Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Elohim Sanchez Q&A

Tell us a little about yourself.
I grew up in Mexico and I moved to New York, and then Montreal, about 10 years ago. I studied first to be an engineer and it actually took me a while to realize that my creative drive wasn’t only a fleeting thing. I started to take it seriously about 5 years ago when I enrolled into film school and started painting.

Other than art, what are some of your interests?
Traveling, getting outside my comfort bubble. I’m trying to rebuild a vacation house I own in Mexico. I wish I knew more about construction so I could work on it myself.

In what city do you currently live? What are a few must see spots you would recommend to a tourist?
I live in Montreal. If you come here, forget about the tourist sites. Go to all parties, walk on the icy sidewalks and climb the Mount Royal at 3 in the morning.

Where did you study? What did you like about the degree program in which you were involved?
I studied filmmaking at the University of Montreal. Some of the most interesting courses I took had to do with the relationship between cinema and the other arts, like painting, architecture, dance, or music.

Do you have any upcoming exhibitions?
It’s been very hectic in the last few weeks but I don’t have anything coming up. Some of my paintings are displayed at Galerie Zone Orange in Old Montreal. Other than that, a friend of mine and myself are thinking of putting together a multidisciplinary show (paintings / photographs / video) along with other artists this spring or summer.

What are you currently reading?
Nothing. The last book I read was “L’étranger” by Albert Camus. I liked its strong affirmation of individuality and the character’s desperate longing for life as it is, with all its defects.

Describe your paintings.
My paintings are all about energy and color, about feeling awake and alive. They are a personal statement of how I’ve chosen to perceive the world around me. I’ve been experimenting with different subjects and methods, but I feel this is just the beginning and I think I will definitely keep trying many different things over the years to come.

Describe your films. What are they generally about?
I try to remain close to my own life and people around me, I feel I need to be honest and I don’t think it would be right to talk about things I don’t know or that I haven’t experienced myself. In the few short films I’ve directed so far the recurring themes seem to be: solitude, friendship, and love. I’m also interested in the way characters perceive the world around them and the way they interact with it.

Describe your photos.
I like my photos very much, it’s always fun to make them because I don’t look for them, they come to me. I see something in particular that strikes me as beautiful, then I point and click and I’m just happy I was there at the right time to take the picture.

How has your style changed over the years?
I’ve been painting and filming for only about five years, so I think it’s probably too early to say.

Where do you paint/ film?
I paint in my apartment. I wish I had a huge bright studio with a nice view of Montreal’s skyline and all that, but so far it’s only in my dreams. As for films, I like to shoot at interesting places in and around the city.

What type of music did you grow up listening to?
I grew up listening to Mexican pop singers and the usual Latin-American fare. When I first heard classical music I was eleven years old and I was struck in awe. I couldn’t believe such beautiful music existed and that nobody around me had ever listened to it or even knew it existed.

What are your goals, artistically?
I simply want to do with my life the best I can possibly do.

Is any of your work political?
In my opinion all art is political in itself, by the things it chooses to show or not to show. These days the simple act of making art is a political statement. I think cinema, because it portrays people in society, has the most potential to be political. It can, in very subtle ways, criticize the way society works or propose new visions of how it should work. In my case the closest I’ve been to making an overtly political film was when I shot “March 2005”, a short improvised documentary about the student strike that took place in Quebec that year. I don’t exclude the possibility of making patently political films in the future.

What has been inspiring you lately?
I’m trying to put my finger on exactly what it is that makes the film “Tropical Malady” (by Apichatpong Weerasethakul) so beautiful.

Do you have side projects you work on? Have you collaborated w/ other artists in the past?
I’m working as a Director of Photography in a new short film by a friend of mine, in return for him making the soundtrack for one of my videos last year.

How have you handled the business side of being an artist?
Art is not business. At most, there is a marketing side to it, but I don’t think it is ever that complex. I think my paintings and my films should speak by themselves, I simply try to show them at every opportunity I have that doesn’t cost too much money. The hardest part is to have my work seen by people other than family and friends, and even harder is to reach people who are actually interested in buying art. The Internet has been somewhat helpful in that respect but it’s by no means the solution to all problems. I personally wish I had more contacts and acquaintances in the professional art market.

How do you keep motivated in the studio?
I listen to music. I don’t work when I don’t feel like it, but I try to work as regularly as possible. I keep in mind people who have written to me in the past to tell me they like what I do. If none of that works, then I think about my dwindling bank account and one or two upcoming exhibitions for which the paintings aren’t ready yet!

Where do you come up w/ the titles for your film and paintings?
I should start naming my paintings “Untitled”. I’m not good at playing with words and besides I don’t think paintings should need an external reference or explanation. Titles for films usually come from the lack of a better idea. So, no, titles are not my thing.

Are there any interesting anecdotes related to your work that you would like to share?
The other day I was sitting at a coffee shop with a friend of mine. It’s a place where you can make your own pottery. I was telling my friend about trying to be a painter and how hard it was to survive as an artist. A lady sitting next to us overheard our conversation. She was having trouble drawing a cat on one of her pots and since I had just said I was an artist, she asked me to help her. I had the hardest time drawing a cat that looked like one. I finally drew a recognizable cat at the 5th attempt, and I felt so embarrassed I quit the place right afterwards. I try to justify myself by telling me it’s because I don’t draw cats very often. I never draw cats, it’s the truth.

Play list of five favorite songs:
Leo Brouwer : Un día de noviembre
Michael Nyman : Memorial
Wim Mertens: Birds For The Mind
Astor Piazzolla : Duo de Amor
Arvo Pärt : String Quartet No.5

Movies you love so much you've watched them more than twice:
8 1/2 (Federico Fellini)
Paris, Texas (Wim Wenders)
Fanny & Alexander (Ingmar Bergman)
Une partie de campagne (Jean Renoir)
Blade Runner (Ridley Scott)

Elohim Sanchez’s Website: http://www.elohimsanchez.com/