Yet another month we talked to artists from all around the globe to collect their most personal cultural recommendations. This June, we listen to reggae and dub music, we immerse ourselves in literature classics such as “The Master and Margarita” or “The Little Prince”, we review the series “Fargo” and discover documentaries on ‘cosmogony’ and human history thanks to the Valencian duo PichiAvo, the Argentinian Elian Chali, the French artist based in Madrid, Guillaume Alby aka Remed and the Jerusalem siblings, Brothers of Light. Take pen and paper and don’t miss out!
This Valencian duo formed by Juan Antonio Sánchez Santos aka Pichi (1977) and Álvaro Hernández Santaeulalia aka Avo (1985) has been evolving since its creation in 2007 thanks to the exploration and evolution of different pictorial phases until reaching a common point: that of uniting two of their passions, graffiti and classic art. Through creating a relationship between painting and sculpture in urban contexts and a balanced combination of classical art and the most current urban art, Pichiavo have found a style with their own trademark. Today they can boast of being one of the first European artists to have painted the Houston Bowery Wall in New York (2017) and of having created a monumental sculpture 26 meters high for the Valencian Fallas in 2019.
«We always try to read books that can contribute to our work. Now we are both reading “Who Owns History?” by Geoffrey Robertson, who addresses one of the greatest contemporary problems in the world of art and culture: the restitution of cultural property taken from its country of creation. Not only does it delve into the crucial debate on the Parthenon marbles, but it examines how the past can be experienced by everyone, regardless of where you come from. I (Pichi) have also taken advantage of the confinement to reread one of my favorite novels: Bulgákov’s “The Master and Margarita”, which in my opinion is one of the inescapable classic titles. I am still amazed at how present the story is despite having been written almost 100 years ago.
In our studio there is always music, we like to listen to a little bit of everything. Lately we are listening to a lot of jazz and jazz fused with Latin music, like Poncho Sánchez, without neglecting other genres and artists that we love like Ludovico Einaudi or Spanish rap classics.
When we have so time, we like to watch series and discuss them in the studio or while traveling. I (Avo) have seen “Rick and Morty” again, an animated comedy full of crazy adventures and lots of laughter, which is important. We also recommend Netflix’s “Somebody Feed Phil”, which in the recently released third season he travels to Montreal to discover local cuisine and the city’s murals. Among them, the one we painted last year on Boulevard Saint-Laurent, one of our favorites!
If we talk about cinema, I (Avo) recommend “The Two Popes” by Fernando Meirelles, a surprising film, a representation of two opposing visions of the Catholic Church rather than a biopic. “El Hoyo” surprised me (Pichi) a lot. It made me reflect by showing how we would act in certain extreme situations, since it deals with true passions and defects of the human being».
Elian Chali (Córdoba, Argentina, 1988) is a city passionate: of its structure and the wayfarer’s interaction with it. At an early age and through graffiti he began to give free rein to his particular dialogue with the city until evolving into forms and compositions that linked him to the urban architecture in a work characterized by abstraction and minimalism and where primary colors had taken on the leadership. With his games of shapes and colors he acts on the city itself, intervening in its structure, its constructions and uses it as a canvas. Today the work of this self-taught artist can be seen in countries as remote as Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Spain, the US, England, France or Mexico.
«A documentary I recently discovered and found incredible is “Mujer Nomade”, which portrays the life of the Argentine philosopher Esther Díaz. I found very powerful the way in which she approaches her sexuality, her own work as a thinker, her place as a writer and how she has gone through her life. In some way, that matter, bringing philosophy to life, resonates with me in a very particular way, it is an ethical desire.
I have just finished rereading Nicolas Bourriaud’s “Relational Art”, which I consider a fundamental book to understand Contemporary Art today and its drift with Urban Art. Once a year I go through it, even if it’s to cross new ideas. I also recently read “Eyes and Capital” by Remedios Zafra, edited by Consonni. A great book that is already a few years old. I am currently with my hands on “Klaus and Lucas” by Agota Kristof, an incredible classic, visceral literature, the best narrative I have read in the past few years.
A Chilean writer that I always like to recommend is Pedro Lemebel. Not only does he interpret through his chronicle an unbearable reality, but he also translates his own experiences into a textual body in a very bold way. I think of the work of Regina José Galindo, the Guatemalan artist specialized in performance. I think of the poetry of Oswald de Andrade, founder of Brazilian modern art. Katharina Grosse’s installations, Christo’s site-specifics. Richard Serra’s architectural sculptures. Matta Clark’s perforations. Helena Almeida’s autobiographical photography. The music of Aphex Twin or Los Crudos… It’s with this level of variation of subjects that I’m interested in different stuff. There are thousands, I couldn’t focus on one!
When I’m painting, as I usually work with a team, I tend to focus on its communication so I try not to isolate myself from the sound of the context. The French The Blaze is a band that has accompanied me a lot in terms of background music.
I don’t really watch too many series, but I can recommend two in particular that I have seen: “Fargo” (the series, not the movie), I find it exquisite. Police genre taken to another level with mind-blowing photography and scripts and “Transparent,” a family drama that problematizes the queer stances of an upper-class American Jewish family. Direct to the heart, incredible.
I don’t know if you have seen the shorts “Ten Minutes Older” produced by Nicolás McClintock and directed by several great directors. I particularly recommend “The Enlightenment” by Volker Schlondorff, a true delight. A must watch!».
