We talked with the two Valladolid (Spain) based artists to to learn more about the recent collaboration on which they have embarked, where the painter has brought to canvas the work initially created as a collage.
TWS –Hi Henar, I want to talk about your collaboration with Cless. How did this collaboration start? Why did you choose Cless’ collages to paint?
HB –I met Cless when I participated in some projects that he was managing in my city, Valladolid. When I “discovered” his work I really liked the concept, how he chooses and mixes the most random but eloquent cuttings. After we met on some more occasions, we talked about working on some pieces together but the time passed and this co-production was not happening and we forgot about this plan. Recently, I started a project that consists of challenging myself to paint 4 different works every week. Each week I address a different topic and I show my painting process on my Youtube channel while I talk about that process, the thoughts that I have related to the works or art in general. One day, I made a painting using a collage I created as reference and I remembered that I had talked with Cless about this sort of work to make with him. I contacted and asked Cless if I could use some of his works as reference to make 4 more paintings and luckily he accepted without any doubt.
TWS –And Cless, how do you recall how the collaboration started?
C –It all started with an informal chat we had in our hometown, Valladolid. After some time she approached me to set the project in motion. Henar is very direct and resourceful, so I showed her some new pieces that had not been exhibited before so she could choose and start working with them. Her plan is to do 4 pieces in a week, so in a short time she is already painting the collages. It went very smoothly and quickly. There was a special connection that I think you can see in the collaboration.
TWS –Being a painter, what attracts you from a medium as different to painting as collage?
HB –I think painting and collage are disciplines that aren’t so far from each other. Usually, a painter starts a work doing some sketches and nowadays it is very common to make digital collages to prepare a solid reference before starting a new painting. Although, in this case, we can change the size, color, shape of any character, object or whatever image we are using to create a new digital picture. What I like about traditional collage, the one made by cutting papers from magazines, books or photographs (the way Cless usually works) are the limitations. We have to gather and select some cuttings to use (not as simple as search for some images on Google), compose the collage with the pieces we have that we cannot change in any way and, if we have a story, something to tell, we need to do all that process of cutting, collecting, composing very well. And that is what I like from Cless’ works, how exquisite and meticulous is his whole working process, turning the limitations into a strength, becoming a more organic and human pieces of art.
TWS –What about you Cless? What’s your feeling about mixing collage with painting?
C –I love painting as a medium. Many artists that I like very much paint. But I don’t. That’s why what interests me most about painting is that it’s a medium that I can’t master and somehow feel inaccessible. For this reason I love that Henar has managed to make that translation, turning my work into something new and different from the original, but without losing its essence. She has managed to synthesize the spirit of collage in a painting, reducing the level of detail, but without losing everything that constitutes the spirit of the piece.
TWS –When you approached painting these pieces by Cless, what did you wanted to achieve? As you couldn’t reproduce it exactly, what did you want to bring in and what did you accept to leave out?
HB –First of all, I wanted to respect Cless’ work and not change too many things when I interpreted his pieces. At the same time, I would like to make paintings, real paintings, not an exact copy from a collage or a photography. I wanted to make something that speaks about the two disciplines, but more about painting, something that doesn’t shout “this is a collage”.
I wanted to preserve his essence. When someone looks at one of these paintings they have to see that Cless is there, the work owns him. But, at the same time, I’m there too. My way of painting is so present. How I treat the color, the shapes, how I understand the reference. Important changes that I have introduced in my paintings that are very different from the collages are the size transformations of some cuttings. As the different cut pieces have a “high” definition, they are photographs and some of them were so little that I could not translate the detail into the paintings (and I also didn’t want to) because my painting surface was very small. Then I transformed some figures and made them bigger and simpler or sometimes I distort them to make the painting more interesting. That’s my usual way of painting any theme. Anyway, I preserved all the little pieces Cless had in his collages.
TWS –Henar, what do you think was lost in translation between the two mediums? And what was gained and new only present in the painting and not in the collage?HB – I tried to be loyal to Cless’ work but obviously my “hand” interferes. I guess what the paintings lost and gained are the same. I think in my paintings every small piece is unified. Everything has the same style and the figures become a whole. And that is what we lose too, the distinction between the figures.
Somehow the essence of a traditional collage loses against the aspiration to make a new and original painting.
TWS – Cless, how do you feel the final outcome was? What’s lost and gained from your perspective?
C –The size of the painted piece, 21x30cm, impedes to paint some details that I really like from the original collage work. So I understand that the level of detail to which one can aspire in this size is lower than the in the original. Through small distortions and her own stylistic resources, Henar manages to tell the same story I told in a personal way, blending in an amazing way her work with mine.
TWS –Henar, how was the experience of painting a collage different from the experience of painting other subject matters?HB –My painting process is the same whatever I choose to paint. I like to have prepared and clear my ideas, sketches or references before taking the brushes. But preparing a collage as reference takes more time, of course. On this occasion that I was interpreting Cless’ works and not my own references, I found difficult to maintain every figure readable because of the loss of definition of the small images when I painted them. I like when the figures become more abstract but I intended to keep the narrative and legibility of every part. I had to think very well how I was going to work to let the viewer understand the painting perfectly.
TWS –Did your idea of collage as a media changed somehow after paying so much attention to these pieces?
HB –Absolutely. Working with Cless’ collages forced me to spend more time seeing his work, trying to understand how he makes them, why he chooses the cuttings that he finally pastes, seeing every little piece that defines the whole, imagining what he wanted to communicate.
Nowadays, we see many images everyday and we don’t pause to look at an artwork. Many times, these works are seen on a smartphone, on a little screen. I think art should be seen in person or, at least, on a big screen. I guess this way of consuming art puts traditional collage in a worse situation. All the details and textures can’t be appreciated.
Social networks influence the way an artist produces: so fast to be consumed, also, fast. After talking and working with Cless, I value the creative process more and every artwork in general, but I try to look deeper into the collages works, that many times are undervalue and I discover with Cless pieces that collages can express as much as any work of any discipline.
TWS –Cless, is there anything that this collaboration has made you think about your approach to your work and other ways that you produce your art?
C –What I would like most is to see my collages painted in large sizes. My dream is to be able to recreate all the details of my work in a large painting. When I saw James Rosenquist’s work in Bilbao it drove me crazy. I would love to be able to paint my work on paper, seeing the collage as a sketch and the final work as a huge painting. But I don’t see myself able to do it. With all the patience I have to cut out in great detail, I don’t think I can have it for painting. I think I would go crazier than I am now 😛
On a process level, what I like the most is that analog and digital get mixed up. That the paper collage looks like it was made digitally and that it’s perfect. If I wanted to paint my works I would need to reach a level of hyperrealism only accessible to masters. So for the moment I don’t dare to take that step.
However, the collaboration with Henar seems very interesting to me because it is a collaboration, where there is a little bit of me and a little bit of her. It is no longer just my work, it is more than that. She takes the essence of my work and modifies it enough to let in a bit of hers, transforming the piece into something that lives in the middle of her world and mine.
Learn more about Cless on his website or Instragram
Learn more about Henar Bayón on her website, Instagram or YT channel.