The Ghosts of Pejac: Silhouettes and Stories from Barcelona
With pencil or chalk drawings as favorite methods to tell relatable narratives, Pejac creates poignant images that look like memories set in a dreamscape. While the accuracy of his works was what first got my attention, it was the ingenious way he employed these techniques that won me over. The Barcelona-based artist produces a versatile range of work, from drawings and paintings, to sculptures and major public interventions. He and I have met on a few occasions, but it wasn't until this conversation after opening his solo show in Venice that I got a better understanding of his work and relationship with the world, as well as a chance to look inside his beautifully sensible mind.
Sasha Bogojev: What attracts you to silhouettes? They are a consistent element in your public works.
Pejac: I think that, with silhouettes, you can connect with yourself in a very easy, fast and honest way. And from there, you connect with other people from yours and other cultures. I find them to be a universal way to express what I could be saying in a more conceptual way. The same thing can be said in thousands of ways, and I choose them because they’re fast and easy.
You've been doing fewer public interventions lately. Is there any particular reason?
The last three years, I've been working a lot out of my studio and out of the country. I've been traveling, meeting people from different countries, which was really great, but I felt that I needed some time to recharge my battery. To travel was amazing, but when you do it a lot, it becomes a problem.
I hear the same thing from artists who travel frequently, that you can get artistically stuck as you have fewer opportunities to try out new things in your studio.
In my case, it was more of the human factor. When you travel, you meet a lot of people who want to help, want to meet you, want to know about your work, etc. I like to spend time with people when I feel comfortable, but when you know somebody for a few hours or even minutes, you are interacting in both a very enthusiastic, non-natural way. I find it a bit stressful to have that for a long period of time.
I never thought of it in that way.
Also, I'm not used to company when creating work. But since human interaction is very important to me, I try to be honest and connect with people, while being honest and making the best possible work. So trying both at the same time makes me a little bit stressed. I'm sure I'm not the only one feeling that way.
You use a wide range of techniques and mediums, both in the studio and in public. What motivates you to try new ways to produce and present work?
People think that if you're an artist, the work you do is very emotionally driven, very dynamic. But if you don't experiment continuously, it will become routine in the end. I try to have a new idea for each new piece, but I also like investigating new techniques along the way. For me, personally, I have to keep experimenting, otherwise it starts to feel boring.
Are there certain techniques that you'd like to try or master?
I feel that painting is the one where I keep improving. It is like a journey—I don't know if I'll get to the destination, if I'll have enough fuel, but I definitely don't want to go back. With drawing, I feel like I have more control, and the painting process is very exciting. I love drawing, I love sculpture, but painting—the canvas and colors, along with the smell—is like a drug.
How often does it happen that a certain idea or concept for a new technique just doesn't work?
In my head, it happens a lot. Continuously. What people get to see on paper, on canvas, on a wall, or as a finished sculpture, is the end of a very long trip that starts inside of you. When I start painting or drawing, that is the end, not the beginning of the process. Before that happens, I have already tried so many different ideas and made so many choices. Maybe it's like a race of sperms—all the ideas are going towards that canvas, and the one that gets painted is the winner.
So far, you've been breaking windows and scratching concrete. Do you have any particular concept you find most challenging?
Sometimes I go to a new country and I try a new technique, just for that country. That might not sound very professional, but you can't recreate the exact same setting and wall texture to practice. So, in the first five or ten minutes, while I'm trying a new method on the actual location, there is always a crisis. But then I start thinking, "I'm here for this. This is the best choice. I can do it." So, in the end, even with the mistakes, I'm proud about my finished pieces most of the time. I used to be very proud of my mistakes. Perfection is very satisfying, but it's not so personal.
So you plan a lot of your interventions way ahead. How much improvising happens on the spot?
I think improvisation is when one part of your brain fights with the perfect plan. I always arrive with what I think is the perfect plan, and then it's like hearing the voice that wants to change, just to see what happens. I am usually very focused on exactly what was sketched, but in the end, the sketch doesn't include everything that you might find on location. You will find a structure that you didn't take into account, hear noises that can interact with the work, so the thing I love most about urban art is that the improvisation isn't in your work, but in the street itself, so you can't do 100% of your sketch.
What is the most important part of it for you? The message, the concept, or something else?
I always think about this when listening to music: is the song done after the lyrics, or were the lyrics written after the song? In my case, I can't even get out of my bed without a concept, in all honesty. But once I start materializing the concept I have, the poetic aspect of the image can become the main thing of the piece. I work with the poetry and beauty of the image, and I construct these ingredients into a conceptual idea.
You seem to like using recurring imagery and concepts, like all these different animals, for example. Do you feel like these evolve with you, or do you re-use them for a different reason?
I think of nature as a precious treasure. But with the human activity, we are making it shine less and less. Animals are universal and can be used as a metaphor or allegory. So, I often use animals to tell different ideas about we humans, about how we relate with each other and with the world. I'm a city person, and luckily, or unfortunately, I'm more in touch with human nature than with any other. I think we are fatal guests on the planet: instead of paying rent, we charge it every day.
It's like this interview. If you were to look at it in a few years, even knowing it was the thing you wanted to say in that moment, you might think differently later. In art, you have the choice to express that same thing, but as a different, changed person. For me, it's an emotional way to say the same thing from a fresh point of view. That way, you can see creative evolution as a painter, as an artist, and as a person. It's not a way of producing work, but more of an experiment or opportunity to see how you're evolving.
Portrait by Maui Rivera