ARTICLE

INTERVIEW EUSKAL KULTURA

 

 

 

 

 

GUERNIKA by Paul Ygartua (after Picasso) ACRYLIC ON CANVAS DIPTYCH 48 x 96″ (121 x 243CM) FC

 

INTERVIEW EUSKALKULTURA.COM 

YGARTUA FAMILY HISTORY

 

GORLIZ, VIZCAYA –The town of Gorliz was farmland, with traditional basque farmhouses, the church and square situated on the Bahia de Gorliz, one of the most beautiful beaches in the Basque Country. Today, Gorliz has a population of 9,000, a thriving Basque resort town just 20 minutes from Bilbao. 

AMEZAGA – family caserio (the farmhouse, Amezaga, is just over 300 years old) El caserio, Amezaga, where my Father and his brothers were born and  now where my cousin Javi Ygartua, his wife Josune Mendia (The Mendia Wine Family) and family have taken pride in renovating and restoring this  traditional caserio. 

Pacho Francisco Ygartua –mi abuelo, was the grand chef, the Mayo Domo –(head chef) with 100 chefs under him on La Reina del Pacifico in the 30’/40s,  the largest ocean liner at that time.

He had the foresight to invest in this most precious farmbelt just above the Atlantic Ocean. This land took over half the mountain side, just above the  Atlantic with three farmhouses, Amezaga, el Molino and Recaldes, a large shoeing farm for the work horses. 

During the Civil War the Guardia Civil destroyed the farm land for a short while as they rode through the farmland using it for training and a place to  keep their horses 

My Father often talked of my grandfather and grandmother, the character and strength of a young couple that took on a great deal of responsibility during  difficult times –my grandmother ran the farm, with employees and her six children during my grandfather’s absence. This left a great impression on me  and still to this day I marvel at their tenacity and foresight. 

 

1- Your biography is quite special. How is it a ‘gorliztarra’ like you is born in Liverpool, of all places? 

1936 – MY FATHER , PABLO FRANCISCO YGARTUA, JUMPED SHIP WITH 22 OTHER BASQUES IN LIVERPOOL AND CLAIMED  POLITICAL ASYLUM – due to the military age of the Basque boys on board, they decided to jump ship to avoid military service under Franco against the Basques. 

There was a group of British in place to help the young political exiles relocate and place them with families so they could learn English and become part  of British society.

During the Second World War my Father met my Mother, the love of his life, Dorothy, a painter, free-spirited and open-minded. She was exceptionally  gifted and not only adapted to the basque customs but helped my Father introduce these to myself and my brother.  

Eleven years after the Spanish Civil War, Spain declared an amnesty for all the political exiles. Upon this declaration from the Spanish government, we  left England for a six month sojourn to Gorliz, my Father’s hometown; I was four and half years of age. 

 

2-Your father left the Basque Country very young, how did he manage to keep and share his Basque  heritage with you and your brother? 

HOW DO YOU KEEP YOUR HERITAGE – You keep your heritage through your customs, cuisine, sports and language – the heart of every race is  their language and this is why the re-introduction of the Basque Language, Euskera (the oldest language of europe) into the school system in 19–, was an essential part of the preservation of the Basque Culture and the independence of the Basque People. 

My Father did everything possible to preserve his heritage, his culture and his connection to his beloved land and family. Looking back, I must say, my  Father had a profound influence on me. His strength, his pride of being Basque was the most predominant factor in my life. He talked all the time about  the Basque country, growing up, the fiestas, his family.  

As he came from a farm, his passion was his garden and he grew produce that was typical from his region. My Mother learned Spanish and learned how to  cook the Basque traditional food. 

My Father kept close ties with some of his comrades from the ship and we would get together every month at the Basque Club in Liverpool. So my  brother and I had the opportunity to experience not only the Basque Community in Liverpool, but we also spent every summer in the basque country to  visit our family, to be with our cousins, to learn the spanish language and experience the unforgettable fiestas, the quadrillas –it was part of our life. 

He never got over leaving the Basque country, only 18 years of age, severed from his country and family, it was a time of suffering for many. Possibly due  to these circumstances, his pride and perseverance to preserve his basque heritage was foremost. His dream was to retire to the Basque Country, but  unfortunately he passed away when he was 64 . 

 

3- Your mother was a painter as well, was she a big influence? 

My Mother gave me the opportunity to paint and draw when I was very young, I painted alongside her from the age of six during our summer holidays  in the Basque Country.  

She was the only reason why I got to art school, she insisted that I go, she knew that was my direction. She created the possibility for me to start painting. 

