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Javier Bassi

Retrato del artista by Javier       Bassi

interview transcript

Date of Interview: Jan 16, 2003
Location: Uruguay
Topic: Interview with Javier Bassi
Interviewer: Anamarí­a Forteza

LatinArt:  There are artists who paint their surroundings, your work is very personal in nature and has been described as being very pensive. Is that true?

Javier Bassi:  Yes, pensive, I believe I also associate the word with obsession. I live processing the images, or writings, sifting them in a way I don’t exactly know how to explain. It is hard for me to rest, in fact. At times I manage to empty myself of those things, which is very good for me, but I’m always looking through a feeling or association, or with the burden of what I have already done. I am constantly checking myself. It’s probably a characteristic of absorption in thought and of certain obsessions. In any event, beyond where one feels the echo of oneself, true artistic communication occurs when our questions, strengths or weaknesses come into dialogue with one other.

I feel that the world of my painting has the same specific weight, the same density as the real world. It will only depend with what we compare it. It is probable that one won't feel the tension of some of my works while you’re hanging at the mall, but you’re certain to meet with it in other situations. Maybe one sees it heavier in relation to ’general living'. There is a tendency to see everything from the viewpoint of entertainment, not to commit oneself. However it is seen, for me the work gives rise to a feeling of redemption. The working process is very a complex mix of emotions, but when I’m done, I'm calm, I want to look at it, enjoy it. I want to go to sleep looking at it.

LatinArt:  At times you speak of a personal commitment, of what you have to do in this world, of salvation. Can you talk to us about this?

Javier Bassi:  We should all look for a way of saving ourselves. I found in art a way of being in this world; I was always attracted to the phenomenon of creation without realizing that this could become a way of trying to understand the world. Now, I feel that there is no going back. I wouldn’t want to reach the end without having done what I should do. At times I have the sensation that one day I am going to get up and am going to say "and what is all this for"...there are times when I think about it. I think of art practices as a restoring presence, as a chance meeting, given its possibility for re-invention, of reflection, of discovering the inside spaces of things. It would appear that art could be contradictory: I look outside and everything is going in other directions, does not come within peoples’ interests. Sometimes it is a heavy load - "this is mine whatever happens" whether in my favor or not.

LatinArt:  You always mention the Russian film producer Andrei Tarkovskii, you take over some of his phrases (’modern art is a closed road’), and you even dedicated one of your works to him. Do you find connections between his work and your own?

Javier Bassi:  It is not a search insofar as when I knew the work of Tarkovskii I had already generated a large part of my work. José Luis Parodi, a friend who shared the workshop with me for some time, who is very familiar with my work from the inside, was the one who made this connection. Once he brought me a short interview. I saw the first film with him and was very surprised. Many connections existed, it makes me feel very odd to say so because it is very difficult to compare oneself with someone so brilliant, I wouldn’t want to do that, but it is true that there are many points in common, many environments, associations, that constant humidity, maybe it is something to do with the way of working. Since that meeting Tarkovskii has been a confirmation.

LatinArt:  I see it in your meticulousness and in his, in the fact of documenting your work as you do.

Javier Bassi:  Yes, in that it is very clear. Even in the inability to declassify the work itself. It is clear that he had a deep knowledge of the cinematographic act, but it annoyed him greatly when they asked him ’in such and such a scene when such a horse appears, what does that mean? Or, the spilt milk represents so and so’, that irritated him tremendously and it also irritates me. I have always refused to hand out these keys. Among other reasons, because one is not fully aware of them, images appear and one respects them, that is the fact, whatever they may signify. It is an important working have the conviction that what one perceives or feels possesses a logic, and that logic has something to do with your structure, whether this means something to others or not. It is hard to do something you feel strongly wrong.

Going back to the meticulousness, I remember having seen a filming record of "El Sacrificio". It is plagued with "meticulous" moments. I do have that type of attitude.

LatinArt:  You have been invited to several biennials and international events. How do you see your work in an international context, in light of living and working in a context as local as Montevideo?

Javier Bassi:  The opportunity of participating in international biennials always invariably involves comparison. I have felt sure of myself, the complicated part of the medium is in the poor structure of us local artists to participate and then optimize our presentation. I feel that my work is far ahead of the possibilities given me for its diffusion. When I have had to interact not only in biennials, but also in working with other artists from other places – I worked for some time in New York, Nantes and Amsterdam, I felt tremendously respected, and that evidently farther than my own vision, is the vision of other colleagues. I have even been surprised at times when talking to someone in central locations who says: "ah! I met such an artist and we were talking about you". This is something very unusual when one is in Montevideo.

LatinArt:  On what are you working at the present time, and what are your plans for 2003?

Javier Bassi:  I have been working for the last eight months on "Think in blue", it began as a series of close to 100 small format pictures, utilizing monocopies and impressions in a very strange way, and it is now becoming a digital animation. The process has been very interesting, I think that the final format will be a projection supported by video or in CD. These ’supposed’ landscapes are works with a very strong evasive load, contemplative, ambiguous, but when I begin to work on the editing, that process carries me to very obsessive, claustrophobic dynamics, much more disturbing than what only one of these images generates. The word, which has been a constant in the artists’ books appearing last year, and in many of my paintings in recent years, also reappears. The concept of the project is very clear. For the first time I am dealing with works which will be easy to transport. Generally speaking, one of my problems is that I work on very large formats or in very heavy materials. The possibility arises with this work of considering an itinerary; first it will be seen in Uruguay maybe in July or August and afterwards I cannot say the places exactly, but I would suppose New York, Vienna, some Swedish city or Guatemala.

For more information on Bassi, and other Uruguayan artists, please visit This interview courtesy of Minium Fine Arts.

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