Works of Assemblage - Interview with Manuel Falcata from Atelier Pica Pica

Atelier Pica Pica is Boris Magotteaux (1978), Manuel Falcata (1979) and Jerome Degive (1980), all born and raised in Liége, Belgium. The collective has a very distinct, personal and yet somehow obvious universe. You will, provided you've kept somewhat of your inner child, be simply marveled by their simple constructions and colors.What seems simple at first, is in fact the result of a collection of multiple references and different techniques. Through photography, sculpture and painting, Atelier Pica Pica develops a very personal alphabet. A shape, subject or color skips from an art work or medium to the next with absolute fluidity and coherence. The sculptures influence the paintings that influence the photography and vice-versa.The three artists from Atelier Pica Pica produce all the paintings, drawings, photographs and installations jointly. They have worked together since 1999, first within the ERS collective and as Atelier Pica Pica since 2007. - Alice 

Pablo de Pinho: When and where was your first show outside of Belgium? Did you show both painting and sculptures? 

Manuel Falcata: As Atelier Pica Pica, we did our first show outside of Belgium in 2009. It was in Barcelona, Spain. We were very much involved in an idiosyncratic way of composing the paintings altogether.That was a process about synthesizing memories, cultural and personal references then engaging a trialogue by painting in an intuitive and improvised way. Each one of us, replying to the precedent mark making, with our own, creating a discursive way of associating ideas. Guided by our enthusiasm we made and showed some three dimensional attempts of some of those objects two dimensional objects. 

How would you describe your atelier? It is like an assembly line or laboratory? 

Both, in some ways. Kind of a Gaston Lagaffe laboratory or a serendipitous assembly line. As we added Atelier to out name, before Pica Pica, we realized that since we are a trio it is about the interaction between three distinct ways of considering things. It is also, about the process to reach a common perspective, by trying to understand three different approaches and to find a common path, bounding three different perspectives. 

Because we don’t stop to feed the collective pot with other desires, we have the time to make experiments and trials. We have to show, share and speak about the results. This is like a prospection, or an investigation in which we are creating the clues, one after another, which the main purpose can be unclear. So this leans to the idea of a laboratory, I might say. But at the same time, I would love to consider a certain automaticity in the research and in the making. Because it cuts you from the aura/weight of the main goal. By considering one step after another, we are more focused on what is happening here and now. In result, each step can become a new direction or an end in itself. 


Do you ever produce work outside of your studio? If so, is it a different experience, or relatively the same?

We do work outside the atelier on occasions, and when we to it can be quite stimulating the majority of the time. Even though our studio can be a space where we have the possibility to concentrate on our desires, allowing us a place to experiment this such dynamic, the first spark of an idea comes from inspiration from outside the studio. But the general approach of the work itself is defined by our three-way interaction. The studio situates boundaries and in a way, we collectively define what it can or could eventually become. It became very natural for us to practice this such way of considering how we work, inside and outside the studio. Now we are trained together, and we are very much used to working collectively. Being confronted to a new environment offers us new boundaries, in which define a new framework and gives us the possibility of focusing in igniting new creative sparks. ​

Apart from the inclusion of photography, Atelier Pica Pica's aesthetic seems to be mostly minimal, abstract, non-figurative works. Have you ever produced figurative works?

For me, it must depend on the angle of view. I mean what is the subject? In most of our paintings it is about the transcription of and experience lived or seen, having its deeper roots in the material or experimented world. The abstraction can be a detail of something bigger or a mental image like a memory. It always appeals to some thing or perhaps in a more abstract way to the link we have with this object or concept.
​I think the links between, what is representation, and what is the reality of the material world without the work of interpretation, is something I like in particular. What can be a gate to representation or mentalization into a common object, or piece of it, and vice versa. Inside a built image, what can be a introduction to the act of its making.

I like those kinds of back and forth movements between the global image of the work and its different constitutive parts. As well as how those distinctive parts can tell about the required time of their realization. 
Do you agree with Duchamp when he says, “Since the tubes of paint used by an artist are manufactured and ready-made products we must conclude that all the paintings in the world are 'Ready-mades aided' and also works of assemblage”? 

I think it may had have sense for him. I have a conflicting relationship with painting. I do not consider myself as a painter, even if I obviously find pleasure in the acts of painting. 

For me it’s more like appealing to the painting as an object, a cultural object with all its referents. It represents one channel in many. 

On the other hand, I am in agreement with the fact that, my paintings and drawings are works of assemblage. Their wholeness, if there is any, is a sum of distinctive parts, acts, portions or notions of time, layers of references. And of course, because of our three-way of considering the work, it cannot be something else but assemblage or maybe dis-assemblage, because the result is more about finding a compromise. 

You work with some unconventional media, that consists of construction materials found in hardware stores, like PVC, sealants, house paint, etc. Did you begin to use these materials early on? 

I don't see them as unconventional. Paintings were made with mud or seashells or zinc not so long ago. And that media is still used in many places across the world. I am mostly interested in material and color, and the ways to combine them with. Almost everything can be turned into paste or powder. I like that idea of being autonomous in a certain way, keeping our capacity to find an alternative. Also, trying some medium that I don't really know, that intrigues me. When I see different kinds of applications it is very exciting and playful. I like the idea of bringing such concrete materials to a more sensitive field. 

Is improvisation a key element in your work?

Intuition and conclusions regarding the experiments are indeed. Trust in our capacity of digging into familiar or intuitive knowledge/references is as well. I like the energy of making something for the first time, creativity at first sight. But for me, the theme, the starting mental image is the most of the time pretty clear, even in its blurriness. Then trial and gleaning results with collateral evidences is crucial. 

How is your experience teaching art? To what age groups have you taught?

I used to work with people from varied age groups from four years of age to people in their thirties, but it was more in a workshop way. Now I am teaching drawing classes in a university, for freshman and junior bachelors. School offers a very privileged, particular and also paradoxical frame to develop what is working as an artist.

I think, now, I love teaching. It is really energizing and keeps me in touch with different manners, and ways of considering what making an image, or art can be. However, I think I have been more of an mentor to students. It is more like finding a way to their singular point. I like it that way, I don’t have a precise knowledge base to make them learn from. It is very rewarding for me, even quite engrossing as well.