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This year has been a first for many. But despite the uncertain climate in which we live, one of the amazing things about this year is the number of people who have started to create art or have rediscovered their love for it. Whether it be to keep those mental health issues at bay or as a form of entertainment, this creative revolution has been widespread. 

Five years later, Gavin Garcia is keeping his promise, actually exceeding it, with a new portfolio of seascapes exploiting muddy hues, assertive brushstrokes with the cheeky intervention of the palette knife and an affectionate eye for anything rickety, tatty, humble and d’antan. 

Gavin has been living and working in London for the past ten years: “I’m based in England. I’ve made it my home for the past decade and I work from my house. I don’t have a studio, so there are times where the scale of my work is compromised by my surroundings. This can present its own practical challenges when an idea is first approached and realised.”

Gibraltar is still pretty much his main inspiration, with his aerial views or facades of the Old Town, and his nostalgic tribute to fishermen’s life. Los Pescadores del Ayer, entered in the National Week’s ‘Our Gibraltar’ exhibition, attracted my attention amidst the high standard of entries because of its vintage quality: a pretty picture painted in the style of turn-of-last-century avant-garde painters, post-Impressionist and naïve, with some poetic licence in the treatment of perceived perspective, and attention to the geometric texture of the background.

But what struck me the most was the colour combination used; despite clearly being a seascape, the blue palette is almost absent! It features only en passant in the flaky sky-blue trimming of the farthest boat, jutting into a pewter-hued sea under milky skies.

The rest of the painting is all about subdued earthy tones, from the olive greens of the Rock in the background to the ivory sand, and sugar-cube houses with crusty-bread roofs: understated vibes that reflect the ineluctability of the fishermen’s livelihood, coming to terms with their silent daily labour at the mercy of the elements, and the weight of grey days hunching their shoulders and flopping their berets.

“My most recent work focuses on boats and the sea, a subject new to me,” Gavin says. And indeed, he’s been painting several types of boats and barges, where sky or sea blues are still notably absent, except for the vessel’s paintwork, curiously enough.

“The next chapter is now heading towards larger work and the human form again. I’ve also been exploring the spaces where we live, with a particular interest in those forgotten or tucked-away areas, including Gibraltar’s old town, which has been a constant source of inspiration within my work.”

Yes, his Gibraltar cityscapes are laden with nostalgia for ganged-up buildings which seem to hold each other up with their slightly wobbly, organic lines, shabby shutters, and arched doorways, always in palettes fitter for a bakery than a fine arts studio, and, surprisingly, criss-crossed by aerial electricity cables, a quaint yet unsafe sight usually to behold in Andalusian pueblos blancos only.

Gavin paints mostly places he has visited personally: “Working from first-hand sources is important to me, as I feel that having a connection to a location I’ve been to, and documented, can create a stronger bond between artist and work. Going out into the world, documenting, and then creating work based on my personal ‘excursions’ creates a bond with myself and hopefully the onlooker.”

And what about his signature portraits, so bare and yet so vivid? “Portraiture and the human form took centre stage in my work, but have recently taken a step back. It’s always there in my mind, whether in the form of future ideas, or how I see people and the body, not just their faces. I will always be drawn to the human figure and portraits.”

He shuns from describing his own style, stating he prefers others to comment on what they see in his work, which he would catalogue within expressionism. “I’d say there is an expressive nature to my work, and I try to bring my drawing, which tends to be fairly quick, into painting production, drifting away from an overuse of detail.”

Fast and thorough can indeed be matched: “The focus instead is on trying to achieve an energy and emotion through my oil paintings. Often, I’m fraught between figurative and trying to capture that magic of expression, regardless of how realistic the work is.” With a bit of an ‘inner battle’, though: “The battle isn’t yet over. I certainly have grown in confidence as to how I feel about my lines, marks and paintings in general; yet, I’m still quite critical of them and will continue to be.”

His art aims at being enjoyed and at inspiring in the onlooker a feel-good atmosphere about Gibraltar, viewed from a different angle, both in time and space, and he wouldn’t suggest to go out of your way to seek cryptic messages in it, except the sense of unity and community that his land  and seascapes spark. 

“The message can vary depending on what type of paintings I’m producing. Whether this was based on trying to feel a connection to Gibraltar and the sea during lockdown I can’t say, but it meant that for a period of time I was driven to my origins. Prior to this, it’s usually been about people as individuals, striving to go deeper than the physical surface of the painting. Every work takes a little piece of you, but also gives something back, consciously or not.” 

Not figurative, not abstract, Gavin’s work is ‘simply Gavin’, and hits the bull’s-eye in stirring an emotion: “I wouldn’t say my works are conceptual, I do strive for a painting that just works.” 

Visit GavinGarciaArt.com for updates on Gavin’s artwork, like his Facebook page or follow him on Instagram.

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