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Interview with Stella Rahola
What did you want to be when you were young? What happened or did you achieve it?
When I was young, I was already a person with great curiosity. I had many dreams but I never stop wishing that, once I had retired, I would devote myself to painting. (laughs) My grandmother, Carmen Aguadé, was a painter. I used to really enjoy using her workshop materials to make my things and, once I was older, helping her in her work.
What did you study?
Precisely because my interests were shared across the technical/scientific side and in the humanities/arts, I studied architecture (ETSAB, UPC Barcelona and the Accademia di Architettura di Mendrisio, Switzerland). A few years later, I did a Masters degree in architectural projects at ETSAB and I am currently finishing an MFA (Master of Arts) at Goldsmiths University in London.
What inspires you when it comes to creating something?
In our capitalist society, consumption represents taking care of our needs and our welfare. On the other hand, I believe that the act of making things by ourselves is the only thing that can really satisfy us. In this sense, whatever is related to handwork and transforming things, in particular material things, that is to say to start from something that has no shape, helps me to find questions and is, in part, where my work comes from. My training as an architect has connected me closely to a constant interest in the landscape. What a place is like, how we build it and conceive of it ends up being one of the physical expressions that is most linked to anthropology. I’m interested in talking about us on the basis of this construction.
Do you devote a set time each day or does it depend on how it emerges?
I devote many hours, not only each day but also weekends, and I take few holidays. Of what work/set are you proudest? Each project entails some difficulties that are also related to a personal context. Each one represents an apprenticeship as well as a challenge to overcome.
What materials do you use?
I do not disregard any.
Which artists do you follow? Which ones do you consider (historically) to be really interesting/groundbreaking or who opened up new ways?
Right now, and owing to the subjects that I am following, I’m very interested in Alicja Kwade for her architectural and sculptural outlook on concepts of the representation of reality through simulation; Saskia Olde Wolbers for the relationship she establishes between analogue work and the world of digital fiction; and Lee Bul for his model/sculptural studies on the failure of modern urban utopias. Duchamp revolutionised the history of art with his “ready-mades” and his famous urinal. What he did has unleashed a multitude of very clear influences and developments in many artists nowadays. I place myself directly against him in reclaiming handwork, the transformation of material, beginning something that there is still no way of finding. It is a personal political demand that seeks to transcend the observer.
What did OD Hotels commission you to do?
For OD Hotels, they commissioned me to do a piece that would accompany the design of the rooms as well as a work for the common spaces. I think that the design of OD hotels is very detailed, very warm and personal. In these jobs, I seek to create work that is capable of bringing harmony, accompanying and individualising the visitor’s experience.
With which deceased artist would you have loved to have a chat and why? And which living artist?
I would take great pleasure in meeting the English writer and critic, John Ruskin, and the American sociologist Richard Sennett, to talk about handcrafts in the XXI century.
Do you believe that trends exist within art?
No. It is precisely the contemporary nature of things itself, which is characterised by moral disorientation and a loss of certainties and chaos that has provoked an unfolding in the search for experimentation and the multiplicity of artistic expressions. Living in London is precisely what allows me to observe and experience this paradigm. On a creative level, we are experiencing a very rich eclectic moment.
Do you think that you can define yourself as an artist? How would you like yourself to be defined in Wikipedia?
An artist is a person who is on a constant search. I hope that it is always difficult to classify me. Nor is it my job to do so.
What was or is your latest project? Can you give us a foretaste?
Of course. In the last year, I have been working very intensely on how the digital era and the technical advances in capitalist systems have made it possible to build what was impossible before. Dubai is a very good example, but in actual fact, it is taking place in almost the entire world. In this sense, I am interested in how a landscape that was fiction before is becoming physical, “real” and therefore the way that we conceive of “reality” today. These concepts update the concept of what is picturesque, moving it into the field of what is photogenic. I work with sculpture, installation, as well as using photography and video.
What would you change within the world of art?
Many things. In the art market, the artist is vital; without him or her, the object of exchange does not exist. However, he or she is the most vulnerable figure within the circuit of the market economy and also within society. Therefore, many things would have to change. We could start by paying the artist when they are commissioned to do an exhibition. In the same way that all the people who are involved in the project, ranging from the person who commissions it, the management, the cleaning staff, etc. Receive a financial reward for their labour, the artist ought to count on the same right. We should not carry on thinking that the compensation lies in their CV getting longer. The institution or gallery also takes advantage of their work!
What projects are you involved in now?
Recently, I have exhibited in the London festival known as Deptford X and at the TULCA festival in Galway, Ireland. I continue with projects for OD Hotels. This year, I am finishing my Masters in London that culminates with a big individual exhibition. Other confirmed projects right now are the individual exhibition at the Vila Casas Foundation next June, the one the following autumn at Casa Vicens de Antoni Gaudí in Barcelona, and also at Palau de Casavells. In London, I have an exhibition at The Stone Space next January. On the other hand, I am working on a beautiful collaboration with Enric Majoral, to launch a jewellery collection in less than a year’s time. Furthermore, I remain academically connected to the teaching team for a short-lived Masters degree in Architecture at the ELISAVA School of Design in Barcelona, in which we are also working for a small publication.Read more Close