On Wednesday afternoon, Francisco Souto and I met at Kiechel Fine Art for our sixth and final “A Memory in Peril” conversation. Here’s a short part of that hour-long talk, beginning with his comments about the appeal of the detail in his drawings.
“Part of the reason people get so intrigued about this is the level of detail," he said. "And I think what is really important for me making the work is I'm putting so much effort into this, in terms of the detail and giving everybody the individual characteristics. It's that level of care that I'm putting to them that, when the viewer sees it, there's a level of care in the viewing aspect of it. I'm sharing the caring, if you will, in that kind of triad.
"So I was really excited to see, in the opening night, people looking at the work with a magnifying glass. I'm looking at my work through magnifying glasses almost in a metaphorical way. I'm seeing my country falling apart in that kind of scientific part and the viewers are doing it in the same way. That got me pretty excited when I saw people doing that, really close contact with the work as well."
Wolgamott: As we've talked about through the whole thing, this is done with great respect for the people. That's part of the reason you don't make everyone of them look the same, right?
Souto: Right, right. As I say, this work, even though it has political connotations, what I'm trying to portray is the humanity. It's people going through these things we overlook sometimes. By giving them individual aspects of themselves, they're not just a line of people, it's a crowd of individuals. That, to me, can give you a perspective, like a cross cut of the country itself. You see many people of different races and so on, that creates a country.
Wolgamott: Technique-wise, physically, all of those things, it struck me over the course of this, you became better at this, you refined this, you became more confident, whatever is the right word. You kind of come out at end with something you're doing that I don't see anybody else doing.
Souto: I'd love to give you an answer for that, but I don't really know. When I started, early on in our conversation, the figures were really small. At that point, I was trying to do two things, one to understand the technicalities of it and also thinking would it be a good subject that I was embarking on. Then as the work progresses, my technique got better. All of a sudden anything I could imagine would be possible because I was building that technique.
So when I was doing the kids, I knew at some point after I did the "Potable water" one, that this is what the final chapter of this would be. Because these are the kids that will carry that burden for years to come, for generations to come. From that point on, I wanted to push the technique so that people can see the kids from the dirt on the shoes all the way through the mess of the hair. Then technique becomes almost invisible. It becomes invisible in the sense in the details are so well conceived, you don't even think about it, you're getting into the emotional aspect of it right way.
Wolgamott: You get into that emotional thing, in part, because it's not a photograph, which I think is important.
Souto: Right. The graphite is doing two things, we really talked about this early on. One thing, being we all know what graphite feels like, we've all held a pencil in the past, we've all made drawings, better or worse doesn't really matter. We know that.
On top of that, the second part of that equation, if you will, because I'm doing graphite I don't have to explain anything. I'm hooking you on an emotional level almost immediately. I don't have to say this is a process that goes through copper or acid or anything. I don't have to say anything. To me, there's a transparency in the primal aspect of the graphite itself. I just can't have enough of it. It's pretty exciting.
Wolgamott: If you can't enough of it. So where do you go? Is it the kids? It struck me you've hit on something, whether it's Venezuelan kids ...
Souto: Right, I think, and this may sound rather optimistic, there is a sense when I was making the kids, I believe there is a hope at the end. So I would like to stick with them. I think potentially, they'll get a little bigger. I think the country is about to burst and I want to be a witness when that happens. I want to see that bubble burst while I'm sitting at my drawing table. That optimistic aspect will allow me to continue making works until that potentially happens, for the better, for the country. That's my hope. I think that's what it is, man.
Wolgamott: I think that's the perfect place to go.
Souto: When I started these things, things were really getting to a point where it is literally about to burst. The oil companies are not producing enough, now we're buying oil from the U.S. I want to be there when that happens. I think that will be, in a way, a springboard for the work to do something else, right? If that happens, my work happens, then there's a new beginning in a way. That's how I envision it.
Wolgamott: The series may be over, but the story ...
Souto: The story hasn't finished yet. I just came to realize based on your questions that is why I'm done for the show, but I'm not done yet. I'm hoping for that to happen, maybe by the end of the year things will turn for the better. It's got to get worse before it gets better. But it will get better. And I'm thinking of getting bigger, without a doubt.