I did go to art school, but my Father insisted that I take an industrial design course rather than fine arts as he felt that one must have a profession that would guarantee employment. 

You don’t realize when you are young that your parents do have an influence on your future, but often this is the case. 

 

4- When and where did you begin to feel that, yes, you might also have that talent and that passion? 

My big inspiration has been my wife, Joanne and my Father-in-law – they recognized the talent that I had, they challenged me, they believed in me.    

You don’t just become an artist, it took me thirty years to break through the barriers, painting every day.

 

5- What are your impressions of that first summer in Gorliz? How old were you? 

I had my own donkey at four and half years of age in the Basque Country, he was the same age as me and he was born on the family farm – they said it was mine and his name was Mayo. 

The traditions, the family farmhouse, Amezaga, my Aunts and Uncles, my Grandparents are without doubt the best memories of my childhood. The annual visit to the Basque Country has converted into a family tradition for me. Before with my parents and now with my wife and children and now my  grandchildren. It was important for my Father to impregnate the Basque pride and teach us the importance of his pueblo Gorliz, and now I consider it my  duty to pass on this pride and enduring resilience to the next generation. My Basque roots and my love for this country are stronger than ever and this is  the reason why I return every year.

  

6- I guess it was quite important for you, since you keep coming back every summer with your wife  and your children. What do you want your children to learn from this experience?

THE BASQUES FOUGHT SO HARD to preserve their race and culture that one cannot go to the Basque Country without feeling this pride and  admiration of their resilience and determination. 

MY CHILDREN – I want them to learn that there is a place in everybody’s heart that they have to return to and I want them to have that same sensation of  belonging, a connection to our ancestors.  

 

7- Can’t help to mention the Beatles, since I learned you went to the Liverpool Art College with John  Lennon. How did it feel to be part of that creativity, of a generation that was making something  completely new? Did it influence your art? 

In the 60’s Liverpool was the melting pot for talent, everybody was close to somebody that ended up famous, but by the mid-60’s people were leaving and  Liverpool started to lose its popularity. 

 

THE BEATLES –THEY PROVED that one can become famous, even if they came from Liverpool – MADE YOU BELIEVE EVERYTHING IS  POSSIBLE – Liverpool was like Nashville in the sixties, Gerry and the Pacemakers, Cabaret Club, private live-music parties and wild weekends. The road  manager for the Road Runners was a good friend and through him I met a lot of the up and coming pop groups. I knew the Beatles before Epstein, before  they went to Germany, before the All Stars Club, Hamburg, before they became famous. 

Of course you are influenced by everything around you. First time, I met John Lennon in the Crack Pub near the art school, during a drinking contest, a  pint of beer in less than 4 seconds, we were watching together and I said “How do you drink a pint in 4 seconds” and John said “Not me” I used to walk  with John down from the Liverpool Art School to the Cavern where they used to jam at lunch hour. I used to reserve a table at the Grapes for the group otherwise there wouldn’t be a seat for them; I liked George, he was very sensitive and very nice, at that time Pete Best and Stue Sutcliffe played in the  group before Ringo. 

Influence came from being in a melting pot and an environment of nothing was impossible. This lasted for about seven years and deep down you knew it  was special and now reflecting back it was the best years in retrospect, those times people were obsessed with music and Liverpool was the greatest and we lived through it –it was special.  

 

8- Another influence comes from the American natives. Why does a Basque from Liverpool start  painting murals about American nations? 

In the early 70’s I started painting the North American Native, I found strength and a passion of a race struggling for their identity similar to the Basque People of northern Spain. These influences dominated my work for many years; even today I still feel a need to create with a passion and strength that captivates your mind and soul. I like to stir one’s emotions, I like my patrons to feel this energy that runs through me. 

 

9- Influences and inspiration keep changing and renewing, of course, but what is it you want to express with your paintings? 

There is an energy, a high when creating. When you are influenced by everything around you, whether it is the people in the world, their culture or nature  itself –it is emotional and personal. It is these emotions that one tries to express–an inside view of your thoughts , your feelings and your ideas. 

The power of creation – The challenge is to influence your viewer –to enable others to experience the same emotions, the same high the artist  experiences through the energy expressed at the moment of creation. 

High energy, imagination, freedom of expression through experimentation and challenges to achieve a completely original thought; to re-create original  thought with a three dimensional form–to enable the viewer to experience the emotion and passion through the artists’ recreation, to capture that moment  in time whereby the artist and viewer are one. 

 

10-Why did you choose the murals as the main way of expressing your art? 

Murals give you Public Exposure–it is another form of expression, larger, more challenging. 

