Issue - November 2009



November 2009

Editorial

In this issue: Justin Gouin interviews a talented young artist; The Fijate Project, a new initiativein Cochabamba by Petra Vissers; reclaiming the culinary tradition for Cochabambinas by Alejandra Ramirez; Octubre Azul, nine years after the water war By Petra Vissers; finally, the Molle’s presence dominates Cochabamba’s countryside by Walter Sánchez.
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November 2009

Deep Vision; A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

The Cocha-banner sits down with one of Cochabamba’s most precocious young artists to discuss his unique experience with creative expression, the role of art in Bolivian society, and his own artistic vision

Justin Gouin
Projects Abroad Volunteer
Vancouver - Canada

Before meeting Raúl Candia, it was nearly impossible for me to predict what to expect from the young artist, whose success I had already heard so much about. I found myself wondering whether he would shy and uncertain of his talents as an artist, having not yet developed the perspective and lexicon of a seasoned master. Or would he be overconfident and proud due to his precociousness and early accomplishments? Upon entering his parent’s home to conduct the interview, however, I was immediately struck by his humble demeanor. As Raúl began to answer my questions, it became clear that he is not only modest in his achievements but also possesses the vision and insight unique to artists. His candor revealed the sincerity of his earnestness for artistic creation. I felt foolish for having expected such extremes.

For a seventeen-year-old, Raúl is undoubtedly gifted. Treating subjects from football matches to surrealism, Raúl’s paintings capture the intensity of his contact with reality and form. The vibrant colours to which he is partial reveal a yearning for experience and expression that can hardly be contained on canvas. His talent has not gone unnoticed; with the aid of local artist Alejandra Dorado, Raúl has exhibited his work in some of Cochabamba’s most esteemed galleries, such as Simon I. Patiño and the Martadero. Having achieved this relatively high level of success at such a young age, and possessing both a strong love for his vocation and the eagerness necessary to learn and progress towards ever higher reaches of talent, Raúl appears to have a bright future ahead of him in both Cochabamba’s and Bolivia’s art worlds. Indeed, Raúl acknowledges that he is still very much in the process of nurturing and developing his talents.

Despite his undeniable talents, however, Raúl is not simply a precocious young artist: his success, creativity, and his unique vision are all the more incredible when one learns that the artist is, in fact, blind. Raúl began painting at the age of thirteen, when mutual friend introduced him to local artist Alejandra Dorado. At the time, Alejandra had recently begun working with troubled and disabled youth through her project called Caja Verde. The program was meant to be therapeutic, taking children primarily from the Cerro Verde neighborhood and teaching them art forms such as dance, music, and painting; however Alejandra immediately recognized Raúl as unique talent. For four years now, Raúl has been diligently working alongside Alejandra honing his craft.

The question appears obvious, how does this young man understand his art, how does he practice it, and what does he see? I was fortunate to have the opportunity to sit down with Raúl and ask him about his experiences with art and painting, and this is what he said:

Cocha-banner:Would you mind telling me a bit about your personal history, how you met Alejandra, and how you started painting?

Raul: I met Alejandra Dorado four years ago thanks to a mutual friend, who was also learning from her. At that time, I was doing
nothing and my parents took me to Alejandra, and that was when I started to draw. I did not have any idea how to draw, so we started with geometrical figures like squares, triangles, and circles. These were my first steps towards my eventual immersion into painting. Alejandra always encouraged me, and soon I learned how to motivate myself. Soon after I began working with her, I started to work with acrylics, pastes, wood, and cardboard. Later, I moved to oils and larger canvases. And that’s how I started painting.

CB: When you are painting, what subjects do you try to address in your work, and what do you wish to express to your audience? What do you feel?

R: There are many different topics that I attempt to address. One of my favourite topics is sport, but there are many other topics that I work with. For example, there is one of the world behind us (he points to a painting on the wall) with grass, a raining sky, a monkey, a man, a cat, and an insect. It is a reflection on society and the difference between the country and the city. What we are losing, little by little, is our landscape, the grass, the blue sky, and the clear air.

What I want to express in my work is the power that resides in the discipline because there are not many people who actually have an interest in art and painting. I want to show that art is a meaningful endeavour. In the minds of many, I believe that painting has, maybe, what can be described as a cold meaning: people think that life is merely living, that you have to enjoy it, and that is it. But I think that painting does something more, it makes life warm and vibrant; so, I want to change perceptions. As a Cochabambino, I always want to represent my city and my country. With my painting, I wanted to reach other people. I think not only music can touch people’s senses, but as well you can do it with painting.

CB: Which is your preferred style or form of painting?

