Art in Uncertain Times: New Space and New Dreams with Aryz
"I had the keys to my new studio and I was terrified," Aryz wrote from Cardedeu, just outside of Barcelona, when I checked in with one of my favorite Spanish artists for Art in Uncertain Times. "I didn’t know how to deal with it. There was a lot of remodeling to be done, I had to start covering important monthly expenses, but no projected income." Instead of enjoying the milestone moment of acquiring a massive new studio space, making his dreams become reality, the pandemic created an unprecedented moment back in March for Octavi Serra Arrizabalaga, aka Aryz. Just as he was about to roll up his sleeves, ready to tackle some big, challenging projects for the year, life started to close and collapse, seemingly swallowing up all those plans.
"In mid-March, the Spanish government declared a state of emergency in response to the COVID pandemic and restricted our mobility, but I was able to keep working on a piece that was supposed to go to Belgium," he takes us back to where things started to change course. "In my old studio, I didn’t have space for preparing an 8m tall piece, so I was lucky enough to rent a space at the Castells scenography atelier for a period of time. They usually prepare theatre backgrounds and enormous constructions, so they made a space for me and everything was going as planned. As usual, I was in a rush, but for this one, I had to ask for exceptional help - thanks Sabina! There was one week to ship everything to the music Conservatorium of Oostende and I was still quite far from finishing it. When suddenly, the Spanish government declared a complete lockdown on the 24th, the atelier closed. I had to stop painting even though the Belgium installation was still on schedule. At that point, we knew that it was just a matter of time when everything would stop, and from then on, things escalated pretty fast. The Belgium project was paused, other projects planned in 2020 started to be postponed, and others were canceled."
We've been following the work of Aryz for years as he tackles the most expansive exterior canvases and experiments with studio practice, always exulting in the possibilities of color. Developing a very unique language, his rough drawing style has become a dynamic method to express the physicality and emotion in humans and animals, with 2019 concluding in a series of successful solo shows and some major installations. "At the beginnings of this year, given that 2019 had gone pretty good and 2020 was full of things about to happen, I decided to move into a bigger studio. Everything was ready, but because of bureaucracy, things went slower than expected," he wrote to us about unexpected roadblocks, and "Then suddenly, Covid19 was here. Amazingly enough, I was able to sign the contract right In the middle of the pandemic. Each of the signing parties were in separate rooms, and we had to bring our own pens from home, while the notary had to read the contract in each room separately… It just all seemed like a bad comedy movie." Leaving him in a precarious situation.
Rather than a paralyzed panic, he decided to take matters into his own hands and create work and distraction. "During the confinement, I started working by myself in the studio; cleaning and painting the walls, ceilings, and floors, in order to save money and be able to move there as soon as possible. Working mechanically helps me to organize ideas, and the physical exercise during confinement was good. I tried exercising with youtube tutorials, but I just couldn't." Eventually, this extra free time and confinement pushed him into restarting a long delayed book project. "I did a crowdfunding campaign back in 2017, but the whole economic situation and context were way different back then. The idea of doing another campaign motivated me, but If I was going to do one now, given the current context, it could be a complete disaster."
But with intense recent experience under his belt, the artist didn't sound too worried about what appears to be a second wave and is encouraged about the way things have turned around in the past few months. "I’m easily motivated when I feel there is an interesting and challenging project in front of me. I now really want to publish another book with some of the indoor work produced in these last few years. So I recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to enable me to publish it. As part of the campaign, I have created a lot of rewards and packs in order to be able to overpass the basic goal of publishing the book. I want to invest in making the best book possible with good materials, producing extra rewards, doing more copies, etc. Actually the whole idea of crowdfunding was to keep me busy during the shelter-in-place and work on something that I feel is worth spending time and energy on."
"Despite being in a complex situation, I still have a lot of energy left," maintains Aryz as he wraps up on a positive note. "Being locked down, and at the same time, be able to keep working I consider it a privilege. So even if I had some issues lately, I actually can’t complain about anything." —Sasha Bogojev