Next up we’re profiling Prints & Inks contributor and Ottawa-based artist Guillermo Trejo. Originally from Mexico, Guillermo studied at the National School of Painting, Sculpture and Etching in Mexico City, and is currently completing his MFA at the University of Ottawa.
Much of Guillermo’s work borrows directly from news media, pairing disparate political events that reveal a borderless world where humans ubiquitously fight against poverty and violence. This kind of democratization of popular or regional stories allows us to ponder not on our differences, but on the incredible likeness of many of our world’s important episodes.
Here’s what he had to say about his work:
Tell me a little bit about the specific project you have on display at Prints & Inks? What is the (his)tory behind it?
I am presenting 2 projects, one is call Blue Series; in this case the idea is to do formal investigation, by printing different images that do not have a relation between each other, by using the same color. Creating a linear narrative that is possible only by the color.
The second project is calling Free Association: in this project I print two images in one paper. The idea is to create a free association, free of interpretation, but that have a linear narration.
2. What is your reasoning behind choosing the medium of silkscreen?
I [actually] work with lino cuts and woodcuts printed on a letterpress machine, the great grandfather technique of silkscreen.
I work with relief prints, because I found in the intrinsic limitation of the technique a great quality that cannot be achieved with other methods. This limitation pushes the image to be as much direct as possible. I believe that this urgent capacity of communicate in a print is fundamental and only can be acquired by the reproducibility of the same.
Printing is not about the original, but is about the reproduction.
The relation of politic and printed matter can be track to the origins of society, basically because the technique has been designed to communicate and not to have an aesthetic function.
Statement by the Atelier Populaire:
“The posters produced by the Atelier Populaire are weapons in the service of the struggle and are an inseparable part of it. Their rightful place is in the centers of conflict, that is to say, in the streets and on the walls of the factories. To use them for decorative purposes, to display them in bourgeois places of culture or to consider them as objects of aesthetic interest is to impair both their function and their effect. This is why the Atelier Populaire has always refused to put them on sale. Even to keep them as historical evidence of a certain stage in the struggle is a betrayal, for the struggle itself is of such primary importance that the position of an “outside” observer is a fiction which inevitably plays into the hands of the ruling class. That is why these works should not be taken as the final outcome of an experience, but as an inducement for finding, through contact with the masses, new levels of action, both on the cultural and the political plane.”
3. What is your artistic process? Where do you derive your imagery from?
My artistic process is quite simple, I found an image and then I “distill” the image to fit the technique, by distillation I mean, the reduction of non-necessary details, things that do not have a communicative reason, could be the background, or small details in the image. By doing this process the image became an “icon” for example, a soldier, a car, etc. The images are not a specific soldier but rather all the soldiers.
4. When I think of silkscreening, I think of two very broad categories – the aesthetic/design side, related more to fashion and the creation of saleable objects and then that which is rooted more traditionally in the political spectrum – here I’m thinking of protest posters and the like. Would you situate your work on either side? How so?
I situate my work in the second category, unfortunately we are living in the pinnacle of capitalism, at the extreme that capitalism has consume and commodified all aspects of political stand or contra culture. OBEY is an example of this, without judging the accomplishments and talent of Shepherd Fairey in his work we can see the bizarre chimera of politics and capitalism.
5. How are you influenced by other artists, specifically, other silkscreeners/printers? Who are you inspired by and how is this translated into your own work.
My biggest inspirations for me at this point are.
Taller de Grafica Popular (Workshop of the Peoples’ Graphics) in Mexico City. This collective works between the 30s and the 70s, creating some of the most incredible politic posters.
Atelier Populaire: This group of artist create some of the most memorable print from all times in the middle of the 1968 protest in Paris France.
Leopoldo Mendes: One of the most versatile printers in the history of printmaking.
6. Is there a collaborative aspect to your work? Do you print with other artists/collectives? If so, what is the place of collaboration in your practice? Do you see silkscreening as being particularly suited to collaboration?
Sadly in my work there is no more collaborative aspect, and it is not because I don’t want it is because, the printmaking community in Ottawa is not too big. Hopefully events like Prints & Inks will create a bigger community.
All print methods stand in the idea of collaboration!
Thanks Guillermo! To see more of Guillermo’s work, visit his website.