Field Trip #2: Zaragoza

Maite Puntes finds Liverpool born artist Steve Gibson bringing light to people in Zaragoza…

After four months living in Liverpool I came back to my home town, Zaragoza (a town pretty much slap-bang in between Barcelona and Madrid) for Christmas. I was looking forward to meeting family and friends but I also wanted to walk the city and hopefully, be surprised by something new. To be honest, I knew it was an illusion that could only be satisfied by the new project of the artist Steve Gibson: LASARMAS300. Originally from Liverpool (leaving for Spain at the age of 20), Gibson was the one who urged me to “go to Liverpool, you will like living there.”

LASARMAS300 is a project taking its name from the street where it is developed (Las Armas) and the number of portraits Gibson will do in 10 years (you guessed it, 300!). His aim is “to create a historical archive of anonymous people through their portraits.” And how will those people be chosen? There is a camera inside the venue that everybody can shoot from the street to take a photo of him or herself. A monthly program will choose a random selection of the images which Gibson will translate into large format portraits. As every work is finished it will be hanged on the premise walls, so that the public can always see the last portraits done. The others will, step by step, go toward making a kind of time machine, documenting the work chronologically.

LASARMAS300 is also live art. Gibson has fixed some hours of opening (Thu-Fri, 9pm-12 pm, Sat 17pm-22 pm and Sun 12am- 15pm) so that people can see him working, get a feel for how the drawing process works or simply get used to this artful new neighbour, who feels the project “should be facilitated for people to get arts and culture.” Gibson had the chance to put this idea in to practice when Zaragoza’s council decided to rent eight premises to promote the development of artistic and young enterprising projects. The objective was to boost the area, a popular but poor neighbourhood in the city centre. What Gibson is doing there is bringing art to people; fostering and feeding a demand previously going unmet.

Beginning last November, he has already completed 4 portraits to date. LasARMAS300 is a 10 year project, a period of time which Gibson recognises leaves a lot of room for change. “I don´t know how I will work then, how the project will progress. Now I´m drawing with a specific trace but it will change, besides, it’s a project which could be put together with other ideas and actions.” Beneath the figures – 300 portraits in 10 years – lives the idea of repetition/ recurrence, forcing other ideas to emerge.

Now his home, Zaragoza is where Gibson has developed much of his career, but, he says “I´m from Liverpool… [it] is the city that made me”. And though thoroughly settled and welcomed in Spain, he feels his practice is neither restricted to one place or the other: “I just need to be alone with my ideas and my thoughts.”

Gibson’s creativity and talent is impressed in these portraits as in all his work. Best known for his sculptures, he develops a personal work full of a sensibility that cannot be missed despite the strength of the images he creates. Combing a masterful talent and a sensitivity for people, he has this kind of Liverpudlian pride in being a work class artist.

With the best part of a decade to go and see this project, there’s little excuse not to find the time for a trip to Zaragoza incorporating a little taste of home.

Maite Puntes

Images courtesy Jesús Llaría

Posted on 25/01/2012 by thedoublenegative