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Portfolio Review #10 / Gregori Saavedra


Who are you and what do you do?

Something I did not use to do during the ten years I spent working as creative director in several advertising agencies. Fortunately I quitted and started as freelance illustrator, also director, in 2003. This year I took all my family and stuff and moved to London. Why? Life is short and world is small.


Why do you do what you do?

Well, at the very beginning I admit I was not able to stop. I was a copywriter and suddenly I did not want to be that anymore. It was crazy. I did not have any savings so it was really urgent to find out an economic solution for my decision. I use to sell others' products, then I thought that I could create a piece to sell myself. But truly, being 100% honest. I bought a laptop, a camera, a bike and I create a video piece titled Enjoy your worries. My first video work. I sent it to 100 people. People who I loved, people who I admired, people who could have the answer I was searching for. What am I? Obviously I did not get the answer from them. The answer was the video itself. After that one I created another one, and another, and another,… I could not stop and by that time I got a collection of useless pieces I did not know what to do with. Then it came a friend of mine with a deal: "if you create a video for me, I will program a website for you". Deal! I delivered my part, the video, and then started designing my first own website. I was not a designer, neither an illustrator but I decided to try. That website was my first step in illustration. And once again I couldn't stop. I need to keep on illustrating. All day, all night. And look at me now, Gregori Saavedra is an illustrator, also director.


How do you work?

My work method is not just a method. It a life style. My illustrations and video works are both collages. I need hundreds and hundreds of images to create them. It means I need to go outside and take this pictures. It is the way to take me out. I could be all the time in front of my laptop, but that's insane. The real world is out there and I like to be physically connected to it, through my eyes, my hands, my feet, not just through a wire.


What’s your background?

I studied Information Sciences at the University of Barcelona. After that I start working in advertising agencies as copywriter. After some time and some agencies I became creative director. I had a nice place, a wonderful wife, a beautiful daughter, but… I was never at my place, with my wife and my daughter. I was always at the agency. All the time. Even when I was not, my mind was there. But our body is extremely intelligent. It reacted. One day I suffered an anxiety attack. I could not breath. I thought I was dying but, in fact, it was a second birth. An opportunity. To see, to change, to live. Then I quitted.

What’s integral to the work of an artist?

Expression? Every artwork must be an uncontrollable necessity to express an idea, a thought,… In my case, I conceive the artist work as a translation work. Messages come to me in different ways. From the present, from my memories, from my imagination. I just translate them into images.


What role does the artist have in society?

We should inspire. We should shock. We should be social rockets. Art is the most primitive way of revolution. Sometimes a private revolution, sometimes a worldwide change. Artist use to be disappointed, at least it happens to me, and go for a kind of transformation. But, anyway, we just launch messages. We never know the effect of our pieces.

What has been a seminal experience?

A seminal experience. There is nothing compare to that experience.


How has your practice change over time

I feel like I try to get more detail, more shades, to escape from obvious. But it is just a try. I am not sure if I am getting it.


What art do you most identify with?

In between hiperrealism and surrealism. I am in love with both. Maybe it is a contradiction but I am a contradiction. I have always been. I am gemini. I am always in both sides. That's an issue that comes out really often in my work.


What work do you most enjoying doing?

I must say that I am a very lucky guy. I use to enjoy all the time, with the most of my projects. People who call me know exactly what I do, so there is no way to confusion. I always try to do my best. It doesn't matter if it is a big project or a small one. I guess I am the kind of person who convert anything in a challenge. A challenge to do something I did never do before. A challenge to go forward. A challenge to explore.


What’s your strongest memory of your childhood?

It is still stuck into my memory. I remember the feeling, the lighting, the smell,… Everything. It's afternoon, about 5pm, after tea time. I am at my grandmother's house, sitting in her kitchen. Watching at her still black and white TV set. Watching some tons series. Drawing what I was watching at. That's it. That's my childhood treasure. The best one.

What themes do you pursue?

Every week there is a different one. One day I am worried about this , next one I am concerned about that,… I am 0% stable. Today, for example, I am focused in the Japan nuclear crisis because of the earthquake and tsunami. Japan Red Cross asked me to create a wallpaper for iPads, iPhones,… Just for now, just for real.

What’s your scariest experience?

