Juan Ramon Gimenez is a gifted sculptor who lives in Argentina. He works with stone and light and I love his work www.juanramongimenez.com.ar. We had some minor language issues, but we conquered them. Juan Ramon was determined to complete this interview and I was happy to help make it happen. Here’s our cool chat.
MICHAEL: Hello Juan Ramon! I love your light boxes. But are they light boxes or really sculptures?
RAMON: I do treatment of my work as a sculpture. I am a sculptor. Although at times, the work conveys parallel paths between art and craft. Sometimes one person (a customer) may purchase a lamp (because the piece shines light) and sometimes another person (another type of customer) is looking for SCULPTURES OF LIGHT. I once had problems by trying to teach them the difference, but no longer. I live from my work and I am glad that everyone alive has their own conception of life and art. So I would like to reply to your question as follows: light boxes or sculptures? They are what everyone wants to see.
MICHAEL: The sculptures are beautiful. What are the materials and how did you get the idea for them? What inspires you to create them?
RAMON: My encounter with the sculpture was casual, as well as my discovery of the marble, a material that I’ve definitively adopted in my work. The forms and the conception of the type of sculpture have been developed on the basis of the limitations - material limitations, economic limitations, etc. Sometimes the limitations inspire me. I couldn’t have marble blocks due to the costs, but then I started to build my own blocks with marble from pieces from demolished houses and marble shops. They were very fine parts contributing another limit, but they gave me freedom and different colors. I found myself with the volume, the space and the colors and I think that they are important points in my process. I am inspired by the light, the way in which we can change the mood states passing through the material as old and noble as stone, furnishing you with heat. Also I am inspired by use of words, the written and the imagined. I like to say in that way I use mixed stones, light and letters.
MICHAEL: So these are very thin cuts and slices of marble that you build? You make the boxes and then put lightbulbs inside? How can the light shine through marble?
RAMON: Slices are thin and delicate and the marble is between one and two inches in thickness. I use epoxy resin for joining them together and then work as if they are blocks. They are illuminated from within or from outside, according to the part as required. Alabaster is the most widely used since it is a softer stone, but as I told you, one of my obstacles or boundaries is not to be able to dispose of a wide range of materials. I discovered different marble and with them the way in which the light passes through. I discovered colors, not only on the outside, but also on the inside of the material; densities, textures and I discovered a new way of seeing the stones through these fine cuts and these varied ensembles.
MICHAEL: Are you also a painter? What did you do before you found this alabaster marble?
RAMON: No, I am going directly to the three-dimensional. I even tried to avoid the drawing and the sketch. I am doing very well by going directly to the marble. Although since I discovered sculpture, I have become an amateur photographer. I guess I do it to document and support the creative process. For some years, I studied industrial design and then history, but I did not find what I was looking for in life until I found the stones. This indicates a path that I’ve been on from several years ago.
MICHAEL: How did you become an artist? Do you come from an artistic family?
RAMON: Really, I don’t know. I started by simply admiring material such as stone and its possibilities. Afterward, I was discovering the path of great artists such as Miguel Angel, Rodin, Brancusi, Noguchi or Chillida. It is true that my parents have been very creative and in fact, I have a sister who writes poetry, another who sings in a band, a brother was a painter. But I never went to University to learn art. I never pretended to be an artist. I think it was a logical consequence of a road fraught with searching, questions, and work with marble.
MICHAEL: Where are you? Buenos Aires? What is Argentina like for artists? Do people there like art and respect artists?
RAMON: I am from Mar del Plata, a coastal town 400km south of Buenos Aires, the capital. It’s a fairly large city, but of the interior, which makes it rather difficult for a sculptor living from their work. Often I will be travel to carry my sculptures to other places or other countries. I think that Argentina is a good place to live, to create, but a country where it is difficult to develop professionally as an artist. In my case as a sculptor, one has to work much more at becoming multifaceted and covering many fronts. Fortunately, in this time, the common people approach to art and heritage is no longer only for the cultured or wealthy. A mutual respect between the public and the artist is a slow path, but I think what we have is just beginning to happen. I believe that the successive and deep economic crisis have left us some positive things; the society has broken several times its scheme and has been reorganized more freely, taking into account a little more their own desires and access to art and the work of artists, is one of them.
MICHAEL: What do you want people to see, feel and think when they look at your work?
RAMON: It’s been a few years since I met with the stones, in this time I’ve learned some things. I’ve learned to see them. I have realized that the marble is not steel, it’s not hard or cold and that it’s a stone which is able to generate feelings heavier than itself. I would like to see people feel something as well. I would like them to find something that they didn't know they were looking for and enjoy it. I would like them to ask themselves things. I want them to have the pleasure of looking, touching the marble, to feel the light and the movement. It would take away the anxiety of the responses and give some good taste to their lives.
MICHAEL: You seem to really like light and making light shine through the marble. What does light mean to you? Does light in your work have a message?
RAMON: I think the light is a bit of wisdom, heat and fullness. Perhaps that is what I want in life. That is what I would like to propose in my work. People change, work changes and the eyes on the light switches as progresses life. If the light in my work involves some message, this must be dynamic and always positive because I love life and what this offers us.
MICHAEL: Finally Juan, What do you want for the future? Do you want to be a rich and famous artist?
RAMON: I want to continue working and studying in this strange way that art means. I want to continue to follow this course of happiness, of wholeness and creative engagement; what happens with me and my work will be equally welcome.
MICHAEL: Thank Juan Ramon. Your work is fantastic and you’re a great artist.
RAMON: Thank you. I love the idea of reflecting about my work and to be able to transmit it.
Check out Juan Ramon Gimenez’s work at www.juanramongimenez.com.ar.