I have never been able to separate the images of Takeshi Kitano’s films from Joe Hisaishi’s soundtracks. In my memories they are always linked, both with their economy of means propose the essential in the interest of poetic stories brimming with life. In both authors there is an apparent emptiness, long pauses like prolonged sighs. It is precisely in these parentheses that I remain enraptured.
Francesco Giaveri: You started as a painter, didn’t you? Jaime Hayon I started as an artist, I never thought of industrialising anything I did. I started making ceramics by hand. And then came the world of design… Always in my own way, looking for the sensation of creativity and that’s it. In my head there were never any distinctions or barriers.
FG: Nor categories…
JH: Not at all! I’ve always experienced it in a very natural way. I get excited about what I do, I keep learning and discovering every day. Versatility in creativity has always existed, it’s so fundamental that it doesn’t seem strange to me. Historically, of course, it has always been there.
Jaime Hayon’s first solo exhibition at L21 proposes a journey through a jungle populated by fantastic animals. The journey inside and outside the large canvases flows naturally, organically and pleasantly. In some, strange yet familiar beings appear, with athletic bodies and a friendly appearance, surrounded by a flora brimming with loose strokes and explosive colours. In others, from flower vases sprout vegetation so sinuous that it seems liquid, as it climbs up the uniform background of the canvas. The sculptures function as counterpoints or sounding boards. The echoes between the works which Hayon orchestrates multiply in the gallery space. And a fabulous harmony reigns in his exuberant creative universe.
When we approach Jaime Hayon’s canvases, the details multiply and envelop us: from his flower vases emerge not only flowers, but animals, bodies, tattoos, faces and stars. And, from the brushstrokes that form the foliage, leaves and flowers proliferate in a myriad of lines, patterns, colours and sparkles that fill the canvases in an explosion of paint. Playing at representing pure life in movement. Putting fences around the mountain and always leaving a door open to escape.
FG: Where are you at the moment?
JH: With painting! Now a new stage is beginning for me in which I am expressing myself through painting, trying, experimenting, studying with this medium and I’m sure it will get better and better, more and more intense, more and more controlled. All this exercise that I am doing, – be it with drawings or producing ceramic elements, bronze, panels, wood or fabrics, etc. – all of it is deriving and configuring itself into a coherent world in which I recognise myself… And which today is painting, but tomorrow this same cosmos will ask me for something else. That’s why this exhibition at L21 is so important for me. The gallery is special too. It’s different, and I like that! Breaking the rules is the order of the day, in my life at least. And I think for Óscar and his gallery too [laughs].
One of Kitano’s films that I like the most is Hana-Bi. I watched it again while I was thinking about this text. The first works by Jaime Hayon that I saw finished were the vase paintings. At the beginning I confess that I sang a Rolling Stones’ classic, Dead Flowers (1971) and the traces of flowers and plants moved on my screen like Mick Jagger on stage, making spins and spirals. However, as more images of the works that make up this exhibition arrived, it was clear that the whole group of works evokes a daytime and outdoor light. So Hana-Bi seems to me to be a better reference, not only because of its title: ‘Fireworks’, although it would literally be ‘Fire-flower’. But above all because of the painting of Horibe, one of its protagonists, who, desperate and wounded after being shot and confined to a wheelchair, finds an escape route in painting. In one scene of the film we see the genesis of his creation when he stops in front of a flower shop. There he begins his journey towards the fantastic, towards his creative universe, an imaginary place that he builds up and which offers him shelter and some serenity. There, the eyes of a face are two flowers, the head of a lion is a sunflower, a whale is tattooed with a white flower, and so on. The film shows a series of Horibe’s works accompanied by Hisaishi’s music. Finally, in the credits of the film, we discover that Kitano himself is the author of these works.
Jaime Hayon no longer awaits or longs for the world transfigured in paint that Cézanne spoke of. If he reaches out his hand to the spectator, it is to take him on a journey into his own cosmos. His works provide an escape to a pleasant place, a universe built from emptiness, where creativity delves deep and deposits signs or hieroglyphs, like sketches and notes in a notebook, day after day, allowing the personal language to be refined and its elements to be fed back.
