Interview conducted by e-mail on April 27, 2022. We are very indebted and grateful to Alvaro Sánchez for his words and amazing artwork, which figure prominently in issue n.10 of The Dreaming Machine.
Pina Piccolo (P.P.) Please introduce yourself, choosing 5 words that describe your life and artistic pursuits.
Alvaro Sánchez (A.S.) My name is Alvaro Sánchez, I was born, raised and am currently living in Guatemala City. If I need to choose 5 words to describe myself they would be:
curious, persistent, ambitious, humanist, survivor, music lover.
P.P.: In some of your biographic materials you describe yourself as an artist of Guatemala City and its streets. Can you please expand on that? Could you please give us an example of the genesis of one of your works of art from an encounter on the streets?
A.S.: Living in a place like Guatemala could be beautiful, san and wild all at the same time. It is a very surreal place to live in. Here you can witness things that you probably didn’t think you would ever see in your entire life. It is a constant flow of ideas and visuals punching you hard in the brain. So, it is impossible not to be inspired by all the things happening around you. With that in my mind I become like a hunter for those images, and with time I became like a magnet for weird things. They come to me lie they want me to embrace them. So I do that by translating all that information into my artwork as soon the brush or pencil touches the white space on the paper. And from that point, the artwork just takes a life of its own and I just obey, hoping for something that speaks to me and hopefully to other people too.
P.P: The transience of life, death figure prominently in your work and they occupy a large space both in pre-Columbian art and current Center and South American art. How would you describe the evolution of these tropes in your art and in the general artistic trends among your contemporaries?
A.S.: Life, memory and of course death are the biggest subjects in my work. I guess everything that has to do with or relates to being a human is part pf my artistic interests as well. Maybe because I’m always wondering about many things, that in a way is like a path where I look for answers through my artwork. I see my work as a long, long question waiting to be answered. Among my contemporaries it is pretty much the same. I guess, it’s a normal thing among us, or maybe I get that perception because I often create an artistic conversation among artists who search for the same things that I do. It’s like an AA meeting but for art.
P.P.: One of the first things that strikes people who look at your art is your use of color. Could you give us some insights into how you relate to it as a medium of expression?
A.S.: Color came a little bit late in my life. I was very afraid of it. People usually think that it’s the easiest thing to do, but it’s not. My first body of work is very monochromatic. But then I realized that I needed something else. That something was color. Art Brut and Outsider art has a lot to do with that change of direction. I was amazed by the free associations of colors, the gestures, the violence of the strokes. I knew that I needed that. And from that point I just followed my gut feeling. But I wanted to do it like a little child, trying to avoid rules. But I find that in order to do that, you have to reset from all the previous things that you learn. I’m still trying to do it. It is the hardest thing to do, maybe it is impossible.
P.P: Human bodies (and sometimes those of animals), viewed both externally and internally are really important in your art. Can you expand on your distinctive vision and some of the challenges you may encounter in a setting like today’s where the body is everywhere from advertising to selfies, is center stage in sociology and human movements like feminism and transfeminism.
A.S.: Nowadays it’s very difficult and a challenge to talk about the body, like you say, because it has turned into something trivial, it is not what I’m looking for. I always start from the premise that the human body is a miraculous thing. Like the most perfect architecture ever made. For me to even move your little finger is a miracle. And that goes beyond what advertising and social media will ever capture. That is impossible. That is the reason why the human body is so important for me. In my work I mostly express the things I understand. For example, the sense of aging in my body is something that is amazing, it’s beautiful and its scary. I address that in my work because I understand that every ache and pain in my bones, whenever I feel them, is part of a process that ultimately will end in my own death. And addressing that, I guess, goes beyond a social or political posture or stand. For me, it’s just a part of being human, and it will be like that as long humanity exists.
P.P: Do you see a connection between your work in the visual arts and your engagement with music?
A.S.: As far as I remember, I first understood art through music. Since I didn’t have any formal art education, it was through the covers of the bands I liked, especially rock n’ roll bands. The aesthetics of the illustrations or maybe the band logo inspired me a lot back in the day. I can say for sure that without music my work probably would not exist. Somehow music dictates a very large part of the painting, how it will develop or even how it ends. To this day, I’m a person who can’t work without music. I think music can touch in so many ways that it is impossible for me not to be influenced. So that’s why I think music has a lot to do with my visual art more than even I myself could have imagined years ago. Or maybe I’m just another frustrated guy who wishes he could play a musical instrument and create cool tunes.
Alvaro Sánchez (Guatemala City, December 25, 1975)
Visual artist and writer born in Guatemala City. He has collaborated and published with art, literature and design magazines from Guatemala and other nations of the world. His work has been exhibited in countries in Europe, Asia and America. Much of his work is based on mixed media. His taste for period and organic elements are of great relevance to create his body of work. Most of his works are inspired by literature, painting, music and cinema, but his main inspiration is Guatemala City and its streets. He has published the book Mañana Muerta de Domingo 1st edition (Editorial X). He maintains a fortnightly column in print media where he writes about music called Reducto Sonico. He received the award for best international Spanish-speaking short story at the San Miguel de Allende Writers’ Festival, Mexico. Some of his texts have appeared in USAC Magazine (Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala) and in the anthology of short stories entitled Microterrores VI published by Editorial Diversidad Literaria (Spain), Territorios Olvidados: Quince cuentos del triángulo norte y uno más al sur publicada por Editorial X (Guatemala & Honduras)
My perspective and my personal way of looking at art always separate from the things that have intrigued me all my life. One of them has been the fragility of the human being, that is to say, I consider that what I seek with my work is to reflect on the human condition, to celebrate it along with our mistakes and tragedies. I think that our true nature is found in the less luminous spaces, those that we rarely visit, because they surely remind us of the imperfect and finite being that we are. When I apply that to my work, it leads me to a process where there are no rules or academics. That doesn’t mean that I don’t know where everything that has generally inspired me comes from. But for it to work for me, it has to start from my natural process, which is: Destroy everything first and then rebuild it from my artistic point of view or what I think fits into that way of seeing things. Finally, what I want is that the person who sees and stops at my work experiences something similar to that feeling that stays in your ears when you finish listening to a punk song at full volume.