Painter Giovanni Garcia-Fenech is Haunted and not Afraid to Talk About it.

Aug 17, 2018 7:27PM

Queens-based painter GIOVANNI GARCIA-FENECH sat down with MACHAMUX to talk about his new body of work — a series of amorphous apparitions.

Garcia-Fenech speaking at the Artist Lecture Series, Brooklyn, NY. Photo © Konrad von Tzefenblase.

Giovanni — you’ve mentioned that your ghosts are inspired by early abstractionists like Kandinsky, Mondrian, and Hilma af Klint who were also followers of theosophy, an esoteric religion focused on spiritual evolution. Can you elaborate on this?

I found it intriguing that abstract painting came from a bunch of artists who believed their art would somehow usher in a new age of spirituality, yet today we tend to look at it through whatever materialist theory happens to be in vogue. My thought was that these ghosts were the spiritual origins of modernism coming back to haunt it.

What do you think attracted early abstractionists to theosophy, and how might it apply to an artist in our time?

I think artists were attracted to theosophy for the same reason many other people at that time were — they were concerned by the corrosive effects that industrialization was having on communities and on culture, but instead of looking backwards, they envisioned a better future. I’m no theosophist, but I share their opposition to the belief that only science and money can define who we are.

What’s the difference between your ghosts and your self-portraits?

I had reached a dead end with the self-portraits, and rather than trying to find a new way of making them I thought I’d take what I learned and start something new. It took me about two years of failed paintings before I got to the ghosts.

Are you ever haunted by ghosts of your own paintings or former selves?

Both! I painted black and white abstractions for many years before I started doing self-portraits, and the new ghost paintings feel like the return of something I thought I had put to rest. I often find myself remembering how I felt when I was making the earlier paintings nearly a decade ago.

Garcia-Fenech Studio, Queens, NY. Courtesy of the artist.

Your new paintings are made with “Flashe." Can you explain what that is?

Flashe was the precursor to acrylic paint. It’s vinyl-based, and I use it because it’s very flat and matte. It also dries fast, which I like because I work very quickly.

How do you feel about artists who do not paint their own paintings?

It’s fine, but I don’t consider them painters. And I curse the ones who lie about it.

You told Wallpaper Magazine: “Leaving the art world has been the best thing I could do for my career as an artist.” Why?

I worked in the art world for more than a decade, and being in that environment was making me see art in terms of money and trends, and I didn’t want any part of that. Stepping away helped me get back in touch with my original reasons for wanting to paint.

Can you tell us an art world secret?

Most people in the art world don’t know what they’re doing, but they know how to talk.

You developed a significant online following of your commentary, criticism, and saturnine humor on Twitter. You retired from this platform and are now only on Instagram. How do you feel about this transition from text-based communication to image-based communication?

When the 2016 elections came along Twitter started to feel toxic, even within the small group of people I followed, so I left. I also left Facebook for the same reason. Instagram is far from perfect, but I appreciate that it’s introduced me to a lot of great artists whom I probably wouldn’t have otherwise discovered.

What was the last book you read?

John Yau’s The Wild Children of William Blake, a collection of essays about artists on the peripheries of the mainstream art world. I liked it, of course.

Check out ten (or more) of Giovanni Garcia-Fenech’s Ghosts in Now & Then, More of Less at Machamux and follow him on instagram @giovannigfnyc, if you wish. Yours Truly, @MachamuxGallery

Giovanni Garcia-Fenech, Ghost V. Courtesy of the artist.