by Kevin Vaughn
The idea of interviewing Paula Pogranizky made me feel a little bit nervous. Doing any interview, especially with someone whose work you respect, is always daunting. I’ve never met a single writer who doesn’t have the same masochistic complex. But in the case of Paula, the task made me feel more anxious than normal. I like art, I go to lots of exhibits, I draw and paint and photograph when I feel inspired, but I have zero confidence in my ability to examine (and later verbalize) art in the way that someone who has studied or dedicated themselves to it does.
Maybe it’s because her work challenges me in ways that very few young artists in Buenos Aires do. Walk into a collective exhibit with the work of Paula and you are immediately drawn to her sculptures. Using fabrics and found objects (an old boyfriends towel, childhood stuffed animals, friends used clothing), she paints them in brilliant colors to communicate with their shapes, which are as soft and feminine as they are untamed and manic. Unlike a painting or a photograph where I can immediately recognize and apply experiences from my life, the work of Paula asks that we begin our search from within, attaching a conceptual meaning (one that changes from viewer to viewer) rather than a literal one. The mystery that her work presented me with made me both excited and anxious to sit down and speak with her.
“She’s going to think I’m a poser,” I kept thinking to myself.
I relaxed as soon as I was greeted by Paula, a fair-skinned petite blonde girl who welcomed me with a big smile on her face. We sat out on the balcony of her Once apartment, on loan from her aunt, a home that functions as her living space, classroom, studio and hotel for anyone of the Pogranizky clan that’s passing through the city. There we shared mate and cookies under the warm mid-afternoon sun, where I tried to unravel the mystery of her work.
Where were you born? Do you come from an artistic family?
I was born in Buenos Aires, although I spent a lot of time in a town south of Mendoza where most of my family is. Even though I have a really large family, I´m the only artist. They have always respected my work even if they didn´t understand it. I´ve had repeated moments where they look at my work, then at me and all they do is smile…without a single word.
When was the moment that you decided to dedicate your career to art? Who were the artists that influenced you?
When I finished high school I took a year sabbatical to think about what I wanted to do, but for many years I had taken various sculpturing classes with Omar Estela, he was a really important person in that decision, same with Lao Fogelman. They were the first two people that believed in me and what I did. I also took some classes at the CBC, my other options were Philosophy or Law, but it didn’t take long for me to realize that that wasn´t what I was really looking for. As time passes the artists that I use as references change, but I remember the fascination I felt when I found the work of Basquiat. I could name Anish Kapoor, Jessica Stockholder and Ilya Kabakov.
What is the process of creating one of your mixed medias? What comes first, the form or the paint?
First comes the form from fabrics and other materials, which are overlapped or united either with glue or sewn together. I always have to wait for things to dry before the color can appear, which gives me a lot of anxiety. That´s why I work with more than one piece at a time so that I can go immediately from forming one piece to painting another. I have a lot of works that incorporate materials that already have color and texture of their own, instead of taking a brush and acrylic paint I can use a cut of plastic and use it for the same function.
How do you form your materials? Do you begin with an image thought out or is it all intuition?
I don´t work with sketches, I have a picture in my mind and most of the time that picture changes as I mold the work. I select all of my materials very carefully and I prefer fabric from used clothes, where it´s more warn out in certain places, and that have buttons, zippers, etc. The clothes aren´t always mine, most of the time it comes from friends or thrift shops. I could spend days looking for fabric and running around stores in Once looking for vinyl fabrics and plastics.
You’ve mentioned that now you want to know from who the clothes come from, when you use old clothes that a friend has given to you does that influence the work at all ?
I am becoming more and more selective about the materials that I use. I want to know who it came from and the value that that person attached to that item of clothing or object since I’m using it as the primary material. There is a conceptual charge that stimulates me a lot when I sit down to work. I don’t doubt that all of the information that the materials bring transmit themselves in the final piece. Right now I’m collecting stuffed animals and uniforms or work outfits which are become key materials for what I’m working on right now.
You use a lot of bright colors, what do they reflect of you?
I think that the pieces are always self-referential even though they don´t reflect immediate realities, but rather personal searches or obsessions. I feel very identified with my work, but that is a product of a very long and intense search, a lot of prior analysis and experimentation.
I read in one of your artists statements that through the juxtaposition of color and fabric you are exploring sensuality, freedom and eroticism, can you open that up a bit, what are you searching for?
I´ve always preferred the subtle over the explicit, I like the idea of raising ideas, to invite someone to contemplate and discover what lies in between the layers of fabric. As if the sensuality of a movement remains frozen in time.
Tell me more about the new things you are working on, why have you decided to start presenting unpainted works ?
I’m interested in challenges and I think that color is a space that always makes me feel really comfortable and safe. Creating something without color forced me to step into unknown territory, which scared me but at the same time kind of seduced me.
To close, how would you describe a perfect day?
A perfect day begins with music, the smell of toast and a breakfast with no rush knowing that the sea is nearby. Continue working in my studio before going out to the theater or the movies or to see an art show, ending the day walking home with an ice cream cone in hand.