Spanish artist David Catá uses a peculiar canvas when it comes to his work: his own body. Treating it like an autobiographical diary, Catá uses his body to establish an emotional and physical link with those he love, and those who have marked his life. Life is, after all, about memories and time fading away, and by sewing portraits of his loved ones onto the palms of his hand, Catá reminds us of our very own condition as human beings: fragile, randomly stitched, and one day –gone without a trace. The only mark we leave on Earth is the one we leave in each other’s lives, and it is between this kindness and simplicity of being that Catá’s work finds its meaning. A music passionate and a multi-disciplinary artist, Catá talks to us about his obsession with oblivion. Have we existed at all, if no one remembers?
Hi David, how are you? Could you please tell us a little bit about yourself?
I consider myself a friendly and sensitive person… I grew up in a small town in Galicia, Spain and from a very early age I was interested on music and started studying at the Viveiro’s Conservaroty of Music.Eventually, I discovered painting and other mediums that let me express myself, such as sculpture and photography. I studied Fine Arts and photography, which was important. I think that training is essential –I have learnt to express myself better and learnt how to handle the medium in which I work thanks to these studies.
You also have an intermediate degree in accordion, how important is music to you? Have you ever considered making a career out of it?
Music is essential in my life. I was fascinated by it since childhood, and when I began my Art studies, I had to set it aside for 8 years, as I didn’t have time for both. Now I’m back on it and I intend to finish the two remaining years for me to achieve a professional diploma.
I know you are inspired by the evocation power of personal objects –do you believe that all Art is personal? How do you draw from such personal objects?
I think all art is personal as it starts from our own personal experiences and interests, no matter what kind of art you are doing. For example, I sewed portraits of loved ones into my own hands, and to do that I would make a drawing on the palm of my hand, and then, with needles and thread, I would sew. When I work with other objects I usually entwine them with other materials to create metaphors.
How much of ourselves do you think is necessary to put into our work?
You use elements such as ice, thread, salt and dandelions, which are elements that slowly disappear over time. Tell us more about this contrast, about how your work concerns itself with delaying oblivion by using things that, eventually, will disappear…
Memory matters, the passage of time, oblivion, life’s ephemeral ways, and pain caused by the loss of a loved one are my main concerns. I always work with the same issues and these has become my obsession.
I always work with ephemeral elements, which I use to create metaphors of life. Through the use of elements that disappear into oblivion, I establish visual poems that express the emotions I have with memory. My work in general is a failed attempt to preserve people. I say failed because it’s impossible to preserve a memory forever, or people. Time ensures this does not happen and that’s why I use ephemeral materials.
I like the idea of you using thread in your work, as it is a nice symbol for time passing away… Do you think we live in fear of the future or the past?
I don’t think it’s fear of the past, maybe it’s longing or pain for memories. Even though I talk about memory in my projects, the emotions that I represent in my work allude to the present.
In Japanese culture, salt is a traditional symbol for purification and mourning, and is often used in funeral rituals. Is that something that you took into account?
Yes, it has that meaning, but the many times I have worked with salt I have used it for preservation purposes. Just like ice preserves matter and stops time for an instant, salt has an ability to retain. It’s widely used for preserving food, such as fish. Also, when salt comes in contact with a wound on the skin, it stings, which is a connotation that interests me.
Could you please tell us more about your recent project, where you sewed portraits of family and friends onto your own body? Why use your own body as a canvas?
This project is set as an autobiographical diary, where people who marked my life and are important for me are shown. So far, I’ve made portraits of my family, friends, teachers… The selection process is based on emotional matters.
I think using my body as a canvas is necessary for getting the idea I want to transmit. I’m talking about the links we establish with people in our lives, how they leave their print on us. By sewing on my body I establish an emotional and physical bond with these people.
Is the ritual of pain (in the sewing process) necessary to your themes of oblivion and memory?
Although it looks like a painful process, the sewing is done superficially and there’s almost no pain involved. When I talk about pain in my projects, I’m not referring to physical pain, but emotional pain.
The emotional aspects of pain are my concern.
The scars that these people leave on you… Are they a blessing or a curse?
I would define it as a bond of love and affection.
The hand-woven portraits eventually disappear and the flesh heals itself again… Is there a way to escape oblivion?
I think there isn’t. My works are frustrated attempts to preserve memories. Everything is ephemeral and its evocative power changes over time.
Tell us a bit more about ‘Dejame Volar, Vol II’…
“Déjame volar” is a developing project that talks about the ephemeral nature of life using dandelion seeds as metaphorical element. An important aspect of this work is that somehow I stopped working with my own body and started working on the body of others.
What are you currently working on? Any new projects coming up?
I currently have many new projects on my mind that I’ll gradually come out with. I’d also like to pick up other projects that have been somehow abandoned for different reasons and I think this is the right time to work on them. I’m currently working on a project entitled “Sonidos Ahogados” (Drowned Sounds) in which I mix my artistic work with music. I’m also working on a pictorial project called “Secuelas” (Sequels).
If you could live in any fantastical world, which one would it be?
In a fantasy movie or book, in which every moment has the ability to surprise me.