Samuel Almansa – The Fragility of Trucks

by Rubén Palma
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Samuel Almansa (El Arenal, 1995) is an artist based in Mallorca. Almansa studied at the Faculty of Fine Arts of Cuenca, where he explored multiple modes of artistic projection such as video, installation, painting or muralism.

Almansa starts from figuration to represent themes that are part of our most recent collective imagination. Through the installation and use of the airbrush, the artist reviews the limits of aesthetics through trucks, kitsch tourist objects or techno parties, which allow him to claim the role of cultures born in suburban neighborhoods, where Almansa grew up and developed his own visual interests.

The work of Samuel Almansa is the perfect reflection of contemporary popular culture, of neo-folklore that extends to networks, digital culture and the media. On these platforms, these cultures take on new forms, are reinterpreted and blur into each other. For the artist, degradation influences all the things that surround us and happen to us today. Almansa is interested in the process of constructing a reality through information and subsequent opinion, which often has nothing to do with the truth or our own thoughts.

Bio text courtesy of Belén Martínes

Hi Samuel! It’s a pleasure to sit down with you! First question that I always ask. How does a regular day look like for you in Mallorca?

Hi Rubén! I’m delighted to be here. It’s an honor to be a part of your project. To be honest, for the past year I’ve been following a fairly repetitive pattern. I wake up early, between 6:00 and 7:30 AM, and until 8:30 or 9:00 AM, I’m at a bar observing people. I really enjoy watching lives pass by and being part of an ecosystem of workers who go out for coffee or a snack.

I go to the studio and almost always put on music. Whether or not I put on music depends on whether I have to paint or edit video. I usually have a lot of waiting time for myself. I go outside, look for references, prepare the airbrush and support… and if nothing comes up, I go to the bar again to keep looking.

It took me a long time to accept that this is now part of my work system, and that it’s not something to avoid work with, but rather a way to provoke it. At lunchtime, the studio is near my parents’ house, so I go there, eat, and go back to the studio.

I produce quickly if you only think about the time I spend painting, but for me the most difficult thing is not painting, that is, the whole process before and after the work. Around 7:00 or 8:00 PM I go home and usually see my friends after dinner to spend time together. And that’s about it.

I’m curious. Growing up, what kind of kid were you, what did you enjoy doing and how did you spend your time?

From what I’m told, I liked to be alone quite a bit, and I played with toy trucks all day long. My father was a truck driver and a large part of my family is dedicated to it, so I could say that it’s something that has always been a part of me.

I loved “helping” my father and brother fix the trucks, and it’s something I still do on Saturdays. I go with them to just be there and share time with them with the excuse of helping them. That and of course painting, I loved to paint and draw.

Mallorca is one of my favorite places to visit, so since I’m talking to a native, what’s it like living there? 

It’s true, it’s really great, you must like it, and I am lucky to have been born and live here.

How about the art and culture scene?

There is a very high level, both of galleries and artists, as well as alternative spaces, curators and panorama.

Okay, let’s talk about your work now. How did you discover airbrushing? And when did you start to seriously consider becoming an artist?

It’s funny, but my first airbrush had been in a drawer for about 15 years. I started using it when I was 12 years old, because one of my brothers gave it to me when I was little to try to learn how to use it.

When the pandemic hit, like everyone else, I started rummaging through all the drawers and I found it. That’s when the story started again.

Curiously, I started to take being an artist seriously after a nose operation. When I couldn’t ride my bike, I had 3 months of recovery and I took advantage of them to start something that I had always postponed.

While we’re on the subject. What is it about the airbrush that makes you prefer it over a regular paint brush?

I think it provides me with everything I need, since I follow a “dreamy” aesthetic, with images that are out of focus but easy to recognize at the same time.

For me, the airbrush is just another tool, in fact I now also use black and white with a brush in some pieces.

Ok, so over the years you’ve developed your own recognizable look with your glossy / shiny style. How long has it taken you to perfect it to how it looks now? And what is it about that look that resonates with you?

