Sunday, November 14, 2010

Juan Davila - INTERVIEWS

Archive Post- Interviews

Juan Davila

Interview with Jason Smith- Curator, Contemporary Art, NGV

Chilean-born Juan Davila, who relocated to Australia in 1974, is a passionate advocate of the need for art to debate issues of social and political significance. Davila’s complex, beautiful and challenging paintings are known for their thorough interrogation of cultural, sexual and social identities, within an international context.

Incorporating text, found objects, appropriated imagery, photography and other media, Davila’s paintings provide insightful critiques of themes including the Australian political system, the cultural aspects of late capitalism, the structures of the art world and sexuality. More recently, the artist has addressed the treatment of refugees in Australian detention centres in a series of nightmarish ‘Woomera’ landscapes referencing the suffering of detainees. 

30 Nov 2006 - 04 Feb 2007  

NGV International 180 St Kilda Road
Temporary Exhibition Space 1
Level G

A snapshot of Juan Davila’s career?

Davila's career as a painter in Australia extends from his arrival here in 1974 to the present.  His career is distinguished by an extraordinary technical ability to draw and montage a seemingly limitless range of visual styles and signs, and his uncompromising approach to making and presenting tough, politically charged and socially and culturally provocative images.

He seems like a humble man?

He is a humble person and, I think, appreciative of the fact that he has been able to make work that is understood to be important in its content and critiques.  However, his humility as a person has never been at the expense of strident and vocal criticisms of social, political and artistic complacency.
Davila has mentioned that he prefers not to represent the actual brutality of Chile during Pinochet's dictatorship- why is this?

You would have to ask him.  Perhaps he is not wanting to illustrate brutality. Yet in some of his most recent Woomera works, for instance, there is a distinct imaging of the brutality of people's situations.  It may have something too to do with Juan grappling with the immediacy of his Australian context. 

Juan Davila is one of our most innovative and unique contemporary artists- why is this?

Because his work is fearless and has rarely taken prisoners! Juan's work seeks to be as engaged and dialogic was possible with the cultural and political structures that determine and/or condition our daily lives and our futures as a society of interacting communities.

Davila believes art is an important part of social change- how would describe his conceptual approach? 

His conceptual strategy is to take those images and ideas regarded as taboo or beyond criticism (and nothing should be beyond criticism) and project them into the mainstream as issues to be discussed and dealt with.  If this acts to transform perceptions, to sharpen focus or awaken and widen consciousness, then the art has worked.

He has been described as a difficult artist- is this because of the political focus to his work?

Perhaps. Also he is uncompromising in terms of how his work is seen and contextualised.

What are his major themes?

 Social and art histories, representation, concepts of originality, sexual difference and gender prescription.

What are his major recurring techniques and media?

Painting, assemblage, installation

Are there recurring motifs?

His eighties appropriation art used collage, quotes and were epic.

How would you describe the work from this period? 

Classic postmodernism

His work is layered with eroticism and androgyny- why is this?

Because the imaging and dissemination of such, and challenges to often false shames and taboo subject matter, has a fraught history. 

Did Juan have a reason for working on an epic mural scale? Was this a strategy?  

Don't know

Do you know about Davila's fascination with realism and figurative art history?

It comes out of his Latin American context and history, and it
is clearly the most appropriate visual language with which to deliver his messages.

Pictured- a detail of Hysterical Tears

Juan Davila
born Chile 1946, arrived Australia 1974
Hysterical Tears 1979 (detail)
oil on canvas
178 x 661.5 cm
Collection: Courtesy of the artist
© the artist, courtesy of Kalli Rolfe Contemporary Art

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