by Beatriz Fernández Viéitez
Ricardo Gago was born in august 1949 in Montamarta, a village in the province Zamora. When he is two years old he moves with his parents to La Felguera (Langreo), in Asturias, where he lives until he is seventeen. In the mid-sixties he moves to Majorca. Before settling down in Sineu, he lives in Paguera, Palma and Alaró.
The work of Ricardo Gago is displayed in Sineu in a mansion known by the name Can Gili, an architectural gem from the 13th century. The mansion, which also houses Ricardo’s workshop, is situated on one of the loveliest streets of the village, the Calle Major, at number 13. Can Gili is the finding-place of some important archaeological remains and in one of its rooms there are abundant gothic wall-paintings. The mansion used to be a small palace and is named after the owners who lived in it around the 15th century. The mayor Joan Gili and later on the notary Joan Gili, one of the five leaders who joined Janot Colòm to take part in the rebellion against Carlos the fifth in what is known as the “Les Germanies” movement.
The site is unique not only because of its architectural qualities but also because of its historical and archaeological importance. There’s a special relation between the house and Ricardo’s work. Although both of them have their own value, in this case together they create the signet of one of our best artists.
Ricardo Gago’s work
Ricardo would rather not be pigeonholed into a specific style. He talks with devotion about his maestro Joaquín Torrens. His work is powerful and colourful, his paintings contain a certain mystery, they’re magical. Women play a central role; they are his source of inspiration. The Mediterranean Sea is always present. Sineu, the village which became his home, is portrayed in a big part of his work. Ricardo has immortalised the town’s loveliest spots on canvas and its most beautiful women in bronze and clay.
He receives us in his kind and candid way. He shows us his work and talks openheartedly about his life. He makes his visitors feel at home.
How would you define your style?
Indefinite. I try to cover as many styles as I can, like a singer who uses his voice in different ways, I don’t want to restrict myself to one particular style. Does this make one more complete? I don’t know, but it makes me feel more complete.
How and when did your vocation for art come about?
I remember I was a little boy. I was about six years old when I asked for a box of watercolours. When it was given to me I painted my first picture, I remember it was a painting of a pavilion and a lake with some ducks in it. I remember very well that even then painting was already a necessity.
And how did you discover you wanted to dedicate yourself to art professionally?
I always had this desire but it was almost impossible to establish oneself in the world of art, so I thought I should start at the beginning, I should learn how to draw and paint. At first I painted on my own, I took my easel and I went to paint landscapes. Later on I studied intensely and seriously at an art school, the Escuela Libre del Mediterráneo. In the meantime I had a very conventional job but at a certain moment I became engaged in handicraft. I moved to Alaró, to the countryside, and started to make handmade products of clay which I sold in shops, combining this with my training at art school.
What do you look for and what do you find in art?
It’s a need. In fact, I think all people have this necessity but perhaps some of us are more daring and we take the step, while others don’t. I try to shape this necessity. When I finish a piece I feel empty, as if I haven’t really done anything, and I feel I have to start all over again.
What do you feel when you look at your own work?
Maybe after some time has passed it brings memories, but I prefer watching the reaction of the person who is looking at my work, how it affects him or her. I like observing those who are looking. A work of art affects people in different ways, there reaction can be very different. I enjoy this.
Do you think we are prepared for art?
That has to do with education. In our educational system creativity isn’t stimulated, only the practical part of live is being taught. The artistic inclination of many people has been frustrated although others came out stronger as a result of having to stand up against an environment full of obstacles in order to express this hidden part of them and they became great artists.
The fact that you were able to act in a consistent way, doing what made you happy, did this help you in your personal growth?
I believe the intention of becoming “a great artist” is natural in some part of our youth, it’s a dream. It’s not something we do deliberately. Every person sees life in his or her way. It comes the way it comes, and we deal with it the moment it comes. Living our lives from day to day and from that point, trying to be happy. This and being passionate about what you do are basic.
Tell us about the process of inspiration. How does it work in your case?