As we approach the sculptures that round the exhibition, their materiality traps us, but only for an instant, as immediately their reflection returns us to movement. We slip down sinuous surfaces as if on a slide. And more colours and more dances… While a character with wings, light blue, with legs and Japanese flip-flops, wanders happily through the exhibition. As in a Bosch filtered through a Fantasy Anime. Or the silhouettes of the late Matisse engraved in technicolor, the different planes and layers of brushstrokes of “the customs officer Rousseau”, or the machine-spun and hand-spun Jan Brueghel flower vases which have become Anni Albers textiles. Everything is bathed in an abundance of Mediterranean light that at times obscures the other ingredients…
FG: Taking into account your career and your productions in so many different fields, I have the feeling that everything has its origin in a very welldefined creative universe, structured through lines, gestures, shapes and signs that make up a real language. This is continually nourished by an overflowing imagination that throughout your career has also been enriched by a continuous collaboration with producers and great craftsmen all over the world. This direct contact through the most refined knowledge of countless materials has allowed the characters of your cosmos to continue to evolve and sprout into ever new aesthetic and narrative possibilities.
JH: It’s exactly as you say. Consider what it has meant for me a long experience in the daily exercise with space, design, forms… Working with furniture companies or other objects of the highest quality level in Denmark, Italy, etc., through which Le Corbusier or F.L. Wright have passed, has been an extraordinary experience. It has allowed me to become familiar with a world of craftsmanship and techniques of enormous sophistication. It has been extraordinarily valuable to be able to look out and collaborate with people with such incredible knowledge and to have the means to put it into practice, seeking the best every day in order to achieve perfection in the result. To have chewed on this culture of know-how for more than twenty years has been an enormous fortune and an experience that is of course in my painting and translates into everything I am doing now.
In COSMOTIK JUNGLE Jaime Hayon presents comings and goings from his creative world, a universe populated and nurtured over more than two decades in a constant and obsessive way to accommodate an entire planet of precise chromatic forms and rhythms. The urge to move, discover and enjoy infects every canvas and every sculpture in this exhibition, a microcosm that continually grows. The artist achieves a tense balance between shapes and colours, brightness and shadows, as if he were a tightrope walker. His peculiar narrative and his unmistakable language guide us along a subtle but accurate path through the jungle, in a happy, joyful and organic wandering. Perhaps because this exhibition comes at the end of summer, perhaps because one of the compositions that has most moved and obsessed me for decades by Hisaishi is the one he composed for the film Kikujiro by Kitano, and is titled, if I may be redundant, Summer, but it is precisely there where the sensorial echoes of this exhibition take me. The journey of the little protagonist who needs to leave to a better place, with his blue backpack with white wings, or just someone to accompany him along the way, is in a cosmos that springs from an unbridled imagination thanks to the staging of his crude companion. When for example he severely directs two unfortunate motorcyclists by forcing them to play puffer fish and octopus, aliens or human watermelons… “You will simplify painting”, Gustave Moreau prophesied to a pupil in his studio called Matisse, Ángel González García told us. We should be looking very closely at what this simplification or “deep cleaning” of painting consists of. For the time being, it seems pertinent to think that so much painting painting leads to a synthesis, to saying more with less, eliminating the accessory. However, ornament is also a vital rhythm, an appropriate metaphor for the beating of the heart; so it is good that it should be softened and even calmed down, but not yet stopped altogether. The right measure is in the scenes of Kikujiro, where we enjoy the imagination and the ellipsis, the emptiness and the pause that goes on a little longer than necessary, the seemingly simple that has so much to tell us. We long for that which takes us elsewhere, just as we need to rest and comfort ourselves in a jungle populated by fantastic animals for a long and joyful time; on our return we will have more than enough reasons to be in the dark.
JH: This doesn’t worry me, inside me I know what the painting needs, if I have to add something more and I know when I have to stop, when the balance for the eye reaches order, I recognise this balance, and then I stop. But perfection, this special quality of light… I work with this obsession, with wanting to bring the canvas there, at this exact point…