Wow. Nice question! 9 years ago, after quitting from my position as executive creative director in EuroRSCG. It was a sunny afternoon in L'Emporda, the spanish Tuscany. I looked apparently relaxed. Seated under a fig tree, my baby born daughter sleeping in my arms, a kind breeze blowing around, an infinite wheat field in front of my eyes, but no calm at all reigned inside me. I did not confessed it to anyone. I was terrified. A family, a mortgage,… And no job, no savings, … I illustrated that terrible moment in my piece titled "Scared".

What’s your favourite art work?

There are several ones. Almost all of them. The wine labels for Clos del Portal. Grandes Obras Universales, the tv series I directed for TVE. The cover for Fever Pitch music album. The work for Die Ziet newspaper,…

Describe a real-life situation that inspired you?

I am wide opened to any real-life-inspiring-situation. In fact, I conceive my work as a private diary where to express what it happens to me. Anything inspires me. Anything. For example, this morning. I was plugging my iPhone and I got inspired by all the cable world over my work desk. I took some pictures and start creating a new artwork based in this plugging concept. As you can see anything can affect my work.

What’s your most embarrassing moment?

I was riding my motorbike back from Le Mans (France) to Barcelona (Spain). It was 1991. Too fast. I had to take a plane to Birmingham and I was late. Then, just a few miles from the border with Spain, police got me. Fuck! They took me to the police station. The fine was a fortune, much more than I had in my pockets. As I told them I was not able to afford the speeding ticket, they informed me that in that case they should keep my motorbike until I came back with the money. Impossible. My flight! There was just one option: humiliation. I knelt down, held the officer's leg and begged his pardon. Don't laugh, I can hear you.

What jobs have you done other than being an artist?

I payed my university studies working as secretary in a steel stamping company. After graduation, I worked as copywriter and creative director in some advertising agencies. Since 2003, when my freelance career started, I worked as director, graphic designer, photographer and whatever somebody thought I could do.

Why art?

It was not a choice. It's like a tsunami. Something you are not able stop. Art invaded my life, my mind, my consciousness, my unconsciousness,… I couldn't die without creating what I had in mind. No way. Art is an extremely primitive behaviour. I just felt the uncontrollable force of expressing myself. That was it and that still is. Maybe you call it art. I just call it necessity. A kind of animal behaviour.


What is an artistic outlook on life?

There is an artist friend of mine who can be useful to answer this question. His name is Sergi Botella. He conceives art not just as a collection of pieces. He deeply believes that life is art and the way you live it makes it relevant or not. He explores, collects and documents life experiences, most of them use to be painful, and convert everyone of them in a piece of art. His artwork is his life. I agree 100%.

What memorable responses have you had to your work?

More than I ever expected. Illustrative, the international illustration forum selected me two consecutive years (2007 & 2008) as one of the 20 most relevant artist worldwide. In 2009 UNESCO granted his CODE prize to my work as one of the best illustrators of the year. And the best one by distance, my father bought secretly one of my pieces during my first exhibition in Paris ("Escape" at MH Karst Gallery). I discovered later on, a day he invited me to have a dinner in his flat and it was there, hanging in his reception. Amazing.


What food, drink, song inspires you?

My life is really simple. I weak up, I have a quite shower, I get the breakfast ready for my wife and daughters, I took them to school, I swim for half an hour and in the way to my studio I get all I need to cook a nice meal. Everyday. I work from 10am to 1pm, then I serve a glass of spanish red wine, I turn on my iPod, and I transform myself into a cook. Just for an hour. I love the mathematics behind cooking. Which songs? Most of my mornings, walking by Portobello, I meet Damon Albarn. I love his work. It use to be the soundtrack of my cookings. After lunch, I come back to work until late night. With all the inspiration I got from that wonderful hour of food, drink and music.

Is the artistic life lonely? What do you do to counteract it?

I really do not know if it happens the same to all artists. But yes, in my case, art means loneliness. It is very private travel. An inside job. The way I invented to avoid my self-isolation is my own technique. Collage needs images. Images are out there. So, I need to go and look for every image I need to complete my artworks. That's my way to go out and stay in contact with the world outside.


What do you dislike about the art world?

It's a topic: the business around art. Human kind need art to evolve. Imagination and revolution from artists inspire scientists and engineers. Art stimulates human kind. It should not be related to any business. It should kept far away from any economic interest. If not we just get in touch with some ideas, usually the not so embarrassing ones. Art must be provocateur, must awake our unconscious. Art is not decoration, is decor-action.

