INTERVIEW: RUBEN ECHEVERRIA
Artists often look for the beauty in the most ordinary. Ruben is certainly no exception to this rule. However, his muse is the sporting objects we see around us every day.
We caught up with the Barcelona based artist who formally trained as a sports lawyer, to find out a bit more about the man behind the art.
CK: We normally start with this question, Rude – so keeping with tradition: What football team do you support?
RE: I am a lifelong Liverpool fan, nobody told me about the club, we just sort of came together. I finally got my first LFC kit for the 95-96 season on a summer which I spent with my family in London. I would have been 9 at the time. It was the green and white one from adidas. So, I guess even then I had an eye for design because I didn't pick the obvious home colours.
CK: So for people who haven’t heard of you before, tell us a bit about yourself and profession.
RE: Well, I’m Ruda Echeverría, a multidisciplinary artist. I was born in London but have spent most of my life in Caracas, though I currently reside in Barcelona!
Growing up as the child of ballet dancer parents, I ended up rebelling into a career in sports law, representing some of the top football and basketball teams in Venezuela. Whilst it was a very fun challenge, I wasn't entirely happy with the office set up and working on other people's documents. So, I ended up leaving it all for a career in arts, via a clothing brand I started back in 2013. Currently, I’m working with a variety of mediums which I haven’t fully mastered just yet. But I am trying to remain free of personal expectations and having fully developed ideas for everything I end up producing.
CK: How would you best describe your work?
RE: I would say my work dwells in the absurd world of collectibles, cartoons, memes and sports. My work finds joy in despair, and deals with relationships, sexuality, work, gender roles and death. I’m often using themes such as sports as a common language to communicate whatever i'm thinking about.
Having said that I also like to use the design that features in sports equipment, as I feel that those faceless designers deserve as much respect as every other fashion designer. It's also quite fun to see how I can elevate the status of things nobody cares about, like shin guards, once they are inside an art space, and how the artist crowd and sports fans interact at some of the shows I’ve done.
CK: You mentioned basketball, what other sports do you like to use as inspiration?
RE: I am into the design of courts and sports fields and I think basketball courts have some of the nicest lines and designs.
I like letting people know that sportsmen and women have personalities too, so characters like Dennis Rodman is a great interest of mine. I’m also very fond of old American Wrestling from the 90's, that's going to come up in my work very, very soon!
CK: What are you currently working on?
RE: Well, I’ve been doing some paintings of Andres Galarrag, baseball trading cards during his time at the Montréal Expos for the past year.
Galarraga's rise to fame in the 90's came at a time where Venezuela was booming and he seemed to be in every commercial on tv. He had an amazing baseball career in the MLS and overcame cancer while being an active player. So, he's the ultimate perfect poster boy for an era that most Venezuelan's yearn for. At the same time he was playing for the Montreal Expo's, a team which no longer exists, an organisation most Montrealers constantly have nostalgic dreams about.
At the same time trading cards themselves as memorabilia are a nostalgic item. So, I’m playing with all those things while simply copying the old designs of these cards I collected as a child in my own style. The big joke is that whenever you collect things like cards as a child, you hope at least one of them will be worth a lot of money eventually, but this rarely happens. So, to me it's quite funny when someone buys art with any investment angle on it. Essentially I am putting these paintings on the same level as the cards I’m copying them from and highlighting the beautiful dated designs. I just hope one day I can get to know whoever worked on designing them.
CK: Tell us about your exhibition Casa Equis. Ciudad de México. 2019. Solo.
RE: Last year I had a two month artist residency at Casa Equis gallery in Mexico City, culminating with a solo show called Deportes Ruben's. I stole the name of the show from a local sports gear shop i found in the city centre.
I had been playing around with the idea of making ceramic footballs, football boots and goalkeeper gloves for a while. But once I saw this store I was really interested in the way the equipment is displayed. So it was then clear that I needed to make a fake sports shop full of art. What followed was paintings of jerseys from one of the most creative football personalities ever to exist, Jorge Campos. A close friend led me to an abandoned house full of old sports equipment and trophies which also acted as inspiration.
CK: What's your preferred medium to work in?
RE: I think I have found my voice, so to speak in ceramics. I’m not the most patient of people and ceramic pieces sometimes take months to finish. So, I surprised myself at how deeply involved I have become with this medium.
If you asked me what my favourite medium to work in is though I don’t think I could name one. When I’m not good at something, I don't tend to get frustrated with my mistakes. It’s probably at that point that I am at my most creative.
CK: What's next for you after the lockdown – any future exhibitions planned?
RE: I would like to put out my baseball show both in Caracas and Montréal because the work has a very close links to both cities. But I haven't found the right space yet though.