From colonnaded colonial palaces on tree lined avenues to glinting vistas of tin-roofed shanty towns; the streets of Mexico’s sprawling capital bustle with life. Purring motors and staccato footfalls form the steady rhythm to which quotidian life’s endless melodies are played out; dramas, comedies and tragedies all share the same chaotic urban stage.
Tucked away from the hustle of everyday life, backing onto a tranquil walled garden, Ana Gomez’ ceramics studio is a place where raw inspiration from the urban environment gains form. Sunlight filters into the cavernous space from skylights above; alighting upon racks of drying pottery, long tables and vaulted ceilings. This has been the birthplace of many keystone pieces in contemporary Mexican art.
Maison Numen enjoyed an afternoon with Ana in the garden, taking the opportunity to get to know this luminary of modern Latin American art.
What inspires your work?
I am inspired by the quotidian. It is in the day-to-day, humdrum goings-on of daily life that one can find the richest seams of contemporary culture.
For an idea to captivate me, it must have relevance on a personal, social and national level: I like to touch upon pertinent issues, without necessarily being critical. It is this commentary that gives contemporary art its poignancy.
Always, I do this through objects – they are the most relatable, quotidian medium. Through them one can explore the interplays between modernity and tradition; old and new; fragility and strength, and other equally relevant disjunctures in contemporary life.
You mention objects – this seems to be a running theme in your work. Why?
Objects are a kind of contemporary archeology: from the everyday to the refined, they tell stories of our lives; our thoughts and our societies. Ceramics in particular hold a rich history of the social human – the story of how a nomadic species established itself in sedentary societies through the production of technologies. Vessels are especially captivating in this respect, as they keep not only the physical within them, but also the ephemeral memories of life, long after it has passed.
Is there any particular object with which you identify?
My fascination has made me consider all objects in my life from a more reflective perspective: what stories they have, and what stories I invest in them.
Of all these objects, quotidian or otherwise, I identify most with the stick – a sculpting tool, very simple in design and highly effective. Like an extension of the hand, it allows you to achieve details fingers cannot render.
I think artists play a similar part in society – highlighting the finer details of life.
What is the role of contemporary artists today?
Observing and inspiring change. I started out as a graphic designer, went into ceramics and have explored many other forms of praxis over the years. People like to categorize artists: I am labeled a ceramicist, or an artist who does ceramics. These specific terms don’t manage to encapsulate the multidisciplinary breadth of contemporary art, or the nature of creative expression.
The frontiers between previously segregated arts have opened, and the praxis of contemporary artists has broadened massively. I work alongside artists who use a variety of mediums, with whom I’ve been able to communicate and relate through practice.
You are a big fan of multidisciplinary praxis – how does this play out in your own work?
For me, my universe revolves around ceramic art: it is what I do; what I think; what I live. Since I was eight it has been a dream of mine, and I continue to create and fight for this passion every day.
I work in a studio with a number of artists of various kinds, with similar passions for other practices. We share work, dream of art, and try to make these dreams reality.
For my latest project I have been collaborating closely with skilled artisans, creating pieces that are both contemporary and traditional. This interplay allows for an ironic discourse through which contemporary issues can be explored.
Through a subversion of both fast food packaging and traditional Mexican Talavera designs, my current work explores the relationships between value and waste; tradition and modernity.
What was the first piece you were proud of?
It was the first years of school. The teacher tasked us with making a house with plasticine and, whilst the other children all went about it the same way, I decided to take a different approach. I crafted little stones and laid them, as one would with a real house. The teacher loved it.
From that moment on, I have always striven to produce pieces my own way, not conforming to the scruples and dictates of social norms.
That’s an interesting amulet you have there – what’s the story behind it?
When using a kiln, you create special cones to track the time and temperature of the firing process. They are like litmus tests for firing – the only way through which the artist has any influence on what is otherwise a wholly natural process.
I call this the ‘Talisman of Fire’. Amulets are invested with belief and meaning by the creator and wearer; I like to think that it is good not only for aiding me with the kiln, but also helping weather the flames of life.
Finally, what do you believe in?
I believe in humans. I believe in their capacity to reinvent themselves; to dream and to build upon those dreams. I don’t subscribe to the notion that we’re lost – rather, we are chaotic. We are many negative things, but we are also magical. We are capable of making a wonderful world – in this I have faith.
When engaging in my praxis, I think of this; I think of tomorrow.