BY David Lamelas in Interviews | 26 FEB 16

Questionnaire: David Lamelas

Q. If you could live with only one piece of art what would it be? A. Las Meninas (1656), my first art-love. 

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BY David Lamelas in Interviews | 26 FEB 16

The view from the artist's studio in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Courtesy the artist; photograph: Nestor Fabian Gonzalez

What images keep you company in the space where you work?

I keep changing them. At the moment in Los Angeles I have a large drawing I made of a tree that I can see through my kitchen window. I keep working on it according to the seasons. 

In Buenos Aires I have an artist-proof lithograph by Picasso and lithographs by Hans Hartung and Pierre Soulages; and in my place in Paris a photograph by Ugo Mulas of my work Office of Information about the Vietnam War at Three Levels (1968) that he took in 1968.

What was the first piece of art that really mattered to you?

The first work to make a grand impression was Velázquez’s Las Meninas (1656). I saw it when I was eight years old at Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, during my first visit to Europe from Argentina with my mother. It was amazing to see the complexities of structure, of painting and of the social classes: the child princess, her aides, the jester, the dog, and on the left Velázquez himself creating the painting – an observer, but also part of the court.

Of course I did not think in those terms as an eight year old, but I felt them.

What is your favourite title of an artwork?

If I had to choose from my own titles, it would be Analysis of the elements by which the massive consumption of information takes place (1968). From other artists: White on White by Kazimir Malevich (1918).

What do you wish you knew?

I wish I knew how to open the doors of human understanding.

What should change?

The thinking that provokes war.

What should stay the same?

That the rivers flow and the trees grow.

What could you imagine doing if you didn’t do what you do?

Composing music, being an architect, or perhaps being the president of some country.

What music are you listening to?

I listen to all genres of music, from classical to contemporary. For the last few years the electronic music of Popol Vuh and Florian Fricke has been an inspiration.

What are you reading?

‘Tagore on the Banks of the River Plate’ (1916) by Victoria Ocampo, in which she recounts her memories of the Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore visiting her house in San Isidro, on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, when he was already very ill.

In a letter Tagore sent to Ocampo in 1925, he writes: ‘When we were together we mostly played with words and tried to laugh away our best opportunities to see each other clearly. […] Whenever there is the least sign of the nest becoming a jealous rival of the sky, my mind, like a migrant bird, tries to take its flight to a distant shore.’

What do you like the look of?

The sea and the sky.

The trees and the sky.

The sun and the sky.

David Lamelas (b.1946, Buenos Aires, Argentina) lives and works between Los Angeles, USA, Paris, France, and Buenos Aires. He represented Argentina at the 9th São Paulo Biennial, 1967, where he received the Sao Paulo Biennial Award, and at the 34th Venice Biennial, 1968. Recently, he has had solo exhibitions at MoMA, New York, Kunstnernes Hus, Oslo, and the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, and later this year he will be the subject of a film screening at the Institute of Contemporary Art, London, UK. His solo exhibition at Sprüth Magers, Berlin, runs until 2 April.

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