Last month the 8th Annual Bombay Sapphire New York Artisan Series Competition was held at Allouche Gallery. Art patrons of New York gathered to see art, and bid on their favorite piece. At the reception, Carlos Torres-Machado was announced as the 2017 New York Regional Winner of the Bombay Sapphire Artisan Series competition. The Ecuadorian artist won with Data Center #15—a large-scale artwork made of 41 canvases, totaling to nine feet tall.
Next week in Miami, Bombay Sapphire will host its national competition, and Torres-Machado will represent the New York region, aiming to win the grand prize of working with Artsy on a mural in New York City in spring 2018.
To learn more about his “Data Center” series, and preparing for Miami next week, we spoke with Torres-Machado.
WHITEWALL: Congrats on being the 2017 New York Regional Winner of the Bombay Sapphire Artisan Series competition! Tell us about your piece Data Center #15 that was inspired by the relation between the value of art and money.
CARLOS TORRES-MACHADO: I’m thankful for winning the Bombay Sapphire New York Artisan Series competition. Our way of viewing and processing information has changed enormously with the technological developments of the past century. We are near the one hundred years of the first broadcast of television. The first generation of baby boomers has retired. The television nowadays, because of its link to the internet, is called the intelligent one but we still call our money by the same name.
On a different note, there is a real crossover from one field to another in art and a crossbred of refreshing and provocative creations. An assortment of various kinds of realities coexist in every domain, but the way in which they are understood, used, confronted, and challenged differs tremendously from one decade to the other. Yet a few things do remain valuable: art and money, that is why I decided to concentrate on those.
I am not a geometric artist, I simplify the shapes to make my artwork susceptible to the historical as much as to the humanistic approach. I decided to use the Stock Market Data Center from New York as inspiration to create artwork that excels in the immersion of a world of paper stock into digital stock. We choose to go paperless for health/environmental reasons, and the materiality of the stock turns into a digital one that goes up and down intensely without us touching it with our fingers. We just talk about it over cellphones and/or give instructions by digital messaging and email. The fragmentation of the world, as much as that of how we communicate, doesn’t alter the importance of having un-material stock. Having the unique experience of looking at and enjoying art instead of stocks would still have an unbeatable economic essence.
WW: It’s made up to 41 canvases and stretches over 9 feet tall. Can you tell us about your starting point for this large-scale piece?
CTM: Data Center #15 is a composition of 41 individual canvases. My previous works had several colors within each canvas, but I began developing this project so that each canvas had its own color and identity. Each is painted separately using the color tonality of old and new money referencing art masters like Edvard Munch, René Magritte, and Frida Kahlo among others. The inspiration that triggered using this color palette was when I saw how all these great artists had been portrayed on their native country’s currency. I bought the bills and placed them in my studio, I even started to talk with them while working on my pieces. An idea began to grow in my mind: what if I would honor art masters on bills instead of the existing figures?
The trajectory of the bills touched by hundreds if not by millions of people would be like caressing these great artists who still give us enormous pleasure, enriching our thoughts and experiences with their paintings, drawings, and sculptures. Through a variety of color and hues, I reveal this different approach to history. My interpretation adds a layer of coherence to the relationship between money and visual arts.
The process itself of building a new Data Center, is also a personal confrontation with myself, my fears and my doubts. The white wall mutates into a ring, and time becomes everlasting. I never know what the exact end result will be before I start. All I know is that before I leave that mind space, something transcendent will end up hanging on that wall. I let my intuition work and I focus myself on enjoying the process of creation. That’s how I start building them.
WW: You were born in Ecuador. How did your upbringing influence your creative understanding? How has it carried into today and translated into today?
CTM: Last year I was interviewed by an art curator from New York, and she indicated after our meeting that my intuitive way of dealing with color is a consequence of the unconscious everyday training that my eyes had during my upbringing in Ecuador. She said that by living in an area near the Equatorial line, where the sun hits the objects on a unique way, plus living in a country with an immeasurable abundance of color tonalities in nature, is key to my understanding of the influence of light on color.
Not too long ago I had an accident and the vision in my left eye was affected, so I didn’t have any other option than to further develop and trust my intuition in order to keep working with color. All this and the influence of my mother who is a painter shaped me and provided me the creative and technical freedom to focus myself on all the sensory aspects that make up New York. Therefore, some of the information provided by my Data Centers is the translated language of my life.
WW: You’ll also be representing New York at the finale this winter in Miami during SCOPE Miami Beach. What can we expect from your presentation there?
CTM: For me, it’s an honor and a great responsibility at the same time to represent one, if not the most, powerful city of art in the world. “The Data Centers” series presentation is unique and hasn’t been seen anywhere else. It is an exclusive idea which elicits strong emotions from viewers. My goal has always been to create an intense experience within my spectators and I hope to accomplish that in the presentation.