Xan Medina is a Spanish artist who does really cool figurative works mainly on paper. His subjects look afflicted and with good reason. They’re representations of Xan’s belief that there’s beauty in pain. Check out his website www.xanmedina.com and blog http://www.xanmedina.blogspot.com and then listen in on our cool chat.
MICHAEL: Hey Xan. Your figurative work is quite intriguing. To me, your subjects look like people who've been afflicted with some disease or perhaps they had too many x-rays! What are you thinking about your work?
XAN: Good question, Michael! What I think of my work is that it is a wonderful catharsis, that thought and concept go together, that it is linked to my past and my present. I was a musician before becoming a painter and that rebellion Dan Graham mentions talking about the subculture of the rock world is in my thoughts and as a consequence in my work. By this I mean that defining myself as a visual offender, I'm laying the foundation of my creative process.
MICHAEL: Are the figures that you paint part of this subculture that you describe? They look like they're sick or have some disease. Are they supposed to be sickly or is that just the way you see them?
XAN: This subculture may appear in my work, although in a very subliminal way. I would not call what I paint figures. For me they are stories, visual novels. I take images from the media and for that reason the definition of visual offender. I take them out of their context and bring them to their limits. This way, they are independent, but at the same time mixed with the story they were stolen from, and they maintain an own identity, the track of their history. As for your question if they are sick or have a disease; They are, yes, as part of my input, the misery of human beings. I want to illuminate the beauty of pain and get it to provoke a stimulus, a movement in some hidden muscle of the viewer and provoke an encounter with the self. All suffering leads to an experience that gives a kind of lucidity, "one awake." In front of the injury, the reaction is to have the mind awake enough to send a message to others.
MICHAEL: Most people who see your work don't have the luxury of chatting with you like I am right now. What if your work means something completely different to them? What if they don't get the message you just gave me?
XAN: That is the art, sometimes you can give the viewer a clear message that they understand as you pretend, but not always. I think the magic in art is that the viewers create their own work so that the ones who are watching take their own conclusions; that makes them think from their own background, feelings and knowledge. In fact, if it means something different to people who are watching, I'm getting what I want. If the message does not reach as I meant it, it's not something I think upon. What moves me to create is the commitment to my work, each work is unique and the message does not have to arrive intact to the viewer. To me it is a mystery in itself and therefore it has to be a mystery as well to the viewer.
MICHAEL: When do you usually paint? Do you paint every day? Do you do anything else while you're painting like listening to music?
XAN: When I'm in my studio in Spain (Cadaqués), usually I work in the morning and in the evening. When I'm in my studio in Germany (Berlin), I usually work during the night. Yes, I paint every day, because it is necessary for me to have contact with my studio every day. And yes, I hear music all the time, varied, from Rock to Blues, Sicodelia, Folk, Jazz, Flamenco, etc. The music is 50 percent of my inspiration in my painting. It is what guides me in the course of creation.
MICHAEL: You live in Spain and Germany? Why? How did that happen? Do both countries inspire you?
XAN: Yes, I live in Berlin, Barcelona and Cadaques. The reason is that in Barcelona there was nothing really happening and as Berlin is the capital of the art world at the moment, I decided to go there. The city of Barcelona was not offering much to me. I was feeling stuck and didn’t like the provincialism there. I started to go to Berlin five years ago. Change is always good. Now I spend half the year there, half of it in Barcelona. When I get fed up with Barcelona, I escape to Cadaqués, where I have a studio in a building that had been a museum for Salvador Dalí. For me the inspiration is not outside, but inside. Nevertheless, I have to say that the history of Berlin nourishes me very much because the pain is palpable in this city, traces of the Holocaust and of World War II are very much on the streets and every corner and you see them everywhere - if you're awake - walking around the city. In the case of Spain, it is very deep inside of me, especially where I grew up, in Doñana, a natural park in Andalucía. It is a part of me and that's reflected in my work.
MICHAEL: What was it like growing up in Spain? Barcelona seems like such an artful and romantic place even for families. Have I been watching too many movies?
XAN: Growing up for me means Coto Doñana. Sauvage. Wild. I remember playing in Eucalyptus woods, where diverse types of animals live their lives around you, or you around them. Fires in the night, the first time I put on shoes, when I was 11 years old, and so on. For Barcelona, it is indeed artful and romantic. But I believe that this city sells a lot of smoke. For sure you have seen Woody Allen’s Barcelona movie; for me a pathetic propaganda. I think as well that romanticism is not in the world’s cities, but in the people! Barcelona is beautiful though and has fantastic architecture. But yes, I think you have seen too many movies. You should stop the projector, take your luggage and try it yourself!
MICHAEL: I love the fact that some of your works are really BIG and almost life size. For you, what's the difference between painting large paintings compared to painting smaller works?
XAN: The truth is that for me there is no difference between a bigger and a small work, as both keep the force that I used when they were being created. Although I recognize that the big works are more complex and the viewer gets much more impressed when he faces them, I do not choose the format, the characters and the stories choose the format in which they want to be created.
MICHAEL: Do you prefer working on paper or canvas? Do some of your works better on canvas and others on paper? Does it matter?
XAN: The technique I use now is better on paper. The canvas I’m not using for years. Anyway, in my case, it’s the technique that somehow dictates the material of choice.
MICHAEL: Finally Xan, What do you want people to say about your work?
XAN: I think most people saying about my work … I’d really like if the work would cause sensations and feelings that are both positive and negative reactions when looking at it and do not go unnoticed within the bowels of the beholder. That’s what I like.
MICHAEL: Okay, That certainly says it all. Thanks Xan. Cool chat.