Trust your process: lessons from the Portuguese painter, Graça Paz
Some pieces of art have the power to make you feel alive, like if the artist could give you some of his/her joy, passion, enthusiasm. It is the kind of art that overflows from the canvas, the speakers, the books. It is the kind of art that makes life worth it, for us and for the artist.
Speaking of which, before we go ahead with this interview, please do yourself a favour: press play and pay attention to how you feel while listening to this. Today’s article has a soundtrack, and soon you will discover why.
A few weeks ago, we had the privilege to meet one of those inspiring artists who can make you feel alive looking at their art. We are talking about Graça Paz, a Portuguese painter born in Porto, who we are lucky to have onboard our special project, honouring the Women of Bauhaus. We are researching their influence in the textile industry of the 20th century, and to develop that, we wanted to be close to artists who are inspired by those women and share with us the spirit of Bauhaus.
Graça is the kind of person who inhales and exhales art as she breathes. Surrounded by the beauty in the world – and in other people – she seeks shapes and colours as a workaholic seeks tasks…but believe me, always in an excellent and productive mood. She communicates her passions through her canvas in a mature and conscious way as only a longtime professional can do, with the freshness of a just-begun career.
A late but never forgotten career
When we ask Graça about her journey through art, she answers that it is something that was always with her. She has a fashion background, with a degree in fashion design, but never worked in the area. As she said, it wasn’t her calling. During the old fashion school days, painting was a present passion, and there was always this voice echoing in her head, saying that she should continue to paint, work on her art.
All those years, the voice continued to echo: work on your art, work on your art. To Graça, this was part of trusting in her process, because no matter how long it would take, her process into an artist was already happening, and she needed to trust.
There was a time that she had parallel work, as she told us: “I worked in a shop who supplied painting material, and at the time I was painting in the back of the store. I learned a lot while talking with the consumers.” But then the shop closed, and Graça can vividly remember the decision she made the day she left the store for the last time: “In the car, going home, I told myself…I’m never going to work for no one else. I’m going to my home to paint.”
After a lifetime of dedication to her children – three beautiful and loving boys, all grown-ups now – the time came when she felt the need to focus on herself.
Graça’s journey, from motherhood to full-time artist, is a reality to a lot of women artists all over the world. She was reminded of a quote heard from the British conceptual artist Tracey Emin, where she said, “I think that is impossible for an artist to be a mother and an artist at the same time”. Today, as a mother of three and an artist, Graça understands what Tracey was saying.
“Artists on Tracey’s level, with full surrender, on the edge of craziness and genius– it seems almost impossible to do both. However, the knowledge you’ve got after motherhood, the dynamic of it, when you bring it to your work, is like a concrete-base to your art. There is an intrinsic maturity, the development of your being, that is fundamental to your work. This is the advantage of delayed journeys like mine. You know what you are talking about, how to present your job with confidence, without expecting someone else’s approval.”
“I always thought that my journey would be delayed, as my art was growing with me,” says the 52 year old artist. But why does she think of her path as delayed? Graça sees a good number of artists who were able to reach some specific goals that she didn’t, because she had chosen a different path. “I represent myself. The way I always communicate is going through me.”
She believes that her own representation will be the next move in art, as the independent scene is growing through new media and platforms. “I think that I am already working on what I believe will be happening next: the artists representing themselves… we should stop giving what is ours to external hands, where we were never represented in a reliable way.”
Graça also believes a transformation of womanhood will happen in the next decades, which will influence her work, as well. “What I see is the return to balance, something that was cut off from women and men. Men are relating more to sensibility, and women are relating to their womanhood. They are not going to be men. Men are important as they are. But in art, politics, in many issues, women are going to put the house in order.”
Women of Bauhaus: knowledge is power
Talking about women putting the house in order, our interview reaches the reason our paths – us, ThePowerHouse and Graça Paz – came together: the spirit of the Bauhaus, especially the women of Bauhaus.
Since we started a special project, researching the influence of these women in the textile industry of the 20th century, Graça and her work have come to us. The approach wasn’t only by the shapes, colour blocking, and other artistic resources, but we’ve found the same innovative spirit of those women who were able to connect technology and art beautifully.
“I always liked the work of Annie Albers, the geometric work she has done, and the one I do, they are related. Although she worked with a loom, I always looked to her work as inspiration. Also, I am a big fan of Joseph Albers. I read his book about the interaction of colours, my relation to the Bauhaus goes through both of them.”
Graça’s mention of the studies about the Bauhaus revealed another passion of hers: knowledge. “One of the things I love the most is to study is an absolute need for me. When you talk about passions, I have a real difficulty to understand if my biggest passion is to paint or to study. I don’t think I can highlight just one of them. It is something that gives me real pleasure.”
It was during these studies that she realised how related she is, right now, to the Bauhaus. More than aesthetics, the Bauhaus movement represents a whole education system, a concept for understanding art and what it represents in life. “The concept of the Bauhaus has a lot to do with my form of living now. The way I want to live, the way I want to be right now,” says Graça.
The voice of art
In what way is Graça living now? It is mostly about her creative process. For her, there is an inevitable connection between day-to-day life and work – studying, reading – and it is also very related to music. “My childhood was around classical music, as my father worked with it. I have found my way to work through music. When I’m creating art I’m listening to it as well.”
She continues: “My process passes through some composers that I really love and listen to them continuously. I translate what I feel with the songs to my work. Is something that I cannot say in words the same way I can say in paintings.” Sometimes, the feelings overflow and Graça communicates them through a series of art pieces. Together, they tell a full story that is directly influenced by the process of life. It could be a divorce, an illness, or something the painter is going through. It flourishes in the form of art.
One of her series has a powerful story behind it that she only recently discovered. This particular story just revealed itself a few months ago when Graça was asked to review some of their work for our special project.
“I made 6 paintings that reflect the Bach Six Cello Suites. Later, I heard this story told by Yo Yo Ma, the cellist, and I believe he said something that was exactly what made me paint with the voice of the composer.”
The story was about Johann Sebastian Bach, a great man and genius who went through a lot of tragedy in his life. An orphan, Bach lost his wife at a young age, lost children (a total of ten of his own died as infants), and never experienced the true triumph of his work while alive. It’s the reason why a great part of Bach’s work was made during grief, except for a very special piece: the Six Cello Suites. It was most likely composed when he was serving in Köthen and he was happy. Simple as that. Married, with healthy kids, earning more money than ever, life was easy and he was calm.
Some might say that the Bach Six Cello Suites have the power to pass on the calmness of Bach, and Yo Yo Ma is one of them. Graça read where he said how often he receives letters from people all over the world, thanking him for playing the Six Suites and how it helped them through difficult moments.
For Graça, this was a confirmation of the feeling she has when she listens to the same composition while painting. This calm, joy, and someone’s voice behind it saying that everything will be fine, is the message of the Bach Six Cello Suites you’ve just listened to. This is Bach saying to us between the scores: be happy, you deserve it.
Everybody deserves happiness. And Art. And Graça!*
*Graça is the word in Portuguese for “grace,” “beauty” and “blessing.” It also means that someone or something is funny!
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