written by Sara Tatai 25 March 2013
Gonzalo and I met at a show he was having with a mutual friend of ours. His work was bold and confident and I had a great admiration for his unique style. At this point I had produced few works since finishing university a couple of years earlier and had little motivation to make more. I had however been contemplating starting a new project based on my life drawings which were my one constant artistic expression over the past 10 or so years.
We bumped into each other again a few months down the track at the same mutual friend’s wedding. By this time, I had begun my first painting based on two life drawings of two girls back to back. I had laid down two colours of paint – the background which was yellow and the girls which were in pink. I liked the direction of the painting but was lacking confidence to take the next step with the piece.
At the wedding, Gonzalo discussed that he was curious to see my work. I figured there was nothing to see and nothing to hide so I agreed for him to come to my house/studio and to check out the beginning of my first painting. I had no expectations for this visit. I certainly didn’t expect what was to come.
Gonzalo’s response to my painting was something to the affect of “Wow, I want to draw all over that”.
This was in no way offensive, though it may have sounded that way to anyone else. It was a funny thing because I had had a graphic design studio director tell me something of a similar nature not too long before. I had approached the design studio for a design internship and had shown my portfolio. At the end of my design portfolio were some paintings and photographs I had made during university. The director had said nothing while quickly flicking through my work, seemingly unimpressed, and finally stopped at the art section and said “Oh I see now. You're an artist not a designer”. This was a really reassuring thing to hear despite my strong ambition to get into the design industry, and little confidence as an artist. In fact, I don't think I had ever called myself an artist and began to do so after this encounter. Gonzalo’s words had a similar effect on me.
I agreed that Gonzalo could draw over my painting and he immediately pulled out a handful of Posca markers and didn't hesitate to begin. At first I just watched him work. He had a confidence that I did not. And after a small amount of time we began to pour out blobs of different coloured paints, mixing them and intuitively marking the canvas and the girls that existed within it.
We worked on the same canvas at the same time with no game plan. And within about two or three hours we stopped and pulled away from the painting.
I can't speak for Gonzalo but I was amazed that this painting had emerged from such an intuitive process. It captured moments of his style and of mine. It had a sense of life that I didn’t think I had the capacity to create alone, and I felt surprised that I had even contributed to it. I’m not trying to blow my own horn here. I feel that there is a great thing about making work with someone else. That ‘something great’ is that you can admire something you create in a very different way. This is because your perspective of the work is challenged in a way that combines the insight of your own creation and the curiosity of staring at something that is foreign and contains mystery. This juxtaposition is wonderful in so many ways.
We continued our collaboration during that year. We had intentions to work together each week but this pushed out to two-weekly and sometimes monthly. We made allot of work in a relatively small period of time, maybe 10 pieces all up. Not all the pieces were as successful as others but there were several pieces that clearly stood out to me as strong pieces of art with natural expression.
I feel like I learnt allot about painting while working with Gonzalo. I gained a looser style, letting go of my inhibitions and slowly learnt to let my mind flow through my hands and onto the canvas with less hesitation. We both had a strong sense of colour already however we did introduce certain concepts to one another. For example, I used to find that sometimes the canvas would become a little heavy and would insist on leaving a “breathing space” somewhere on the canvas. Gonzalo used to laugh at this concept but more and more came around to the idea that when your eyes roam around a canvas and absorb each mark, colour, line, character, shape and pattern, that you needed a moment within the painting where you could take a break, process and then continue the visual journey. The breathing space was a concept that focused on controlled visual discovery. I didn't want to overwhelm the subjects of the painting nor the viewers of the painting. I don't know how or why I came up with this concept but it was something that I felt very strongly about.
Drinking wine and munching on junk food, Gonzalo and I spent a unique time discovering our-selves as artists, collaborators and as individuals. This was a very important and influential time in my practice and I appreciate the development of friendship and visual confidence that occurred as a result of my collaboration with Gonzalo Ceballos.