Interview with
Juan Cruz
March 16th 1998
Where were you born and when?
In Palencia in Spain, quite a small town in the North of Spain, South of the Basque country but North of Madrid.In 1970.
Which art school if any did you go to and where?
I went to Chelsea, in London, I graduated in 1993.
When did you come to Britain?
In 1980. I went forwards and backwards for quite a while before that date , spending more and more time here. Where do you live here now?
In Bethnal Green, in Victoria Park Square, its an East London Dwellings Corporation house.
What would you say briefly is the underlying philosophy to your work?
I can best say that by describing things that I have done, the philosophy comes through. I tend to quite simply represent things in some way and very often that involves translating texts from Spanish to English, or trying to present images of a place to give an idea of the place without overwhelming with a description.
My philosophy is really that of not having a practice, thats quite important. Quite often I will try and write dialogue between people and think of ways that it can be presented in an art gallery as a work of art rather than as a book.
Can you describe the exhibition/s that you had at Matts Gallery?
A lot of work that I had done before took as its source other art. I did for example an exhibition called translating Don Quixote which was an oral translation of Don Quixote from Spanish into English. So I sat at a table in the Cervantes Institute in Manchester Square with Don Quixote in Spanish in front of me for a few weeks, three of four hours a day constantly translating into English. I just spoke it out whether there were people there or not and people would just come in and I would just carry on going. Then I did some work with some stage directions from Checkov plays, again to do with the idea of the gallery being a kind of theatrical place, places with the potential for things to happen. The work here, I knew I wanted to make work that had a source that wasn't to do with art ( I had done things working with paintings before as well as literature). I had come across this village quite a long time ago in the south of Spain which was an abandoned village.When Robin asked me if I wanted to do a show here I said yes I would and it seemed appropriate to use that place as a source because of the kind of echoes that it has with the landscape that is around here. The village is called Sancti Petri, its right in the South of Spain in the province of Cadiz, on the Straits of Gibraltar.Its about 100km up the Atlantic Coast towards Portugal, its tiny and abandoned, it was built specifically for fishing tuna, because tuna migrate annually from the Atlantic to the Mediteranean. It was built in the 40's and fell into disuse in the 1970's. What is odd about the place is that it looks as if it could have been built at the turn of the century and has a very colonial appearance, you can imagine it is Central America, it has that feel and that kind of light.The mosaic on the exhibition card is one of a number of such mosaics made to go above the fishermans cottages.
Why did the village die?
It died partly because of the fish stocks dwindling because the Japanese started doing massive trawler fishing.
What did you do in the gallery?
There were slides, a projector and a screen, and a voice. The voice was recorded and related to the images, it was quite simple, an image of a house would come up and it would tell you what the house was and then there was a beep that made the slide projector advance but also sounded quite loud in the space. The echo of the voice was very important in the space and it dictated the way in which I decided to read the text as well. I was physically in the space writing everything but it was recorded somewhere else. The seperation of the words from each other came from the echo, to do with ways of making words intelligable, but also working with the opposite in that the screen was not in a blacked out space, so very often the images would fade, things would vary throughout the day. Also the fact that you can make out the words the fact that it is spoken so slowly means that you don't really get a sense of a meaningful whole thing, they become just words.

How did you come to exhibit at Matts?
Robin saw some work that I had done before and asked me to show here. I had met Robin because I used to have a studio above Matt's some years ago and I wrote about one of his shows ( I write about exhibitions as well). The first piece I had published was a piece I wrote about a show here at Matt's, Mathew Tickles show for Art Monthly.
How would you describe the experience of working with Robin Klassnik and his gallery?
Very intense,good. Its nice to spend that long in the spacebecause I had about three months in the space before the show came on. The ideas I first had about how to present the village were very coloured by the fact that it was a bit scary having such a big space and also the gallery has got quite a profile, so having a lot of time allowed me to make a show that I felt happy about in the end because I wasn't so scared of the space.It was not so terrifying in that I had time to deal with things like the echo and just see what the light was like through the day over quite a long period of time. Things like that are really important, and then there is Robins input as well, you can't really get away with things. Problems that you might not deal with if you are working on your own or you might not push he encourages you to push.In a way it can be quite antagonistic because he will be quite harsh about something working or not working.
How did you respond to showing your work in the East end of London?
It was nice its a five minute cycle from home.
What makes Matts Gallery so important do you think?
I guess historically because its a first, the first of its kind and then other places have tried to do something similar.I think also the space is probably one of the best spaces in London to actually make exhibitions in, Robins commitment to make anything possible and not stand in the way of things happening or feel precious about things. Its a good chemistry of things.
What other places do you show your work?
The last thing I did was a show in Amsterdam an exhibition that was an 'alternative' artist run space, it was a group show. I have also shown my work in the basements of buildings.
What do you think about the artistic community in the East End of London?
Where I live now is the first time in living in London where there is a pub that I can go into and bump into people and yes most of my friends are other artists. That I find very nice.
Where is your next exhibition?
At The Approach in a group show.

Matt's Gallery

Matt's Exhibitions 1972-91

Matt's Exhibitions 1991-98

Other Educated Persons