Exposing the public to a large format gives the artist international exposure through one work of art. It is in the public domain, a permanent fixture–it is  monumental and impressive. 

Domed Ceilings and Murals create a completely different challenge and a real physical workout. 

Working on large canvases or a large wall gives a much more vast expanse of space to expand a visual impact from many yards away, allowing viewing  from a distance and visualizing a finished product. 

Every artist aspires to painting majestic canvases and no better is achieved than painting wall murals. Most of the walls I have painted range in size  from 30 x 50 to 25 x 300 feet. The challenge is creating the composition in the right proportions at such a large scale. 

This is approached with a vision of the wall finished before you start. You need to see it in your mind’s eye just to get the perspective, balance and correct  proportions. You must always take on the opportunity of working without a projector, in this manner the freedom of the hand will often bring that third  dimension that you have always been trying to achieve. It is only then when you will actually envision the subject matter on the wall. 

I always ask for the surface of the wall to be ready and prepared ahead of time and like to sketch the face the first day and the next day I paint it. I work  straight eight hours and am intense on finishing the sketch the first day, this way you don’t lose sight of what you wish to achieve. Working quickly does  also capture a spontaneity that brings life to the subject matter. 

Before I start the drawing I already have in mind the placement of each face and the exact place where I intend to start the mural. I always start from the  eye and I then work outwards to create the perfect position for the first face. Then like a jigsaw puzzle I branch outwards creating the composition so it is  balanced respectively to each face.  

I particularly like to work on murals where the faces are from 10 to 15 feet – the impact of a face ten times larger than life becomes monumental in size. 

This is approached with a vision of the wall finished before you start. You need to see it in your mind’s eye just to get the perspective, balance and correct  proportions. You must always take on the opportunity of working without a projector, in this manner the freedom of the hand will often bring that third  dimension that you have always been trying to achieve. It is only then when you will actually envision the subject matter on the wall. 

I always ask for the surface of the wall to be ready and prepared ahead of time and like to sketch the face the first day and the next day I paint it. I work  straight eight hours and am intense on finishing the sketch the first day, this way you don’t lose sight of what you wish to achieve. Working quickly also  captures a spontaneity that brings life to the subject matter. 

 

11- You paint freehand with a brush and without the aid of projectors, even in large murals. It is more  difficult, obviously, so what do you achieve working this way? 

Being on the edge — Originality, spontaneity, freedom of expression.  

I like to approach the wall as if it were a large canvas — it is more interesting and more original to not use a projected image, more of a fascination, more  of a challenge–who wants it to be easy. I want to experience the energy, the high of the challenge, your brain has to be alert, concentration is at a peak at  all times, you feel connected. I find this to be thrilling, exciting and more original and the end result is much more satisfying. 

 

12- You have been around the world but always keep coming to Gorliz. Why?  

My Roots, my family, my heart, my friends from childhood—I believe that my past gives me direction to my future.. 

Through their struggle came their strength and fortitude–the Basques fought so hard to preserve their race and culture that one cannot go to the Basque  Country without feeling this pride and admiration of their resilience and determination. 

 

13- One of your most recent works is in Gorliz. What is it and how did it feel painting it? 

The Gorliz Mural–A New Expression–A New World Image  

To create a Monumental Basque Mural portraying their pride, their culture, depicting a modern Basque image–to showcase my work with the Basque  theme, my roots and to allow others to experience this mural on a world level is truly an honour for me. 

It has been very important for me to create a mural for Gorliz. The challenge to create a work of art that would penetrate the conscience of all –bringing an awareness, a message to the world. I would like people to experience through my creation a proudness  and pride to be Basque, the oldest white race of  Europe. 

 

14- Your works are around the world. Where can our readers (also around the globe) find it? Next  projects, exhibitions? 

Paul’s monumental and wall murals include a variety of subjects ranging from Jazz, Sports, International Faces, NA Natives, Abstracts and can be found in many cities across the world –from private to Corporate, City and Museum collections. 

The Paris and London site will be updated with Paul’s latest projects, upcoming exhibitions and his biography is in French, English and spanish. www.thisisartlondon.com www.thisisartparis.com www.ygartua.com 

 

15- And where can they find you (for proposals, collaboration, to buy your work)?

Paul has four sites:  

www.thisisartlondon.com 

www.thisisartparis.com 

www.thisisartshanghai.com 

www.ygartua.com 

For more information on Paul’s work, purchase of works, or commission work, you can go to any one of the sites and email info@ygartua.com or email directly to Paris, London or Shanghai. 

 

 

 

 

FOR MORE INFORMATION info@ygartua.com

 

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