Arts preview: Los Carpinteros turn confusion into an art form

Edmund Lee

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 October, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 16 October, 2013, 10:48pm

Edouard Malingue Gallery


You're not alone: the duo behind Cuban-born, primarily Madrid-based collective Los Carpinteros are just as confused about the delirious blend of art, design and architecture in their sometimes functional and often playful body of work as everyone else.

"The functionality of the things we make is fascinating, because we're totally confused about it," says Dagoberto Rodríguez Sánchez, who formed Los Carpinteros in 1991 with Marco Antonio Castillo Valdés, and Alexandre Jesus Arrechea Zambrano, who left the group in 2003. "Sometimes we don't know the nature of the things that we produce. We have the intuition to make the logical [decisions], but we don't know the consequences."

The duo are presenting two recent lines of work at their first solo exhibition in Asia: large-scale watercolour drawings that depict chaotic, imaginary structures built with Lego blocks, and prototype sculptures of "reading room" architecture, which the artists derived from philosopher Michel Foucault's idea of the panopticon prison, before subverting its surveillance principle, and adapting it for library building purposes.

Both series explore the idea of space, and have a long history in Los Carpinteros' oeuvre. Sánchez jokes that the selection of the drawings stems from the fact that "we're in the mood of Lego". It is a theme that aptly corresponds to the duo's fascination with construction materials, such as bricks and cinder blocks.

"These scenarios have been made to make you feel small. We want to give the feeling of isolation that happens in the human life today," says Sánchez.

Valdés says: "[The drawings] give you a sensation of multiplicity. They are, in a certain way, a question about the development of a construction: the idea of China becoming a crazy, almost maniacally constructive country. We reflect on this inhuman aspect with these drawings. It's almost like an illness of construction."

Sánchez and Valdés maintain that they're happy to trade the concept of individual authorship for collaborative practice. "People think visual art is something you make in a closed room, with almost no light, but that is not the reality," says Sánchez.

"Visual art needs people; it needs to be communicated and spread. It's one of the most social practices in the world. Nobody works 100 per cent alone."

Says Valdés: "And there's always the influence of your partner, your critic, or maybe your assistant."

"Or your mum," says Sánchez.

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Edouard Malingue Gallery, 1/F, 8 Queen's Road Central, Monday-Saturday, 10am-7pm. Ends November 23. Inquiries: 2810 0317