Guillaume Alby aka REMED
Since he was little he always showed to be an artist in love with interiors, working inside the four walls of his ‘atelier’. However, Guillaume Alby aka Remed (Paris, 1978) was soon seized by the curiosity of going outside the margins of the canvas to explore other formats that would give his work greater visibility. This is how he began to interact with the street and its different forms through pasting up stickers or leaving his mark on walls through spray and plastic paint. In a game envolving words, icons and geometric elements, he takes his compositions to the purest aesthetic simplicity in combinations full of energy and spiritual charge. What he paints is a mixture of science and soul, of what he lives and what he feels.
«There is a very small book that I really liked that is called “The Usefulness of the Useless”, by Nuccio Ordine. It’s an ode to contemplation. He talks about how all the subsidized inventions are, for example, to find vaccines, for a certain new invention… And yet in the book he explains how most of the inventions that have truly made the human being advanced have been made without any search for functionality if not through experimentation. We tend to criticize everything that is useless but it is there where the magic and the infinite potential of chance reside.
I love classics such as the magic philosophy of “The Little Prince”, “The Alchemist” and “Jonathan Livingston Seagull”. This last one I read it in school, it’s the story of a seagull that must learn to fly, and despite the fact that in her flock flight is only linked to the search for food, she loves flying for the sake of it. In a way it is linked to “The Usefulness of the Useless.” One day flying freely the seagull injures a friend and the group decides to kick him out because they consider him a danger. So the seagull focuses on flying as high and fast as possible, and learns to fly in an incredible way for the pure artistic pleasure of it, for the adrenaline of the flight… It is closely linked to the limitations of society and the infinite potential of being alive, it marked me a lot when I read it back in the day.
I normally watch a lot of documentaries about ancient civilizations and archeology. I love them! The megalithic, objects outside its time, technologies that go back 100,000 and 200,000 years… The documentary “Out of Place Artifacts” raises many doubts about the history of humanity. I don’t believe in history as we’ve been taught, I know that the human being has been here for millions of years, that before painting figuratively he made geometries, that there has been an abstract consciousness forever… I am passionate about all these topics and I see a lot of videos about “cosmogony”, it’s exciting, ultra-poetic and the basis of my beliefs. Easily explained it’s like Christian Genesis except that each culture has a conception of reality. Also Graham Hancock’s documentaries are very interesting, this dude is convinced that the history they have told us is totally bogus. He’s a self-taught archaeologist and he’s great, he’s super good and simple to understand.
My favorite movie is quite commercial, “Avatar” but it amazes me because it is a metaphor, because those blue men in nature are us. And I understand it as a criticism of the modern world.
For a long time I wouldn’t listen to music while painting, I preferred the silence around creation. Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of reggae, jazz, dub music… For about three years I have been playing a lot of LoFi music, it is a genre in itself. It’s like very slow beats between hip hop, jazz, reggae… And I love singing to it! I listen to a channel called ‘Chillhop’ in Youtube. Of course I am also a big fan of Bob Marley, The Skatalites, Burning Spear… I don’t know if you know The Ethiopians, they make a fabulous African jazz, crazy good music!
An artist who has been a reference for me for personifying the figure of a true painter has been Mahjoub Ben Bella. He made me aware that you could be an honest and sincere painter, I have never been able to assimilate this before. He does a very gestural abstract calligraphy and sadly he died a few days ago. Despite being very discreet, it has inspired many people.
Finally, my last and best recommendation is that before doing any of the above you escape to the forest, the mountains or the sea!».
Brothers of Light
Gab and Elna are Brothers of Light, two brothers born and based in Jerusalem who began their adventure in the art world in 2014. Since they were little they have been exposed to the enormous diversity that the streets of their hometown breathe and together with the skate scene, have been one of their main forms of inspiration for their work. They manage to plunge the viewer into their innocent vision of a parallel and utopian world dominated by birdmen and a mix of religious symbols and other icons that come out of their peculiar imaginary and that can now be seen on walls and galleries around the world.
«Music has a big influence on our lives and work, it’s our daily fuel. We start the day in the studio with dub tunes, listening to the great Robin Catto’s radio program called “Reggae Heaven” on K2K Radio. In the afternoon it’s time to step it up with some French Trap and Hip Hop with artists such as Niska, Damso, Booba, Ninho, Moha la Square, Landy, Oxmo Puccino and the list goes on… Depending on our mood some days we like to play some local music from Israel such as DOR3, Pele Ozen, Hadag Nahash, Tela Mobb, Arik Einstein or Uzi Navon.
During the past year we’ve seen a couple of memorable movies for us. We got really inspired by “Free Solo” about the famous climber Alex Honnold and the way he prepares himself to his life mission that looks impossible gave us a lot of motivation and understanding about what you can achieve if you believe in yourself. Also “Captain Fantastic” mainly because it shows other ways of life, something we can really relate to in the world we live in where most human beings just trying to fit into the system and replicate. Besides that, every video launched by 1UP Crew is a treat, but honestly, every minute off the screen is a minute outside.
We’re not big readers but we have some interesting books on our shelf like “Passagere du silence” (The Dragon’s brush) by Fabienne Verdier, about a French artist that leaves a successful career to travel to the communist republic of China in the 80’s to study the roots of calligraphy and traditional art. The book deals with issues every artist can relate to. Gab is now reading ”Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance” a very philosophical book about a father and son and their big tour in North America with a motorcycle. Apart from that, we always have a copy of Tramontana or other magazines laying down in our studio toilets.
There are so many artists we follow and get inspired by, like Rafael Zarka, Thomas Campbell, Stephen Powers, David Shillinglaw, Waone… Still, the most inspiring artist for us is nature».