Interview with Javier Guerrero González-Piñero, author of the ‘Monument to the Emigrant’

Graduated in Fine Arts from the University of Seville, he is currently director of Secondary Education at the ‘Ruta de la Plata’ school in Almendralejo. In this interview he describes the process of creating the Emigrant statue and talks about different aspects of his professional life

As a child, were you already attracted to the world of art?

Yes a lot. Some art books at home and at school, as well as the movie “The Madman with Red Hair” sparked my interest. I also remember my first drawings at school, posters, class work and some competitions I won.

At what moment did you realize that you wanted to study Fine Arts?

At 15 or 16 years old I found out that there was a specific career called “Fine Arts”, which allowed me to develop and discover new plastic techniques and applications. At that moment it was clear to me what my path was.

Painter or sculptor? In which plot are you most comfortable and why?

In college I chose the specialty of “Design and Engraving”, but I continued studying and practicing both painting and sculpture in some subjects. Nowadays I am perhaps more comfortable with painting, since the process of making a sculpture involves greater preparation of materials, depending, of course, on its dimensions at the time of its creation.

How was the sculpture of the ‘Monument to the Emigrant’ born?

It was an idea of ​​the municipal corporation chaired by the then mayor, Antonio Guerrero. They sent me the proposal, I made several pencil sketches of the statue’s body posture, clothing and, later, a three-dimensional sketch of approximately 50 centimeters. They seem to like it.

Can you describe the process for us?

The process is arduous. Firstly, the internal skeleton of the figure is simplified with the creation of a support or framework made of iron, wire, metal fabric and a lot of newspaper to fill gaps and give corporeality to the figure. Next, the artistic part begins, adding the clay and modeling the figure. Once finished, it is divided, according to the shape or posture, into plaster moulds, in this case, four. Next, the entire sculpture modeled in clay is lost as well as the framework, leaving only the four plaster molds. Once the molds are dry, the positive of the molds is reproduced with fiber and polyester resin. This is, perhaps, the most laborious and least artistic part of the process. Once finished, the molds are broken and we are left with the four pieces separately and they are joined together, like a puzzle, giving rise to the sculpture again, like the clay one, but in resin. Finally, they are assembled and the joints are touched up. In my case, I added a patina imitating the bronze finish to expose it to the public before taking it to the foundry in Seville. The final result was what we enjoy today on its pedestal.

How long did it take you to sculpt it?

Just the production process, about six months, not counting the previous preparations, pencil sketches, three-dimensional sketches, etc.

What did you want to reflect or transmit in the statue?

A feeling of sadness and nostalgia for everything that emigrants left behind.

What are your artistic preferences?

The impressionist and post-impressionist movements are those that, perhaps, influence and attract me the most.

Do you like contemporary art?

Within what we include as contemporary art, there are few artistic demonstrations that I don’t like. There are works that show great creativity and novelty in the face of the difficulty of doing something new today, without going beyond what, from my point of view, we can consider “art.”

In the field of painting, who are your favorite painters?

I have so many that it is difficult to choose, but I would name Sorolla, Velázquez, Van Gogh, Edward Hopper, Monet, Pisarro, and I would continue with a long etcetera.

And in sculpture, which sculptors or styles do you prefer?

My favorite sculptor is Rodin, but without forgetting the genius of Michelangelo, passing through Spaniards like Juan de Ávalos and Jaume Plensa. Within the world of expressionism, I would highlight Giacometti or, currently, Lingl-Rebetez and Bruno Cognée, among others.

What materials do you like to work with?

With clay and modeling clay, I have done little work on wood carving and nothing on stone.

Have you ever exhibited your works?

Well, it must be said that I do not dedicate myself to painting and sculpture, that I do not make a living from them, but that another of my great passions crossed paths in my life, teaching, to which I dedicate myself exclusively at my beloved school ‘Ruta de la Plata’, from Almendralejo. Even so, I have had some individual exhibitions and participated in some group exhibitions with my former friends and colleagues from the faculty. In fact, I am working on a new solo exhibition that I will title “From my windows.” Let’s see if we get back to normal soon and I can present it to the public.

When creating, what are your influences or references?

Well, it depends on the theme and the work to be represented. The first thing is to investigate, search, see many works by different artists, a task that is easier today thanks to the information possibilities that the Internet allows us.

And your sources of inspiration?

Any element in my environment can serve as inspiration: my family, a landscape, a city, a season of the year, a photo, a painting, a film, a trip…

Is there any work that you are especially proud of?

I have several, because in the end you grow fond of them and they become part of yourself. Maybe the portraits I took of my children and my wife.

Finally, as a teacher, do you think that Art Education, particularly Plastic Arts, is sufficiently valued in the educational system?

What to say about this topic…! I think not, that we are light years away from other countries in terms of a good rating. But I am not only referring to increasing the number of hours, but also to putting aside, from time to time, the curriculum of the subject itself and giving more space to guided creativity, but without conditions.

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