the capital of a province on the periphery of a centralised state. The Girona metropolitan area has a population of just over 125,000. At present the infrastructures and platforms available to artists are insufficient and the situation in which they work is generally precarious. Art here suffers from a certain degree of stagnation and isolation. The latter is partly self-imposed and translates into a search for local self-sufficiency but it is also in part inevitable, given the difficulty artists experience in establishing their presence elsewhere.
The recession has led to high unemployment, greater social differences, a less effective education system, and other problems. High rates of taxation on cultural products (currently 21%) have had a serious impact on the art and culture sector. Today the market for art is extremely small, there is little interest in collecting art and only about 10 galleries have survived in the area. Private initiative is still weak and cannot make up for the shortcomings of the public sector in supporting creative work and providing new platforms for the dissemination of art. Overall, there is a clear lack of social recognition for culture and the arts. There are, however, signs of hope in fresh initiatives by artists and their search for new opportunities in other countries.
The following spaces and centres feature a great deal of interesting work in the field of contemporary art:
Núria Güell suggests her own list of interesting artists, projects and spaces that reflect her way of understanding art and aim to stimulate critical thought:
Marc Padrosa: http://atriumartis.com/