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Bcn - Event - Guillermo Lorca - Press Conference

Guillermo Lorca

'Spirits fighting each other', a short and sweet, yet equally evocative, answer to the question of a common thread throughout his work. 'l love the confrontation between opposing forces: tenderness versus terror, life versus death.'


It's all heart and soul, and that's exactly how Lorca creates. He attacks his expansive canvasses with brusque strokes, sweeping up the viewer on a journey to the deepest pits of his soul. Two-dimensional theatre pieces, or painted operas (Lorca: 'l love operas! I grew up on Puccini!') that depict the darker side of human psychology. Tragedies in razor-sharp realism coupled with flourishes of Baroque. It shouldn't come as a surprise that these works leave the viewer shaken, floored, even crushed. And that's Lorca's point precisely: 'l believe there is a piece in our minds - everybody has this spot - through which you can communicate with its deepest emotional level. It's my purpose to find that Spot, and to touch it, through the symbolism and spiritual power of my paintings. I want to get into people's minds and find that place.'

It must have felt precisely that way to Lorca himself when he, as an eight-year-old boy, stumbled upon a trove of art books, on Rembrandt, Caravaggio, Edvard Munch, in his mother's bookcase. Each and every one of these painters made a deep and lasting impression on the young boy, shaping his future artist self. The Santiago art academy, however, left him less than impressed. 'Let's just say we had very different approaches to art.' After a year, the young painter had had enough of studying art in university. In search of an approach to match his own, he swapped Latin America for the European Northern Hemisphere to apprentice with Norwegian painter Odd Nerdrum. It was Nerdrum that introduced him to the spiritual side of art. 'In a few months with him, I learned more than I did in all those years previously combined. Besides a wealth of techniques, he taught me what's probably the most valuable lesson of all: how to catch 'soul' and 'spirit' in a painting.'

"Society needs symbols to express itself. If you take away those symbols, as happens in some dictatorships, you take a step back in our evolution. We. Need. Art ."

Little Girl

Lorca explains how his personality permeates his works. 'It's kind of a symbolic diary, a journey through the unconscious sensations that have been present in my life. Every creature in my work represents a subconscious drive. The little girl is the precious and beautiful inner part that must be taken care of. She is the main spirit.' A perceptive viewer will notice that his girls often have pink or blue hair, a tip of the hat to Japanese anime, one of his earliest aesthetic sources of inspiration. Lorca continues: 'The girl symbolises an alter ego of mine that I lost in my youth, but that I'm sure is still out there, that still exists. But she's only a single aspect: every human being contains several spirits that are constantly battling each other. That's how the girl interacts with unconscious forces of all sorts - sometimes violent, sometimes apprehensive, sometimes tender.'

It's that interplay that the viewer registers as tension, or even unease because conflict and danger are never far away in Lorca's works. And still, so he asserts soothingly, the girl is the most powerful spirit of all. 'She is the soul of the painting. When you inspect the work closely, you see that she remains, victorious. She's unassailable, even if she's in bed with a monster. I interpret that as a symbol of hope. The message: in every tragedy, there is beauty. And also: even in the face of danger, there is hope.'

Guillermo Lorca Mermaid

Painting Fears Away

His work provides him, too, with that very same sense of hope that he aims to instill in others. 'Covid has changed the way I see the world. For a while, suddenly, I couldn't feel so hopeful. It filled me - along with the rest of the world - with a sense of dread, deep fears and a sense of my own mortality. Death was just around the corner, that's what it felt like.' This new sensation found its way into his paintings according to Lorca.

A number of his 'Covid-paintings' are currently on view In the MOCO Museum in Barcelona. For example in 'The Healer', a girl seemingly stabs a gorilla, who seems to suffer at her hand. But Lorca assures, the opposite is true: 'she's actually trying to save the gorilla. It's with these kinds of works that I try to paint my fears away.'

Artwork - Guillermo Lorca - The Empress

Art is the Soul of Society

Then, philosophically, 'that's the power of art: it can penetrate our deepest feelings and at the same time, regulate our emotions. It helps us to get to know ourselves. I believe art is the pinnacle of our creativity as human beings - it's the soul of our society. It's up to the artists to translate this soul to creations that stir and inspire us to think. It doesn't matter if it's through painting, poetry, film, or music. Society needs symbols to express itself. If you take away those symbols, as happens in some dictatorships, you take a step back in our evolution. We need art.'

To illustrate his point, Lorca shares an anecdote. As a young artist, he envisaged compositions in his head for gigantic paintings, but he hadn't the faintest clue, nor could he imagine a place to display works of such a monumental scale. Eventually, the walls of the Chilean metro provided a solution, pleasing both Lorca and the countless commuters being treated to this colossal display of public art. Then, in 2019, Santiago found itself in the eye of a political storm ('you can call it a revolution, for sure'). The fiercest protests took place just around and even inside the metro stations that housed Lorca's pieces. Several stations were burned down to the ground. But the good news: someone ('I don't know who') took it upon themselves to bring Lorca's pieces to safety. Where those salvaged works are now, Lorca doesn't know. Nor does it matter. More important to Lorca, is that someone, amidst all the upheaval, saved not only his art but thereby asserted the importance of art in society.

Artwork - Guillermo Lorca - The Encounter


Although before the riots, metro stations suited Lorca just fine as exposition spaces 'Even the temperature in metro stations is very close to that of museums, making for some excellent conservation of the works!' - he does insist on the role and power of museums. 'Museums are the guardians of the art they house. They make sure art lasts and remains. Museums in a sense are like cathedrals: when I die, they'll still be standing. There is this sacral quality to them.' Lorca explains how an object can take on a different meaning depending on the context and space in which it is exhibited. He contends that museums add a layer, may overwhelm even. And that's right up his alley, to overwhelm.

That's why his works are often life-sized: when I paint characters in such dimensions, larger than life, the proportions and the relation between the depicted character and the one who's looking at it change. It's an entirely different feeling: the unease grows, the threat becomes more realistic, beauty more beautiful, and the appeal to emotions more intense.' Just like that, Lorca and his enormous painted operas enter people's minds, only to linger and live there, rent-free, for a long while to come.

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