“Making a man happy, for more than a few seconds after consumption, is not very interesting to a consumer society; for them an unsatisfied man is preferable. Beauty and art, therefore, is fundamental therapy today.”
~ Martin Llamedo
It’s certainly an irony of modern day life that we prepare for our most treasured events, from our own weddings to holiday gatherings with family and friends, by frantically and madly rushing about. Rather than being moved by joy, it is actually more often fear that drives us: What if we purchase the wrong thing? Or leave that one crucial detail out? To overdo, to do too much shows we care.
But what if the next time, we tried something radically different? What if rather than speed things up as an important milestone approaches, we actually took a risk and slowed things down? What if we look a lesson from those at the very beginning and the very end of life who know the secret, just as we all once did, but in the rush of life have gradually forgotten? Imagine sitting down with those you love, and just breathing in the pleasure of each other’s company. And when it came time for one of you to speak, imagine truly listening.
Argentine painter Martin Llamedo proposes: such is the gift, the therapy of art, both in the creating of it and in the taking it in. Music and paintings, dance and poetry, that delicious novel you finally made time to curl up with at last: this is the pleasure it gives us, allowing us the space in time just to ponder, to feel, to, oh yes, wonder.
Interview with Martin Llamedo
Deanna Phoenix Selene: The sense of time suspended appears and reappears throughout your work, these quiet moments that feel like important pauses before everything might drastically change. Tell me about your relationship with time. Does painting give you a sense of control, where in the rest of your life you may feel life is moving at times too fast?
Martin Llamedo: Indeed, it is a fact that the world, in its tireless need for easy gratification, values the ephemeral and instantaneous over making time for deeper contemplation. But the artist cannot slow down the viewer if he does not slow down himself. In my experience, living what one paints is the most genuine condition. Of course this anachronistic sense of a work can be a challenge while also working hard to maintain a career. One must then exist in at least two speeds, two versions of oneself.
Deanna Phoenix Selene: What other gifts does painting give you?
Martin Llamedo: Painting is not a separate part of me; it’s an extension of my being, of my need.
Martin Llamedo: And the gift it gives me is to be able to be myself in my full intention towards others. Narcissism? Of course! But generous.
Deanna Phoenix Selene: What do you feel to be your mission as an artist? To capture the truth of what is, or create a world that otherwise might never be?
Martin Llamedo: In this I will try to be less narcissistic than in the previous answer. I don’t think I’m the one to say if I can capture the truth. Beauty is the horizon towards which I work; sometimes I empathize with some features, other times with the viewer; and with much patience, time will tell if I was able to achieve a response.
Martin Llamedo: My world does not contain truths or certainties, but rather sensations and tastes that construct the proposal of a world.
Didn’t we all build our world, our sensations, our way from our home to our work, our favorite places?
Well then, in each of my paintings a proposal appears: let the “truths” coexist, and this is in the figurative sense. From the accumulation of thought and not from novelty stripped of the past.
Martin Llamedo: How much we lose against time! When a child begins to wonder, she will wonder about everything, and she can selflessly live in that aesthetic world, either static or any expression of language, as is painting, that is definitely one of the pleasures of life.
Martin Llamedo: The adult viewer, however, is used to feeling only concrete time, compacted or synthesized like a film or a play. The challenge is to expand the communication, to reconcile these two parts of ourselves. Both dimensions involve an aesthetic experience that modern man is qualified to enjoy; but nowadays he must first be educated in contemplation, to develop and revive this primary condition, his creativity. This is the path of art, to reconcile man with beauty and with his non-material values, with the possibility of being a creative being. But this requires effort and can’t be purchased.
Making a man happy, for more than a few seconds after consumption, is not very interesting to a consumer society; for them an unsatisfied man is preferable. Beauty and art, therefore, is fundamental therapy today.
Deanna Phoenix Selene: How would you describe your childhood? Was art present?
Martin Llamedo: I could tell you one of my earliest memories;
I would have been four or five years old. I remember a friend who was quite aggressive locked me in an old wardrobe that they had at his house, outdoors, full of holes and full of things. I remember being locked up, looking around and finding colored pencils, and in the dark through the holes of the broken wardrobe, rays of light filtered in, and I started drawing on one of the walls of that prison, just where the light shined. As soon as I did, someone freed me.
Martin Llamedo: I was six when I went with my grandmother and took my first drawing classes with her. And at eight I started making sculptures in clay, and continued for nine more years.
I also spent hours in classical dance rehearsals, accompanying my sister to watch her practice, seeing those people float, thanks to their huge effort. But my own aspirations were to become a great basketball player, after I began playing on a major team through adolescence. Following that, I studied classical concert guitar, which I credit for giving me a sense of discipline that still persists in my painting.
Deanna Phoenix Selene: Can you tell me about The Veil?
Martin Llamedo: Standing at the window, her back to the room, a woman is covered in a veil. She could be a virgin, a bride, a ghost… Waiting, quietly sitting. Her suitcases, her memories, she saves and guards it all.
Below, she finds herself in another time: without a veil, free, nude, beautiful, her sensual youth exposed.
She raises a candle, and lights the veil, and herself. This light represents hope, she does not lose hope.
The compositional lines of the painting lead the viewer’s eye toward the green wall, which is damaged by years of waiting. There is a paper, a letter, but upon close inspection, it is revealed to be blank.
She waits, treasuring and living with their memories, perhaps her love, though he’ll never come back. And she’ll do it convincingly, even if it takes her life itself.
Deanna Phoenix Selene: Was there a painting that was especially difficult for you, either emotionally or technically?
Martin Llamedo: Technically I never place myself in a place of comfort. The difficulties usually come with struggling with limits. In many cases when you paint figuratively, the difficulty is to suggest rather than to describe.
Martin Llamedo: Always if the work did not exhaust every part of me, it will not feel resolved. Then my viewers, when they see the work, will have the truth. Whether or not I achieved what I set out to accomplish.
Martin Llamedo was born in Argentina, where he currently lives and paints. At a young age he studied ceramic and sculpture with Hector Alves. During his time at the university he was taught by Domingo Florio, Carlos Carmona, Alfredo Portillos, Julio Flores, Salvador Constanzo, and art theory by Castillo, Magaz, Dragosky and Laurenzi. He studied painting with Jose Marchi. He travels extensively to assist in seminars and conferences regarding the problematical of art. Currently, Llamedo is a Professor of Projectual Painting at the N.U.I.A, National University Institute of Art and a professor of extracurricular workshops, and workshops of combined art at the Dance Institute I.D.E and at the Albert Schweitzer Institute.
Translation for this interview was provided by Paul Riek, Latino Community Organizer with The Metropolitan Alliance for Common Good, in Portland, Oregon, and founder of the Oaxaca Prison Ministry in Oaxaca, Mexico, an innovative prison program that organizes inmates as leaders to serve the community. He is a member of the musical band Bajo Salario that explores the revolutionary musical traditions of Latin America. Paul is married to Aurelia, an indigenous Zapotec woman from Oaxaca and an herbal medicine specialist.”