Drawing the (Hi)story: an Interview with Pilar Quinteros

by Carla Ingrasciotta
March 31, 2017
Carla Ingrasciotta
Quinteros Pilar

On the occasion of our Special Issue on SP-Arte 2017, we interviewed artist Pilar Quinteros to discuss her participation to the art week and the project she’s presenting at Galeria Leme.
Chilean artist, Pilar’s practice is based on drawing as a starting point for developing actions that reconfigure public spaces and landscapes through interventions. The artist turns her attention to abandoned or destroyed places in order to promote restorations, reconstruction, replacement, or to intervene in the architectural elements of public buildings. She also looks to debris and ruins as elements of live content linked to the present.

Carla Ingrasciotta: Could you tell us about the artworks you’re showcasing for the exhibition? Which is the creative process behind this work?

Pilar Quinteros:  The work I’m presenting at Galeria Leme is titled “Amigos del Movimiento Perpetuo” (Friends of Perpetual Movement). It was developed in collaboration with curator Bruno de Almeida, for the project SITU, and produced in São Paulo, during March. It is a volumetric interpretation of the ‘Luz Railway Station’s clock tower, nine meters long, built with foam and a wooden structure and installed horizontally on the gallery’s rooftop, widely visible from the street. The work is an exercise in relating and putting together two different buildings that were, in one way or another, someplace else. Firstly, Luz Station, built at the end of the XIX century in England, was imported to Brazil by ship, supposedly after been chosen for São Paulo from an English catalog of pre-fabricated pieces; and second, Galeria Leme, first constructed two blocks away from its current location and, after being demolished and reconstructed, it is now housed in an identical building from its original one (except for an expansion in its second version).
Since the beginning of the work’s development I was very interested in the shared aspects of the history of both buildings. But at the same time, the longer I spent working on this project the more I got interested in the Station’s clock tower as a symbol. The Luz Station is one of the most emblematic buildings in São Paulo but paradoxically it has an European origin. I believe this metaphorically represents the history of our continent. And this idea becomes even more evident if we consider the clock tower as symbolically implementing a sort of global order in the form of the ‘Standard-time’ and of the time-zones system, also originated in Europe. I’m thinking all this while I’m still producing the piece, so it is a work-in-progress analysis

C.I.: Drawing is your point of departure and one of your favorite tool of exploration. Could you tell us about you practice in general? Where do you take inspiration from?

P.Q.:  As you say, my main working tool is drawing. It is the media through which I think visually, analyze and further understand a lot of things. In my videos you can see some drawings, but that’s only a fraction of my production. There are more personal drawings that represent an unknown part of my practice, but for me they are also very important because they form a sort of personal diary of my mental processes.
About my practice in general, I have recently been working after several invitations to think and see different cities that I don’t know as well as Santiago (Chile), the city I live in. That has been fun, because after a bit of research something always comes up which amazes me. Images appear and I just need to construct them. Only then I discovered what I want to do, something that is impossible to define before I have a feeling of the place. So it is always an exciting process and it ultimately becomes something urgent to do. That’s one of the main reasons why I am fully involved in the making of all my projects, even if that means I will not sleep or eat much. I always count on other people’s help though, right now at Leme with the structural construction of the piece. But generally I don’t like asking for help because I believe that whoever will help me won’t be feeling the same excitement, or the have the same urgency and dedication as myself. In the end, all of my project are very personal and give me powerful life experiences from which I learn a lot.

C.I.:  Your art mainly deals with historical issues, past and memory and you look at narrative as a powerful media through which creating new possibilities. I’m thinking to “Smoke Signals” (2016), the project you presented at the Sao Paulo Biennial. Could you tell us a bit about your concept of art and how you translate it into your work?

P.Q.:  I don’t know if I would call “translation” the exercise of thinking something and produce a work after that. It has to do with the previous question. Art for me is a way of living. It means discovering new things and shape the dimension we live in. I think History is that: an exercise in giving shape. That’s why issues related to History regularly appear in my work. History is constantly moving and changing and that flexibility is very rich. You can interpret and alter it, for better or for worst. It is another material to manipulate. “Smoke Signals” is about that, I think; it is based on a historic fact but it is simultaneously a fictional and documentary movie.

C.I.:  How is your typical day as an artist? Do you have an open studio which can be visited?

P.Q.:  This year it will be difficult to have typical days because I have a lot of travels scheduled. But I try to keep a working routine despite of that. It is hard for me to start the day, I work way better at the afternoon and during the evening, so in the mornings I do ‘mechanical work’, like answering emails, having meetings, going to the bank, stuff like that. When I’m in Santiago and Sebastián is too (my husband, also an artist), we like to cook and have lunch together before spending the afternoon working in our personal projects. We have small studios on opposites sides of our apartment. While Seba is listening to music out loud I generally work in silence, because the noise from the street already is enough distraction. In the evening I go out with Seba or we just eat junk food at home, ahaha. I ride my bike every day.
About studio visit, yes, sometimes people come to our apartment. They have to give me prior notice otherwise they could get me on my pijamas!

C.I.: Having participated to the Sao Paulo Biennial, you might have been engaged to the city art scene. Which is your impression of the contemporary art scene? Do you think it is a stimulating place for an artist to live?

P.Q.:  As far as I have seen, the art scene here is very diverse and active. There are a lot of artists working, as well as a lot of galleries and exhibition spaces. I feel there is a powerful will to invent and produce new projects. It is very stimulating. I hope I can return to São Paulo for a longer period of time.

C.I.: Any new project you’re working on so far?

P.Q.: I have several projects for this year. Next week I will travel to Newport Beach, California to produce a video for the California-Pacific Triennial. Then I will work in two other videos in Chile and on a solo show in Santiago. There is also a trip to Ireland in between.

Pilar Quinteros was born in 1988 in Santiago, Chile. She holds a BA from the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile (2011), where she has worked over the past few years as a teaching assistant and started exhibiting in 2010. The artist received the 2012 Jean Claude Reynal Scholarship from the Fondation de France and the Fine Arts Museum of Bordeaux. She also participated to the 32nd Sao Paulo Biennial with the project “Smoke Signal”.

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