Leandro Muniz – Can you talk about your education and training?
Guido Yannitto – Since I was a kid I attended workshops and art classes. I studied painting for three years, starting at the age of 15, in Salta, my hometown. Then, I went to Córdoba to study industrial design, but I quit it because it was “too industrial” and not much design. At the time, I didn’t want to do anything with art because I was afraid it wouldn’t work out. Finally, I understood that it was something I really liked. I studied art at the Universidad Nacional de Córdoba. On those years (2002-2003) I got really involved with the university. I did my undergraduate degree in pedagogy and I used to spend the whole day there. I got involved in the Geometric plastic language discipline with the teacher Carina Cagnolo that had a more “contemporary” approach. She is also a curator and had a workshop outside the university, which I attended with a group of friends. With that group of students we were making some projects, for example, we organized video shooting sessions at the university. It was very dynamic. That teacher had a really different perspective in contrast to a more conservative study plan that the university had at the time. That discipline was a space where you could discuss process and projects, what wasn’t common at the time in Argentina.
Back then, I was often traveling from Córdoba to Salta to follow the seminars at Fundación Antorchas with local artists from all over the country. These seminars were called “clinica” (clinics): they were discussion groups in which you presented your work and there was a tutor, an elder artist who guided the discussion. In 2005, the year I graduated, some friends were going to Mexico and I followed them. I stayed and worked there for almost two years. I did a lot of performance workshops and started working as an artist assistant, so that was also part of my training. It was really intense because I had the chance to see the commercial aspect of art in Mexico City – which, I think, it could be comparable to São Paulo, for its size. There are a number of collectors and an established art market there. I couldn’t believe it, because I am from a very small city in Argentina with no art market whatsoever.
In 2007 I came back to Buenos Aires, because I started a Masters degrer but I didn’t like it, so I also quitted. Buenos Aires nowadays has a more institutionalized educational system, but backs then, artists were trained by other artists, especially in the “clinics” I mentioned.
LM – You have been attending many art residencies for the last years. Could you tell us how it is for you to work while traveling?
GY – I think residencies are an alternative way of living. It is work and also a way to keep distance from the pressures of the commercial circuit. The most interesting thing you can do in a residency is to travel, make friends and amplify your network. In 2011, I attended a long-term residency, Flora Arts in Bogotá. That was the first time I ever had a studio outside of my house. There, I started to make collages with wool, a series I called “Something that always escapes”. It was a new kind of work, because I changed the technique and the palette I was working for several years. In 2017, I went to Netherlands to the Van Eyck Multiform Institute for Fine Arts. It was really contrasting to Bogotá, basically because of the scale of the city and the economic and cultural aspects of changing from a Latin American context to a north European one. I wanted to live in Europe for a while. I thought it would be easier, because it was a very privileged place – they give you a big studio, workshops and resources – but now I see it was a tough experience, because of the language and because of my background, I think. In those places, and most of the residences I did, I worked in relation with the context. I can identify that architecture and spaces in general are aspects that interest me and influence my work and my way of thinking.
LM – You mentioned the series Something that always escapes, in which you attach threads of colored wool on canvas, creating abstract reliefs, between geometric and organic shapes. Could you talk about the background references for these works?
GY – They started with the fences I used to see in public space during my residency in Bogotá. I used to photograph them in the neighborhood I was living at – an impoverished place undergoing a process of gentrification. During the 80’s and 90’s due to very complex sociopolitical issues, the country became unsafe and went through many changes and people started to install fences outside their houses, but not ordinary fences, they were very elaborated, I would say they have an “artistic” element. A lot of artists worked with that unusual.
I wanted to make tapestries relating architecture, social plot and “popular art”. I also wanted to introduce color to my work – my palette at the time was mostly black and white. I was in a process of synthesis, but it felt like a blind-alley for me and I wanted to try new things. So, I remembered this technique of gluing wool on canvas that I learned at school and I started making it bigger, changing the scale and the shapes. Those works were a very intuitive response to that particular moment and now I am trying to mix with elements of the architecture I’ve found in São Paulo, but this is not a fixed rule. I’ve been inspired by the city in different levels, and, maybe, that will reflect (or not) in the new works.
LM – I would like you to comment the different uses of weaving in your practice. You work with collaborations with other professionals; either using high-tech machinery or handmade techniques and sometimes you do it yourself, like the abstract collages with wool. In fact, what is your interest in weaving?
GY – I started doing tapestries ten years ago working with local artisans in Salta. I work both with traditional techniques and the latest technologies on weaving. I had the opportunity to work in the Textile Museum in Tilburg, a place provided with high-tech machinery. I also make more experimental uses of weaving, like in the series Something that always escapes, which I consider “weaving with no weaving”, so to speak. These different uses of weaving give me a field of possibilities for experimentation. I like to define a material and explore it, expanding its uses.
I guess I started the tapestries because of an emotional relation with this technique. I am from the north of Argentina where handcrafted textiles are very present. I’d say this technique was my first approach to art. When I was a kid I used to play in the studio of a well-known artist from the 60´s in Salta, called Carlos ¨Pajita¨ Garcia Bes. I was friends with his grandson, with whom I used to play with wool and fabrics and I started to do the same when I became an artist: weaving, trying to remember how to do it like when I was a kid. Back to Salta, I went to that same studio and Rodrigo Garcia Bes taught me the basic techniques and introduced me to Liliana Ponisio, the weaver I have worked with since then. I started to pay attention to little details of this particular technique and to relate it with conceptual meanings, like communication and translation as their major possibilities.
I also think that weaving is a way to understand an image as a construction. I’d say a tapestry has the same logical structure of a wall: one line of bricks after the other displayed in a resistant construction. That’s the way I like to think about an image: as something that was meticulously built.
LM – Could you talk about the works you are developing at Pivô Research?
GY –The original project was to work with the weavers from São Paulo and trying to make some kind of exchange, but I am having a hard time finding weavers. I ask people about information, and they give me the contact of crochet classes, embroidery, but not specifically tapestry. I think this kind of techniques – weaving and working with wool – are not really common here, maybe because of the weather. But in Brazil, it is common to find a similar technique with vegetable fibers and I am researching on that.
Before arriving here, I was on a residency of two years so I am feeling now a new working dynamic in a short-term residency. Usually, I take these first three months to feel the city and now I have to do everything in this period. I am working on a series of collages made with colored wool threads. I started making them in Bogotá, but I stopped in Netherlands. I feel that those works need more time, studio time, so I am working on that at this moment.
São Paulo is a very diverse city. At the same time, I feel I am missing a lot. There are different circuits of art, I think. I am trying to understand them. The commercial world works well here, I think, it is more stable, something we don’t have in Argentina. But I am still formulating a map.