A raíz de mi cortometraje A ras, a principios de este año Stigmart10 me realizó una entrevista en torno a mi trabajo que ha salido publicada en la edición bienal de su revista Videofocus. Podéis leer la entrevista que me realizaron a continuación. Y en este enlace podéis ver la revista entera.
Thanks to my film A ras, early this year I was interviewed by Stigmart10 about my work. The interview was published in the Biennial Edition of their online magazine Videofocus. You can read the article below. Follow this link to see the full magazine.
- Gonzaga Gómez-Cortázar Romero's work focuses on the passage, duration and experience of time. In his experimental film A ras (Almost touching) he creates deeply contemplative moods that seem to transform figure and place into a transcendent time-space continuum. Gonzaga fills his delicate, contemplative films with metonymies to achieve a dense emotional complex. Gonzaga, how did you get started in filmmaking?
I’ve always considered film a window from which we can observe the world and understand others’ interpretations and versions of reality. The idea of manufacturing a reality in order to try and approach the actual reality has always fascinated me and that’s what brought me to filmmaking. During my undergraduate degree in Audiovisual Communication at the University of the Basque Country I had the opportunity to thoroughly explore the creation process of filmmaking. I also spent a year studying Cinema in Paris at the Sorbonne Nouvelle and their theoretical approach to filmmaking was very useful in relation to my understanding of the possibilities of cinematographic language and its evolution throughout history.
In the past few years I have collaborated in several short fiction and documentary films and I’ve made various commercial videos. However, until recently, my art practice has been focused mainly in still photography, where I have found and developed my own visual language. In 2014 I started broadening this language in the field of video, which allowed me to explore the relationship between light, time, space and sound. A ras is the first finished piece of this new phase of my practice.
- The use of extreme close-ups is important to you in your exploration of the sensuality of your materials, reminding us of Kieślowski's cinema. Could you comment this peculiar aspect of your cinematography?
A ras is a sensorial film. When I shot it I wanted to depict the way I perceived one particular moment, during a summer afternoon. The close-ups I created highlight all the elements in which my senses focused during that time: the faces of four people I know well, the cards, the grass, the water… My close-ups are also a tool to express intimacy: they place the viewer close enough to be almost touching the subject. All the shots in A ras are an extension of my own sight, showing the close relationship I have with the four protagonists.
Through the close-ups I also focus on actions. In A ras there are four people playing a card game and this is shown through a series of shots where we see just cards or hands with cards; these are images that practically any viewer has already in his or her mind, it’s an action that is familiar to many people, therefore, by showing this action with a close-up, I aim to make the viewer connect with the action and take him to his own memories.
Equally, by showing only details, the close-ups make us wonder what’s beyond the shot. They can create a question in the viewer’s mind, an enigma. A ras doesn’t show clearly the space where the four characters are, which makes you feel uncertain about where they are and who or what surrounds them. The close-up hides all these things.
- We find impressive your use of temps mort: that gives the viewer a strong sense of emptiness, rather than the manipulative approach of most Hollywood productions. Most of your shots have no doubt an ephemeral quality: you create entire scenarios out of small, psychologically charged moments. Could you introduce our readers to your peculiar vision of time and memory in cinema?
Time is intrinsically linked to the significance of a shot. The sense of emptiness in A ras is not only given by the temps mort of the shots but also by the sound. In my film the sound never corresponds to the images. There are four people, but we never hear them. When we see the water, we can’t hear it. And the people we hear at the beginning in the background vanish. The sound, the quietness, tells us that the space is progressively empty and that, probably, the four protagonists aren’t there anymore. Everything is a memory, and the film is entirely a flash-back in itself. And, like with any memory, in A ras the feeling given by the images is what remains rather than the actual succession of events.
- We want to take a closer look at the genesis of your film: how did you come up with the idea for A ras?
During 2014 I started taking footage where I looked for the same kind of light and atmosphere that are present in my still photography. Soon I found that the combination of light, movement and sound could provide really interesting results, give depth to my work and open new avenues for my practice. This realisation provoked me to film A ras. Before shooting it, I was lucky enough to experience and contemplate the location on various occasions. The connection to the location, to the place, is central to my work and it’s reflected on my film.
- Your art is rich of references. We have previously mentioned the Polish master Kieslowski: who among international artists and directors influenced your work?