In my case it can occur in many ways. The white canvas is a challenge; there is absolutely nothing on it. If you have an idea you make charcoal sketches, and then you start drawing on the canvas, shaping the canvas and bit by bit the drawings fade away transforming the canvas. Actually, it may happen that in the end there is nothing left of the drawing I started with. You shouldn’t be afraid of the white canvas or the lump of clay, they will tell you what to do. The piece is already inside the material, the clay, the canvas, and they will guide you. It’s absorbing work which requires a lot of concentration.
Which sizes are you most comfortable with?
The big ones are the most complicated and at the same time the most spectacular ones. Although the artistic value of my latest work, the life-size sculpture of king Jaume II, has gone unnoticed due to interests that don’t have anything to do with me or my work.
Which themes inspire you most?
It depends on the moment. Lately my main theme has been the human figure, and particularly women, although it’s also the most difficult one.
And which painters inspire you most?
It is difficult to mention any names, this question is difficult to answer, there are so may … We live because of them, we are pieces of a puzzle which has taken shape thanks to the great painters, from the Primitives until today.
In which circumstances do you have the best ideas?
There isn’t a specific vital moment, sometimes – probably after I have been dreaming – I get up with an idea and I need to get at the studio to start working. It’s an urge, something you have to spit out. And then you get it done, or not.
Does the context of crisis and social anxiety we are living inspire or demotivate?
Times of crisis inspire or destroy; in a certain way they are good for art, they are creative moments. Many great works of art were created and big changes were achieved in times of major crisis. They are a reflection of what is going on.
Can art be a therapy?
Is an artist born or made?
Both born and made.
What arose first, your creation of sculptures or paintings?
I started with painting but I first became an artist with sculpting.
What is or are your favourite technique(s)?
I don’t prefer one specific technique; it makes no difference to me whether I work with brushes, pencils or clay.
How do you start a piece?
I start blindly, I’m an intuitive person, I let the piece guide me, I don’t direct it. Being an intuitive person I let myself be carried away.
Which material do you use most when sculpting?
I always work with clay; I shape it, I work on it, I hollow it out, and I bake it. Then it is sent to the foundry to be made in bronze if that is what I want.
And how do you decide which material you are going to use?
It depends on the moment. It is not always possible to switch from one material to another. It is difficult to work with two types of material at the same time. You need a waiting period to switch from one material to the other.
Which one of your pieces are you most proud of?
In general I’m proud of the pieces which cause a change in the way I express myself.
What do you feel when you sell a piece and have to let it go?
I like it when it stays nearby and when it goes far away I like it when it is paid first, of course (laughter)
Tell us. How did you discover Can Gili?
Many years ago I was fascinated by this house which used to be a carpentry. I felt strongly attracted to it. Some time passed and then the owner of the house offered it to me. We decided to buy it and the entire family made an effort because it was in a very bad condition. The things we found in the house are very important, not only from an archaeological point of view but also historically because of the people who lived in the house and because of the language of the paintings they left on the gothic walls.
How does Can Gili relate to your work?
The “spirits” of the house guide me, tell me what I have to do. The things I found in the house, like the medieval paintings and drawings, influence my work, as well as this “something” almost magic in the house which creates an atmosphere in which I feel very comfortable when I work.
Once again, thanks to my intuition. I first came to Sineu in 1966, by coincidence. I spent Easter here in the house of some friends, I came back, asked around for a house to live in, and here I am.
What does Sineu mean to you as an artist?
Home is where the heart is. Sineu has been and still is very important in my life.
How do you start your day in the village?
I start at 7 in the morning having coffee with people from the village, and before I start working I walk my dog for about an hour. In Sineu we have lovely surroundings to go for a walk. I used to go to a bar and make notes and sketches of the people I saw.
And last but not least. What can the village offer our visitors?
Sineu, being a rural village, is without a doubt the best preserved village. It’s a pleasure to stroll through its streets. It is well-connected by road and rail, is of great historical interest, offers a huge gastronomic variety and it is a village where you can get to know the real Majorca and its people, beyond beaches and sun.
Beatriz Fernández Viéitez
born in 1971, Galician, psychologist, has lived in Sineu for 4 years.