Gonzaga Gómez-Cortázar Romero
Gonzaga Gómez-Cortázar Romero is from Bilbao, Spain, and based in New York City. His environmental art work has been exhibited at numerous galleries and venues around the world. His most recent project was exhibited at COP27 thanks to IkonoTV's program Art Speaks Out. He studied Audiovisual Communication BA (Hons) at the University of the Basque Country, Bilbao, Spain. During those years he was awarded an Erasmus grant that allowed him to study Film and Communication at the Sorbonne Nouvelle University in Paris. He lived and worked in Lisbon thanks to a Leonardo Da Vinci grant and in London. He is the Co-founder of A La Luz, a wide ranging platform for sustainable and environmentally focused art. He is part of the Temporal School of Experimental Geography (TSOEG), an itinerant network of artists sharing ideas and responses to landscape through fieldwork.
Environmental Artist: Gonzaga Gómez-Cortázar Romero
Based in New York, USA
Culturally Arts Collective features:
"On The Rise", January 12th - March 31st, 2022,
Milostka Center for Exhibitions
How are your works born and what is the most important aspect that links them? If there are some, what other artworks/artists have inspired you?
My creative process starts with silent observation and reflection. The appearance of our environment as static is something I play with by showing just how transient, even fragile, it is. From a visual standpoint, natural light and darkness play an important role in my works, whilst silence and natural enveloping sounds create my soundscapes.
My practice is inspired by art from all kinds of eras and disciplines. Cinema has a big influence in my work, but also photography, painting and land art, to name a few. Some of the films by Terrence Malick, for example, had a huge impact on me and that is reflected on my work. When it comes to painting, I feel particularly moved and inspired by a lot of the work from the Pre-Raphaelites, but I could name many other artistic movements and periods. In recent years, I’ve been closely following the projects by artist Katie Paterson, because I find her work particularly breathtaking, inspiring, and meaningful.
What message are you hoping to convey through your works?
The subjects of my work are always familiar, but they are presented as unique and transcendent. Simple things anyone can find in our surroundings, such as plants, trees, rivers, or snow, can become the subject of my work and I always aim to extract their most subtle and even mystical qualities. By highlighting the ephemerality, delicacy and value of our environment I aim for the viewer to feel connected to it. I think that this—feeling connected to the world we live in—is the first step to wanting to take care of it.
Perpetual Snow, by Gonzaga Gómez-Cortázar Romero
How has your work as a photographer/interdisciplinary artist evolved to reflect climate change solutions?
I have always been drawn to nature and the environment, so my art has always reflected that in one way or another. In the past few years, however, my work has acquired a more direct focus on climate change. My works don’t really offer solutions, but I hope the solutions are implied. I feel like through my work I offer an invitation to pause, reflect and connect to their environment. I aim to provoke an emotional reaction in the viewer rather than a rational one. Science can provide the data and information to make rational decisions and build policies to help tackle the climate crisis, but I believe art has the power to offer new perspectives and, most importantly, create emotions that can fuel action. This was a strong motivation to focus most of my work on environmental issues.
In your works, what are the aspects related to your personal experiences (for example: personal testimonies related to local climate change)?
My personal experiences are essential to my work. My work responds directly to my emotional connection to locations. I am from Bilbao, a city in northern Spain by the sea with a moderate climate that has typically seen a lot of rain, but I also have roots in Andalucía, in southern Spain, where mediterranean and semiarid landscapes are abundant. This contrast made me observe and appreciate the differences in the landscape, and I have been able to notice how throughout my lifetime these environments and its weather patterns have changed.
The problem of climate change is also having an impact on the lives of individuals: where does your need to treat the theme of climate change as the subject of your works come from?
Greta Thumberg said “Our house is on fire.” I feel the need to use whatever is in my hands to help put out that fire, because I don’t think I have any other option. Something must be done. Art is a very powerful tool to foster action and shift mindsets. It has the ability to establish an emotional connection with our environment that data and statistics lack. I love science, but I'm not a scientist. Art is the tool I have at hand to fight for change.
The issues of climate change and sustainability, while burning for some time, have only been embraced by the masses in recent years: what kind of reactions have you received from audiences towards your work? Did you notice a different approach to them through the generation of your audience?
With my work, I try to offer tools to help people see what was already there before their eyes, as if it was a magnifying glass. My art is quite accessible, so people are able to understand it and connect with it immediately. I like the fact that they are able to see something familiar from a new perspective.
In terms of sustainability, several artists/designers are trying to make their contribution, applying sustainable practices in their artistic-production process, but also turning the spotlight on specific realities around which to create debate: what role, as an artist, do you feel you play in the context we are living in?
The role I play is bringing to the spotlight the delicate nature of our home. I believe it’s key to understand this and to have an emotional connection to our planet if we hope for humanity to change its relationship to the world.
What are the solutions that artists can implement to protect the environment and fight climate change?
Artists can help raise awareness as well as provoke emotions and discussion about the environmental crisis. Basically, we have the ability to keep the conversation and the debate alive so that actions are eventually taken.