A great deal of my inspiration comes from paintings. My photography has often been compared to Johannes Vermeer’s work: because of the way I use light and the way I compose images of daily life. But I’ve also been greatly inspired by the way artists like Edward Hopper or Francisco de Zurbarán use light. In the terrain of film, the Spanish director Víctor Erice, with his few but reflective and painterly films, had a big impact on my work, both aesthetically and conceptually. In the Spirit of the Beehive and The South he films children and small details of the daily lives of the main characters in a very delicate and naturalistic manner. In his films emotions are embodied in banal activities. Especially in The South, Erice creates images as if they were chiaroscuro paintings, achieving an enigmatic but realistic atmosphere by shooting mostly in natural light. All this results in a poetic and reflective film enhanced by the length of the shots. This clearly possesses a parallel with my own work. Two of Erice’s main subjects are the passage of time and isolation, two elements that I explore in my own practice.
Also, the collaborations between Mexican cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki and the director Terrence Malick have influenced my work, but mainly their film The Tree of Life. This film is shot in available light, the camera is often positioned almost touching the ground or the actors and the subjects the film focuses on: memory, childhood and the passage of time.
Another filmmaker I must mention is Carl Theodor Dreyer. In relation to my close-up shots, it was upon seeing his silent film The Passion of Joan of Arc that I learned how powerful a close-up of a face can be. The Danish director shot most of the film exclusively in close detail, emphasising the actors' facial features and expressions. The magnetism, the hypnotic qualities of Dreyer’s shots in this film and the subsequent response they induce in the viewer are something I aim to instil in my own work.
On a different level, and from a conceptual perspective, I’m also interested in artist James Turrell’s work, which is concerned with light and space, creating artworks that engage viewers with the limits of human perception.
- Besides your work as a cinematographer and film editor, you are currently Director of Communications at ‘Joya: arte + ecología’: could you introduce our readers to this project?
Since 2010 I’ve been part of Joya: arte + ecología: an arts organisation located in the Sierra María-Los Vélez Natural Park, in Vélez Blanco (Almería, Andalucía) in Spain. Joya was founded by British artists and ecologists Simon and Donna Beckmann. The organisation is based in Cortijada Los Gázquez, where the organisation develops most of its activities. Our principal aim is to facilitate, through production and collaboration, contemporary art and artists whose work manifests a discourse with the environment and sustainability.
One of our main activities is our residency programme, which brings contemporary artists from all over the world to work in this unique, isolated and yet to be explored spot of southern Spain. We also receive groups of Fine Art students from the UK and Spain who come with their tutors to develop their own work in this environment.
We develop a wide range of projects with an environmental agenda, including our trans-disciplinary project Sistemas Efímeros, which seeks to restore an ancient water catchment system and involves both artists and scientists. We celebrate the culture and history of rural Spain and we create and encourage cultural activity within the Los Vélez area, engaging the local rural community through international events like our yearly Encuentro Internacional de Arte y Ecología (International Congress of Art and Ecology). We collaborate with institutions like the University of Granada and the Mediterranean Network of Forestry Research and Innovation (MENFRI) to name a few.
Joya: arte + ecología is a unique organisation developing cultural projects which do make a difference and engage people. All this is thanks to a talented and hardworking team lead by Simon and Donna that includes artist David Cass, Alicia García-Andrés (research collaborator at the Museo Nacional del Prado), expert on local history Andrés Fajardo and artist and explorer Andrew Welch. Being part of this inspiring group of contemporary thinkers has enriched my own work enormously and allowed me to collaborate with great artists and scientists from throughout the world.
- Can you describe your experience in India from a filmmaker's point of view?
I travelled last December around Southern India photographing and filming in different locations. India is a complex, rich, fascinating country. A universe unto itself. People are very important both in my photographic and filmed practice, and most of the Indians I met were delighted to contribute to my work. I’m interested in peoples’ daily lives and rituals, and India’s authenticity provides this generously. Therefore, it’s a place where I found constant inspiration. I have filmed and photographed people working, people on the streets, people passing by, trying to capture at least part of the essence of this vast country. The landscape and the colours are unique and I was surprised to find a very distinctive light, one that I chased throughout the country, determined to capture in my images – a light that I had never before encountered – which was likely a product of humidity, but offered a surreal, pale effervescent radiance, and introduced new tones to my photographic palette.
- Thanks for sharing your time, Gonzaga, we wish you all the best with your filmmaker career. What's next for you?
I am currently working on all the material I photographed and filmed in India. Some of it will be part of ongoing projects and some will result in a series of short films and photographs.
Soon I’m getting involved in a documentary film project started by my colleagues David Cass and Andrés Fajardo that explores the lives, memories and traditions of people in the Comarca de los Vélez, Almería, Spain. Next year I’m planning two exhibitions with Joya: arte + ecología colleagues, apart from organising the Encuentro Internacional de Arte y Ecología #2, and participating in conferences at the Reina Sofía Museum and Matadero Madrid.
My film A ras started a new phase in my artistic practice and during 2015 it will evolve and gain complexity and depth. This will result in more experimental pieces but also in installations where my films will acquire a new dimension.