Barcelona Cultura

"Material culture reflects ways of living and feeling". Interview with Paula García-Masedo

Paula García-Mesedo’s work is characterised by the ability of objects, beings and territories to shape ways of living. The artist, who has studied architecture at the Polytechnic University of Madrid as well as the Independent Studies Programme of the MACBA, has been present at centres such as La Casa Encesa in Madrid, the Twin Gallery in Madrid and the Blueproject Foundation in Barcelona. Now she is debuting at the Disseny Hub through the Creation and Museums project of the Grec Festival, with “Dido”, a coproduction of Hangar and the Museu de Disseny with the collaboration of the Capellades Paper Mill Museum. We spoke with her about this piece and about her career.

Dido pays attention to the material and spatial aspect of an outstanding element of Western decorative arts, tapestry. Why have you chosen this piece and, more specifically, the Queen DIDO tapestry from the museum?

Material culture reflects ways of living and feeling, and the relationship with the land and the time in which it occurs. The syncretic condition of the Middle Ages, in which Christian and pagan spirituality appeared at the same time, did not make it possible to assume human control of the non-human, rather it assigned characteristics of the marvellous and the interdependent to the “natural” although that simultaneously led to beliefs that placed man as the pinnacle of divine creation. As part of its material culture, late mediaeval tapestries, in their representation of vegetation and the use of organic materials in their composition, both in the dyes and the fabrics, show notions of these ways of thinking with their own aesthetics. These are also present in more popular objects, such as furnishings, and the allegoric contents associated with this “natural” language reach the 20th century, at least, through folklore. So in the tapestry I find a form of pre-modern European representation, the symbolic contents of which are still phantasmagorically present today. Queen Dido presents this kind of floral representation, as well as this type of material composition. Upon studying the represented legend, it has been lovely to find a powerful figure in Dido who, despite being affected by reproductive and affective tasks due to the fact of being defined as a woman, does not lose her strong will.

Why is flax paper so important as opposed to the textile material of current industry?

Flax is a material that has great life force and is part of the history of our land. It was cultivated in the villages and spun and woven by the women. Today we find its traces in lands that are still named after flax in rural language, and in the embroidered sheets kept by some families. Flax unites our collective and individual history with the land. It is a resilient plant that demanded a lot of farmwork and a lot of reproductive work. And with it, ecosystems and social mandates. With old hand woven sheets, we have made the paper pulp at the Capellades mill. Until the arrival of current materials, paper was made from old cloths collected in villages and towns, in accordance with the economy of use typical of the pre-industrial era. In this material and process I find a strong symbolic, aesthetic and political influence that refers to the land as a living entity, which does not have representation in the modern and Western political systems, and the fragility of which is tremendous.

In this piece the artistic process starts from the traditional process of artisanal paper production, overflowing it to make large, thin cloths. What significance do these pieces have for you?

With this process, as in others I follow, I have paid attention to the characteristics of the material and of its techniques to find its expressive form. I sought to give it sculptural entity and particularly to make it relate to the body, perhaps because it has a superficial quality that makes me perceive it as a skin, a limit, a form of fragile architecture, which has porosity towards the environment. It leans towards the two-dimensional rather than the three-dimensional and is extremely delicate. It does not stand on its own, so this leads to the resulting shape being an expression of its structure: depending on how it is hung, it acquires a different shape. I thought about moment diagrams of a beam: in the case of paper these diagrams, in other words, the deformation, the buckling, is noticeable.

Regarding your experience at Hangar, what was it based or focused on?

As a resident artist and particularly thanks to the co-production with Hangar, I have been able to work with Pense in the production of this piece. It is very interesting to collaborate so organically with the construction of the iron structures that some of my pieces have, adjusting the construction details and gradually working the structure throughout the process. On the other hand, being at Hangar is being in Barcelona and its communities, and therefore close to Capellades, which has facilitated the work with Victòria Rabal at the mill. Victòria has been very generous, and I have learnt a lot from her.

What projects do you have in the future?

I am currently working on a piece that will be part of the exhibition curated by Nuria Gómez Gabriel at La Capella “Ángel peligrosamente búho”. This piece is an iteration of another work I exhibited recently at TEA “Nada separado”. It is a work made from agar, in which I seek that differential place between the materially full and that which is apparently not. A respirator, a gill. Next year, I will also continue my work with paper, organised in a series of works that I name with the word “accumulator”. One of these pieces is currently on display at the Nuevo Baztán Interpretation Centre, in the Community of Madrid, with the “Mutations” programme curated by Sergio Rubira.

Ajuntament de Barcelona