What do you dislike about your work?

To be a self employed professional means to be responsible for everything. Not just for the creative tasks, also for a lot of other kind of stuff (estimates, accountancy, promotion,…). But such a kind of liberty must pay some price and this is it. I do not have any problem to pay for it. I really enjoy the freelance activity and I accept whatever it means.


What do you like about your work?

What I love most about my work is the opportunity it offers me to be myself, to express myself, to explore myself. I feel really lucky about it. I do not have to lie, i do not have to be another one. I can be myself. If I do not agree anything I can say it, I can say no, I can say yes. I love to be illustrator today, I love to be director tomorrow, I love to be copywriter the day after tomorrow. I love to be a multi-task professional. It is the way to be always excited and avoid any kind of boring.


Should art be funded?

Yes, yes, yes and yes. It should be. Definitely. It is the only way to keep artists away from commercial activity. If not, it means a waste of time. Artists are not here to get exploited for commercial targets. They are here to suffer and convert they suffering into some kind of estimating pills for the rest of the world. We all need to pay rent, taxes, water, gas, telephone, electricity, food,… Even artists. As far as art is not funded it means artists must work eventually as suppliers for commercial business. What a shame.



What makes you angry?

In boxing there is a place in the ring called the pain-corner, opposite to the neutral one. It is where punches come from everywhere. Where you can fight, but where you can never win. Where everything comes dark. That was the place I was ten years ago. I just saw the dark side of human kind. I thought there was nothing to do, everything was lost. That was a time of injustice and egoism. The time of George Bush in USA, Aznar in Spain, Afganistan and Irak's invasions,… So I can tell you that injustice and egoism make me really, really, really angry.


What superpower would you have and why?

X Ray vision, of course. I am extremely curious. A voyeur. An spy. I would like to see through walls to know what they hide. In fact, when I was a kid I bought a X-ray glasses. The advert was clear: do you want to see the truth? Unfortunately, the ones they sent me were defective and did not work. What a shame.


Name something you love, and why.

I love surprises among any other thing. I really love them. The "unexpected" fascinates me. Anything new means creation, and as a creative I know how difficult is to find out a new idea. There is a lot of evolutive stuff out there, copies, transformations,.. But surprises…? Not so many.


Name something you don’t love, and why.

I don't love people who finish sentences with the question: "do you understand?". I really hate it. If I do not ask anything, it means I understood everything. No?


What is your dream project?


Two years ago I almost got it. It was a new tea company. They wanted me to create 100 illustrations for their 100 new teas from all over the world. An interesting project indeed. It meant travel around the world to take all the pictures I would need to create my artworks. Finally they decided to invest in a hotel and let the tea business for the future. What a pity.



Name three artists you’d like to be compared to?

Number 1: Leonardo Da Vinci, of course. The master, the wise man, the renaissance spirit himself. The main multi-task artist ever. I guess he was also a very curious guy. Curiosity is like fuel that makes creative minds move forward. I am sure he was addicted to curiosity. I am too. Number 2: Sidney Lumet, my favourite cinema director. He explored into the deep abysses of human kind. Our darker sides. A free mind, never interested in the Hollywood business machinery. I can imagine he was just interested in a personal research. Once again, somebody curious fascinates me. And number 3: Hieronymus Bosch, one of the most revolutionary draftsmen in the history of art. His imagination, his complexity, his world of million details,… Simply amazing. I can stand hours in front of his master pieces. My favourite one? The temptation of St Anthony. Crazy.


Favourite or most inspirational place?

No doubt, Varanasi, in India. The legendary city founded by the hindu deity, Lord Shiva, 5000 years ago. The centre of the planet in hindu cosmology. Full of life, full of death. Full of everything. A playground for the senses. A colourful place, a magic place, and also a tough one. A place that feeds imagination and inspiration.


What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

I've been given two great advises in my life. First: enjoy your worries, you may never have them again. And second: take time.


Professionally, what’s your goal?

Well, I think it could the decision of quitting from advertising. I was not happy there, selling ideas to people who did not care about ideas. Just care about money. It meant a lot of fear and disorientation, but… No pain, no gain. Now, I feel happy, I feel lucky.


What wouldn’t you do without?

There is none object I am deeply linked to. We moved to London with just two bags. I just need my wife and daughters. I could do nothing at all without them. They are my

north, my south, my everything.


London, May, 2011


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All the best
Cure Studio

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