I’ve actually only been painting this way for a relatively short time. I had been painting with spray paint for a while in a much more abstract, colorful style with very repetitive patterns in terms of imagery. But I got bored and decided to change. It was a difficult decision because it’s said that you have to have a clear style, or be consistent with your painting.

In the end, I think it was a good decision, but it’s taken me about two years since the change to get to something moderately coherent.

A lot of your recent work features dogs. What’s the story there? And what’s your connection to dogs?

Well, I’m actually trying to deal with, among many other things, fragility. This thing about painting ceramic or porcelain objects was because of my mother. My parents’ house is always (even today) completely full of this type of Lladró figures. My friends used to tell me that they had a hard time coming to my house in case they broke something. My mother has thousands of small figurines, which are strong but can be shattered with a bad blow or fall. That’s why.

Would you consider yourself a nostalgic person?

Totally. I try to avoid it because you can’t live in the past, but I’ve learned to take it as a source to drink from, rather than as something negative.

So your work is a reflection of contemporary popular culture and neo-folklore. Can you tell me more about that?

I believe that everything I paint today has a reason for it, but for me it’s something individual, which, when shown common references, becomes collective, and that is why it works.

Everything I paint has been in my head for a long time. Not just the aesthetic, but for example the way I was careful as a child, not to break the famous figurines, or the trucks with my father, or the parties with my friends… everything is part of an individual imagination, although that imagination, as I have said before, can become collective through the use of a certain idea or a certain image.

Can you walk me through your creative process, from start to end result?

Observe and seek aesthetic references that lead me to what can really transform the idea into something solid. Then, paint and accept it.

How do you deal with creative blocks?

That problem is the worst. It’s very difficult to get out of there, horrible in fact, though totally necessary. When you can’t find the way to follow in a work or a set of works, you despair, because you know there is a way to solve it but you can’t find it.

I personally, have learned to cope with it by giving it time. I go for a drive or a walk, stop at a bar for a coffee or a water, and listen to people, look, or just stop.

When I’m blocked, at least in my case, it’s impossible to continue, I need to leave the studio and with perspective I weigh some way to continue or simply cover the work and start over.

Can you describe your studio practice for me? And are there any necessities you have to have with you or present in the studio?

Well, those are like fetishes, but I really like to have a few figurines, especially I have 2 that bring me back many memories. They are Squirtle, my favorite Pokemon, and Buzz Lightyear, my favorite character.

A little bit more: a physical calendar to write down events in pen and my more or less organized paint cart.

How do you approach color?

For me, the really difficult thing is finding a color palette that can be recognizable or that at least generates a line to follow. More than approaching color, it’s the process of changing towards certain types of color mixes that I know work for me and that are already part of a line.

Ok Samuel, so I know that besides painting you also make clay sculptures. When did you get introduced to sculpting, and what makes it one of your preferred ways of expressing yourself?

Sculpture has never been a medium that caught my attention much, but over time, seeing my paintings in a three-dimensional way I think is a further point in exploring new ways of communicating. I hope to continue making more sculptures soon.

What motivates you?

That I like to go to work. Having found a way, that when I go to sleep, I already want to get up, to go to the studio.

How would you describe a perfect day?

That is very relative. I suppose it would be a day I open an exhibition, with all the previous nerves. Or a day when a new project comes out and you get excited about it.

Do you admire anyone?

My mother, my father, and my 3 brothers.

Very good Samuel. I always ask these two questions at the end of an interview. The first is. What is your favorite movie and why?

For me it is very difficult to answer this. My other profession is creative director in a creative studio (SPTNK STUDIO), and I also work as a camera operator in film and television. Although it sounds very typical, I have always been a Tarantino fan, with posters, photos of shoots, t-shirts and even socks. I would say any of his, but Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill or The Hateful Eight.

I also love David Lynch, Danny Boyle… the “Gritty British” fascinates me (Trainspotting, Rockanrolla, Snatch…)

The second is. What song(s) are you listening to the most right now?

Any of Underworld or Depeche, that’s what I listen to the most right now.

Profile picture by: Juan Miguel Moyá / SPTNK Studio / Camisas Manolo

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