R: I like oil and watercolours, but I like oil more because the colours are more vibrant and the texture is thicker. And acrylics, which are a sort of paste, again because of the texture they give my work.

CB: Painting in a medium that allows an artist to convey both ideas and emotions to the viewer, is painting a way for you to communicate your experience with the rest of the world? What attracted you to the discipline?

R: It is most certainly a medium of communication with society, and there is no reason to say it’s not a means for me to communicate with the world. For me, painting is a sentimental form of expression, of sadness, of happiness, of fear. I was attracted to it simply because it is fun, but it is interesting as well. Painting is a sensation that traps people, it is delicious, and it is rich. When I paint, I think about reality. Some parts of it are my imagination, but it is really a fusion of both. What I love most about my art is that I can work with different colours. That is what I like about painting, working with contrast and temperature.

CB: Do you believe that art and creativity are intrinsic to artists? What sets an artist apart from others?

R: Art without creativity does not exist: they are the two fundamental components of an artist. Each artist has a different aesthetic, and a different touch. Every one of us has something different in terms of talents. An artist is always focused on his art.

CB: When you hear about the work of other artists, without being able to see it, how do you try to understand what it is the other artist is trying to express?

R: This could be based in the words that the artist uses to express his or her work. Some works are based more in the images, photography or things like that, which try to make things more realistic; however, I think that you have to translate what you think, what you imagine, and your experience into the painting.

CB: As an artist, what would you say your role is as an artist in Bolivian society? More generally, what role does art play in any society?

R: For me, painting is something of a sensation; if you love it, you have to keep trying, persevering, and enjoying it. Painting is one of the practices that will always cheer me up—it is an incredible sensation—and this motivates me to paint more. Paint can change you completely. In any society, music, photography, and video are more popular than painting. At the moment, I paint, do photography, shoot video, and play music. If you use these methods, combining their effects, you can reach people with any message that you may have. Because if you only use one form of art, you don’t have much of an opportunity to make a change inside the society and I think that if I learn more, different types of discipline I can go farther in my expression.

CB: If there is one idea, dilemma, problem, or theme in your art that you could unequivocally express to those who viewed it, most clearly without the mediating limits of the canvas, what would that be?

R: I agree that one can make one’s art transcend the boundaries of the canvas, but an artist, more than once, needs to express very simply what his work means. It depends on other people’s opinions and perceptions about how one can realize how an artist works. In my painting, I try to express ideas simply to people, but this is not always possible because they are often unable to understand my intentions.

CB: Finally, what are your plans for the future? Where do you intend to take your art?

R: I would like the opportunity to become one of the biggest painters in Cochabamba. I love art and painting, and photography and video as well, and of course music—these are the four areas that I work with and I love it—as long as I have a chance to continue doing it in the future, I most certainly will.

During the interview, Raúl’s frankness was evident, displaying himself unguardedly as an artist coming of age as he learns to use his craft to express the deep sensations that reside within him. Once again, his humility shone through as he expressed his gratitude to Alejandra, her assistant Mariana Dotsawer, and his parents: “They always support me through the good and the bad. These four people will always be there for me.”

With her close work with Raúl over the years, Alejandra was able to provide an interesting interpretation of Raúl’s experience with art. She noticed Raúl’s unique ability to see deeply without his eyes very early on: “To me, his perception of the objects was incredible, we used to call this analytic drawing. I teach this at university, my students see the object and they draw it. Raúl was able to do the same, but with touch instead of sight. However, the perception of the space for him was completely different, and not just because he is unable to see. This was immensely interesting to me because he can see more than just the surface and the contours of the object, he can really feel something more in it, something closer to its core.”

Although Caja Verde has now lost its sponsorship, which has caused Alejandra to reduce her community work, Raúl is still working hard at his art. Spending one day a week at Alejandra’s studio, he is moving forward in his learning of his various adopted modes of expression.

To Alejandra, Raúl provides an endless amount of inspiration. She says, “after you work with Raúl for a long time, you almost completely forget that he is blind because of his near total independence. When I organize an exposition, I never want to use the cliché of a blind painter. I prefer to use his name and create an artist. He thinks deeply about everything and this is something necessary to become an artist. He always said ‘I can do everything’, and now, I assure you, I believe him: he’s able to do everything.”

You Cannot Cherish What you Do Not Know

Less then five hundred years ago Cochabamba was founded by the Spaniards. In the fertile valley they established an agriculture production centre for the nearby mining towns. With the silver mining in Potosí at his height, it can be said that the mining provided the resources that made Spain a world power at that time and the city of Cochabamba flourish during his first centuries of existence. The wealth of the Spaniards is still reflected in the

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