In 1971, after writing a study about Vladimir Tatlin, founder of Constructivism, Carlos Medina (Barquisimeto, Venezuela, 1953) begins to develop his plastic discourse within that trend. Afterwards, he elaborated iron and stone pieces focusing on the spatial geometrical abstraction. In 1976, he settles in Carrara, Italy, and during seven years, he works marbles and granites with hammer and chisel. In 1984, he returns to Venezuela, where he experiments with iron, steel, wood and paper. By that time, his plastic quest begins to spin around the geometrical reinterpretation of nature and cosmos. From 2000 on, his proposal evolves from sensible geometry to the minimalist by retaking the line, suspending the shapes, eliminating bases and supports, and invading the space in the search of the essential by means of the light.
What follows is the transcript of the conversation I held with the artist in Paris.
ECL: In his theory on aesthetics, Paul Valéry says that “the artist lives within the intimacy of his arbitrariness, and the awaiting of his need. Sometimes, a will of expression starts up the match; a necessity of translating what one feels”. Where does your need of expression start?
CM: After experiencing the ability to express myself using plastic elements in a natural way, I started a continuous exploratory process that leads me to code and concretize my individual vision and aesthetics of what is around me in geometrical terms. Beginning with the line and the cosmic elements (circle, triangle, and square), I keep on developing researches in a quest that simplifies everything to its purest essence.
ECL: Your plastic language strips of accessories. When you state that the natural evolution of sculpture and painting aims at the immaterial, are you shaping your plastic discourse with that affirmation?
CM: Certainly. My pursuit has been oriented to keep off any element that would disrupt the pureness of the forms and concepts by lightening weights, volumes and supports. In a very simple way, I have found new languages for the intervention of surfaces and spaces through the research about shapes and new materials. Hence, I propose the sculpture should go even further beyond by intervening the wall, the ceilings and non-conventional spaces, which could hardly be occupied by traditional artwork. This new plastic concept has no limits, and it can be as pure and simple as the light, going through everything, and making of the invisible or barely noticeable realities, like the rain, cosmic dust or light beams, something evident or static.
ECL: In regards to the spatial geometrical representation, you work around the square, circle and triangle by deforming them until they disappear in the luminescence. Where do your reflections point at?
CM: I define myself as a geometer who lives inside the essential of that geometry, reaching the line and the suggestion of the forms. However, it is important to specify that I never deform the elements; on the contrary, I defend the pureness of the planes and the concrete volumetric geometry. The idea is to take the elements and arrange them in a way that material, form, space and light will fuse into each other on a plane or space, and then show the spectator a new reality with essential and imperceptible elements that give the idea of weightlessness and luminescence.
ECL: In Gego’s works entitled “Drawings without Paper”, the artist turns transparency into drawings sketched in the space with composed lines that have been arranged from a plane, thus creating forms from light. Were your inspired in that remarkable artist in order to create your series “Surfaces”?
CM: With the great admiration I have towards Gego’s works, I share the current importance and the exploration of the drawing, and the plastic presence in the space. Nevertheless, the principle and approach of my work, and particularly in “Surfaces”, is to create and pull out multiple forms and planes that will occupy that space, always within a perfect line and geometry, where the light is one more plane or element. My work is essentially mathematical, and its results are combinations and multiple formulas. We differ in respect of my vision being more purist and concrete regarding elements, in which volumes are extricated from flat surfaces.
ECL: An artist’s works are like his answers to the uncertainty; that is to say they are clarity monuments transforming in matter, volumes, textures, forms, and colors to communicate something. You have said: “I aim at the total cleanness of the objects. My intention is to attain the light, the essence. Which essence do you refer to?
CM: To me, the essential consists on the minimally able to move due to the surprise found in the pureness and simplicity of the materials from their natural state, or in the transformation of the already known shapes and volumes inside their spatial arrangement. It is an evolution of the minimalistic language towards the soul.
ECL: You say your proposal is minimalistic, yet with a soul. However, you intend the matter to touch emotions. Is not your approach a paradox?
CM: Indeed; that idea of the essential concurs in some aspects with the minimalistic concept, due to the search and presentation of what is simple. I intend the matter or the material I use will talk and touch by themselves, beyond polychromies, varnishes, lacquers, and other effects. Also, taking into account that I come from the sculpture, the essential lies on the forms to express themselves and move the spectator into that surprise of the simple, reorganized and exalted on the plane and the space. That is why the search deepens towards the soul of the shapes and matters.
ECL: Due to the confusion in the recent years of the art market, some critics have begun to wonder what is and is not art. Looking at your career and the different stages of your work, we consider that your personal definition about art may offer some lights to the topic.
CM: I think that what makes real art different from what history could label nowadays as “fashion”, “sensationalism”, “mechanisms” or “more of the same” is, undoubtedly, the reflection, the input, the invention, the research. To sum up, it is the knowledge within the artist at reinterpreting their time, their reality, and their now. Beyond economic and marketing projects, the artist ought to remain loyal to themselves, in their atelier, under their values and beliefs, exploring the techniques and materials of that moment in order to leave a testimony of their time.