Jo Waterhouse Interviews Artist Fernando ElviraJuxtapoz // Friday, 07 Aug 2009
Interview by Jo Waterhouse
You are in Bolivia at the moment – tell us about your trip, what’s the purpose of your visit and how long will you stay?
I have been in Bolivia for over a month already. Leaving in a few days to take a marathon bus ride (30 hours) to Lima, Peru. I’m currently enjoying the contrast between having worked in the richest country in Europe (Switzerland) and now traveling solo in the poorest country in South America (Bolivia). The idea of coming here came to me one day when I spent eight hours alone in the mountains high on a marijuana green smoothie. Í had a really great spiritual experience that day, so I trusted all the revelations that came with the experiment.
What have been your experiences of South America? Can you tell us some things you’ve been doing? Had you ever been there before?
I have never been here before. I volunteered at an orphanage for a bit. I had a great connection with kids but the other volunteers got jealous at my creativity and started to put "fences" around my work, so I left the place. This incident made me realize that I didn’t used to ready for some people and now there are some people who are not ready for me. I have been taking photos, walking around, going to the mountains and making love to my notepad. I’ve also been investigating and experimenting with the almighty Coca Leaf, such a powerful medicine and food.
One of the weirdest things I've seen on your blog of Bolivia is the somewhat disturbing dried Llama fetus tradition there. Can you tell us about it? Was that the strangest thing you've seen there or did anything surpass that?
The local people use the llama fetus for good luck. They bury them in the place where they are going to build a house. They have all sorts of rituals, folk remedies and superstitions here. I met one tour guide that assured me he talked to his dead relatives with the help of a Shaman. I listened in silence but I did not really believed it. I just don’t trust people who make spiritual claims and then you see them eating junk food and littering on a daily basis. Plus the saying "he who talks does not know, he who knows does not talk" is right pretty much all the time.
You’re pretty well traveled. What do you get out of traveling?
I don’t travel that much anymore but what I like about travel is the artistic inspiration I get from it. I also like that it forces me to get out of my comfort zone and open myself to unexpected situations and very different people. That’s why I don’t consider traveling with friends real traveling. Yes, I know it can be fun and definitely it’s way easier, but the emotions and adventures one gets when traveling alone are far superior.
You produce a lot of work in your journals, how important are they to you when you are traveling? Are ideas for new work and projects in the studio derived from the journals you keep?
ALL the ideas for future projects and exhibitions are born in my journals, notepads and sketchbooks, therefore they are absolutely ESSENTIAL for me.
Is home still in the mountains in Spain? What is it like where you live? You seem to like to live close to nature, why is that important for you?
Yeah I live in a small village in South Spain called Algatocín. I like it there because it is quiet and I can go up the mountains and stay alone for as long as I want. The weather is nice and the cost of living is substantially cheaper than living in a big city. I don’t like to be in big cities for too long. They deplete my energy.
You're very health conscious, you do Yoga, and eat very healthily. Can you tell us about your diet and your philosophies on living healthily?
I’ve already done enough damage to my body/mind/spirit. The better I feel, the better I perform. When on a high vibratory plane any magic is possible (healing relationships, attracting awesome people and jobs). For this to happen one must feel really good, centered and at peace. I know exactly what disciplines make me feel, think and work my best, so I pursue them. I have also a very strong, dark side so I need to be balancing both factions all the time. The most powerful techniques I have experimented with are definitely yoga, fasting and silence.
Where did your passion for coconuts come from?
I have been to Hawaii eight times. One day I saw a surfer dude climb a really tall coconut tree and I got totally inspired. The whole thing seemed so raw, wild and natural. I started climbing coconut trees and soon it became a really fun, risky and challenging sport for me. Plus it was a really smart thing to do because besides the strenuous exercise I got from climbing the palms, I got a lot of coconuts to drink. The water inside a coconut is really pure and beneficial for the body. It just makes me so happy. I had some really good times climbing trees and getting coconuts for other people as well. To this day it’s my very favorite thing to drink. I drank a few at the opening party of my mural job in Zürich, last April.
What is your favorite smoothie recipe?
There is a smoothie that I haven’t tried yet but I fantasize about it and it is: Coconut water and its flesh (the soft kind) blended with Durian (my favorite food). I have used, as I said before, marijuana powder in green smoothies for vision quests. This works well when alone in nature. Not a thing for socializing. If the blockheads at the airport do not take it away from me I am looking forward to experiment with Coca powder smoothies (here in Bolivia you can buy this ingredient in health food stores).
You have several outlets for your creativity: photography, murals, drawings, journals, graphics etc. Do you see any separation with what you do in these different areas, do they all fulfill the same creative urges for you?
Yeah I have been asked this question few times before. I do art as a child plays. When tired of playing one game a child moves onto a different one. For me there is no difference between painting a mural, designing skateboards, taking photos, drawing, shooting video or making a sculpture. I love all forms of art and I love being able to jump from one medium to another. It is harder to get recognition, though, because having different facets makes my work difficult to market, but I can live with that. The reason I chose this path is because I can do whatever the fuck I want without worrying if people will like it or not.
With your pictorial artwork you stay away from any digital elements, everything is hand drawn or cut up adhesive paper. Was it a conscious decision to deliberately not use any computers in your work?
Yeah I have always worked like that and will continue to do so. I like the irregularity that comes from hand-made artwork. There are a zillion artists out there who don’t use brushes, markers, pens, chalk etc anymore. Most of their work is spiritless, cold and too perfect for my taste. I enjoy very much the analogical approach. It is my trademark.
Can you talk a little more about your artwork, and the materials you work with? When did you first start to work in adhesive paper, and what qualities of that medium do you like?
I used to buy colored papers and cut them and paste them with glue, like collage style. One ceramic artist in Hawaii suggested I try adhesive vinyl and that was a huge revelation for me. I think that was 1994 or 1995. I love the immediacy and cleanliness of this material. There have been many times that I’ve made a living strictly from a pair of scissors.
You've designed many skateboards over the years, is that something you are still doing? Can you tell us some of the companies have you worked for?
Yeah I did some graphics for a Spanish skate shop a few months ago. I am really happy with them because they are the first skateboard graphics I have ever done with strong political messages. I have designed boards for Cliché, Alai, Selecta, Sugar, Dirty skateshop and Carhartt (these guys never released the deck but they paid me). Also snowboards for Salomon.
What would be your ideal day? Where would you be and what would you do?
An ideal day for me would be rising early for yoga, then hiking to the mountaintop to watch the sunrise and work on my sketchbook. Then back to the house, clean up, drink, eat, work on the computer for blogging and emails, then chill out. In the evening back to the mountain until night. Then into the studio to do artwork and listen to music. Before bed I would go for a bit into the "decompression room". Looking forward to that type of lifestyle as soon as I get home.
What are your plans for art and traveling after you leave South America? Do you have any exhibitions coming up soon?
Yes I am having a big exhibition in Zurich (Switzerland) in October/November. We might also publish a book and present it at the opening. This is a really exciting project because we are also building our own gallery out of freight containers. You know, full-on D.I.Y. spirit.
More info here: