From the heat of joie de vivre to the silence of solitary ecstasy, from histrionic posing of girls tipsy by the party and challenged by the camera to the joyful implosions catched under leather and latex. It is a path of purification, artistic and emotional, in that capture the fleeting happiness, which has followed Juan Francisco Casas.
That path, passing through Rome, was covered with (pleasant) thorns. He rediscovered the intricacies of amorous passion following berninian Santa Teresa, the Caravaggesque tenebrism… and his domestic images tinged of mystical pathos that spread to his muses, companions of adventure, friends complicit in the pursuit of aesthetic- sexual enjoyment.
More than ten years ago he began to reproduce with boli bic and large format snapshots of his life, widening the margins of art to magnifying the pure hedonism of those moments of shared intimacy. Closed framings characteristic of improvised and spicy shots, the first selfie generation immortalized with that analogic tool aimed at writing, a blue bic.
The reverse shot, ie the artist himself, rarely appeared and have always been the girls who are exposed, are exhibited by themselves, who express freely. Francisco, entrenched behind the lens, observes and invites us to look.
Q- According to this principle that you adopted of not transform women into models but let them act spontaneously, I think it is in the selection of the shots that you consider valid where your role is defined, by dilating the photographic transience when transcribing it in the meticulous drawing. And in that sense, selecting your memories, don’t betray your “involuntary memory” launching for posterity (of your life and art) certain images that eventually cease to be your memories to join exhibition catalogs?
Memory has a lot of fictional, of construction, since the moment in which you choose a point of view, a particular experience and no other. And I begin from that construction.
Selecting memories and being aware of the part that it has of document and of the constructed part, and considering the ephemeral and anecdotal component of this memory, I am particularly interested in the manifested contradiction: when I represent them in a painting or in a large format realistic drawing I make reference to 19th century painting, intended to portray the great moments of History.
So, I emphasize precisely that these are the great moments of my history, fleeting moments but rescued from oblivion through conscious effort of manual and mimetic representation on paper or canvas. As you say, those private memories go into the public sphere generating new readings, even from the own strangeness by the image decontextualization itself.
Q- In the current New York exhibition, (HE)ARTBROKEN, I think memory takes center stage as retrospective journey in parallel, for art and for life, duplo that in your work has always been inextricable. And that pain (melancoly that oozes the title) is associated less to ecstasy (Eros and Thanatos of O(H)ROMAO(H)MORTE) that, metaphorically speaking, the postcoital dysphoria, what happens after the climax (creative, mental, sexual).
“(HE)ARTBROKEN” is the third and final part of the trilogy that I started with “SPQR(CA)VITA” in Rome, and that was followed by “O(H)ROMAO(H)MORTE” in Madrid, and that closes in New York the cycle in which I walk the way from eros to thanatos, from sexual instinct to the death drive, from excess and life to pain and death. In “(HE)ARTBROKEN” sex and death, their mirror play, are intertwined in life and in art, but now is a back road.
Violence and sex, identifycation of sex drive and death instinct form the discursive thread from an hedonistic and voyeuristic look, maybe more luminous, from a certain melancholy of memories, but also almost epicurean.
So, it speaks from an autobiographical view and, as the title suggests, of art and love, broken relationships (in art) and the art generated by such relations, the price paid and all that is broken in the way, and (terrible) beauty it creates. “(HE)ARTBROKEN” becomes a hedonist climax to the terribilitá of the life journey that really all of us do through our life and our lovers, pain and breakup, and the beauty of those moments, all explained through the women who have been part of my life, an almost proustian journey of a sentimental past in which I mix recent images with older ones, a similar excercise of remembering process.
Q- Your work also highlights the repression that is still subjected the enjoyment of the look, even in an artistic frame. When we taste a delicious dish, we hear music that brings us to trance or intoxicate us with aphrodisiacs aromas, we are heralded as foodies, music lovers … The sight is the only sense that petty-bourgeois mindset inhibits. Hence the triumph of pornography, of course, and hence that in the art world continue to raise the hackles to exceed certain limits. L’art pour l’art is ok but art for the pure enjoyment…
Hedonism is always implicated on the contemplation of a work and I love to be part of the realisation of this, from the outset; the sensual, which has to do with the senses, is nuclear part of my work. For my part, I don’t know if I play with certain limits that can annoy to some people, though obviously don’t particularly care. Sometimes it happens uncomfortable facts, from censorship of several works of “SPQR(CA)VITA” at the Royal Academy of Spain in Rome until death threats painted on the Fernando Pradilla gallery during the exhibition “O(H)ROMAO(H)MORTE”.
At first I didn’t want to give too much importance to the prohibition to show some works in Rome. Although they were works made specifically for this exhibition in this city, I decided not to give too much publicity to the fact. Later, when I exposed in Madrid and received death threats I realized that all were different proofs of the same and terrible way of thinking: restrict the artist’s freedom of expression.
In the gallery wall appeared a graffiti saying “Blasphemy, god, homeland and king” and leaflets were distributed against “blasphemous exhibition” during a protest in front of the gallery. I have received hundreds of insults and death threats through social networks, threats reported to the police, which adopt a stupefying passivity about it. Threats like “he would have to be beheaded in the main square as a warning” or “Let blood running… For God, for the salvation of this impure world. “Later, as a cherry on the cake, as almost ironic pun, my facebook account has been blocked for a month to share an article of CTXT digital magazine that explained the censorship and threats suffered.
Now, observed distantly, the death threats that the show has generated, the fact that this end with a drawing of the corpse of Pasolini, an artist murdered by his art, seems to have an ironic but eerie consistency, thus surprisingly providing to the exhibition a speech and content as relevant as terrible. Anyway, I continue to enjoy what I do and my work from absolute freedom and for me that is the only important thing.
Q- In this solo show at Jonathan LeVine gallery you include works that come into apparent contradiction with your usual way to catch hyperreality in which we are immersed. But only apparent because in all cases you talk about the mediation involved in every perception. With Dirty Glitch do you try to betray excessive sharpness of so many frozen memories making visible errors, memory lapses, the right to reinvent the past?
“Life is a dirty glitch”, despite apparently seems very different, is a discursive summary of my work; in them it is played with the idea of memory and how images fade and compose unconsciously, in a random way, with the passing of time; how we remember some things and not others, or recompose them almost without knowing it.
A glitch is a failure in data transmission of, for example, an image in which the lost information is rebuilt automatically. I think we do something similar with our memory. In “Life is a dirty glitch” I work with the idea that this is how we store our memories, especially those of our intimate relationships, making a series of drawings in which the skin and the meat are almost broken, almost as carved cuts, frozen in the private act. So, are works that transcend the realism of the image, despite also being mimetic drawings of authentic glitchs made specifically from photographs. I believe that although we are a generation that want to document and remember in high resolution almost everything, we continue storing, forgetting and rebuilding memories, from our lived experiences and especially from our feelings.