Over the past few months, Javi Cazenave's work is the second exhibition in a new series of shows at our Nunnery Café which showcases affordable works of art from Bow Arts artists. All works are for sale and available to buy on the Own Art scheme, allowing buyers to spread the cost of artwork over 10 months, with the benefit of an interest-free loan.
Bow Arts: Hi Javi! Tell us about yourself and your background. Did you always imagine you would become an artist?
Javi Cazenave: I'm a Spanish artist with an architectural background, currently based in London where I have been developing my artistic practice for the last five years. Art has always been in my life since I was born.
My father is an artist, and our house would always be packed with his work. After school, I would spend the evenings with him in his studio and I would paint next to him while he was working on his commissions or preparing exhibitions. I grew up absorbing all that, going to private views and even hanging out with grown-up artists. As I think of it now, it was such a stimulating upbringing and at the same time, so different from the one my friends had.
Since I was a child I pictured myself as an artist in the future. However that future image sort of evolved with the time. It got mixed with other aspirations and dreams. When I did my masters in Architecture, that picture somehow got blurred.
Bow Arts: Why did you decide to make the move from Spain to the UK?
JC: The year I spent in Paris when I was at university was key to that decision really. That feeling of being detached from your roots and be immersed in a completely different context, where people spoke in a different language, I had almost no idea (it sounds stupid but it was huge for me at that time) with an incredible city as a scenario… it made a huge impact on me. When the first stage of complete vulnerability passed I felt that the world had no limits and that I wanted to continue living abroad.
After I finished Architecture, I decided that London could provide me with another context, a new scenario where I could enrich both my architectural and artistic approaches. Plus, I needed to improve my English skills if I wanted to work internationally!
Bow Arts: What made you return to art, and painting in particular?
JC: Well, art is perhaps the only thing I am sure of. To be fair, it wasn’t intended. It just happened naturally. Although now, retrospectively, I believe there were a couple of reasons that made my true self unleash. One was the fact that I distanced myself from my original context, which enabled me reaching my artistic independence.
The other one, perhaps, was that I was not getting the creative development I had hoped to have in the architectural world. It felt a very constrained world, whose process is ruled by far too many intermediaries and dictated by too many rules. Projects get compromised by people who have no creativity, no sensitivity, no understanding that another approach is possible... That is infuriating and frustrating.
With painting, I have a sense of total control on what I produce. It’s just me who drives; my brain, my feelings, my luck, my spontaneity, my frustrations, my nostalgia. It feels more real, more natural. A more direct way to materialise my ideas.
Bow Arts: Regarding the current show at the Nunnery Café, could you tell us a bit more about the work that you have exhibited there?
JC: The pieces are part of a broader series where I explored concepts such spatial geometry, colour and repetition. It all started with a study I did where I played with geometrical objects that are based on slightly altering the rules of perspective. These objects are the common denominator within the series, establishing a constrained environment that contrast with the spontaneous and almost accidental use of the painting, collage, and all the things that happen around them.
Bow Arts: Which mediums do you prefer to work in and why?
JC: I like experimenting with multiple mediums. Currently, I find myself working on paper a lot. Big and small scales, doesn´t matter. Off the shelf ones, recycled, new, old, paper from food packaging, paper that I take from the trash… everything! I like the nature of paper among all its forms. Also, the texture that each of them creates has something special, that is why I often like approaching the paintings creating a collage base first in which then I paint. Acrylic works very well with that – keeps the momentum, it dries fast and allows the creation of diverse layering to the composition. I like how to spray paint behaves on top of all that too. However, I would like to experiment with more sculptural pieces, take this whole idea of mixing layers of material into a more volumetric approach.
Bow Arts: Are there any other artists, whose work inspires your own?
JC: I tend to get emotionally involved with so many things and get obsessed with them. I wouldn’t say I find all my influences in the art world necessarily; in fact, I like to get inspired by looking at different creative environments too (such as architecture or film)
However, when it comes to art, German expressionism, for example, made a big impact on my work, I find Kirchner’s paintings powerful. Cy Twombly is another artist that made me “float” the first time I saw his work in the flesh. I like to look at the process that each artist takes to try to apply them to my work, instead of trying to achieve a similar aesthetic. I like to borrow and elaborate further.
Bow Arts: Your early work feels more architectural than your later work. What is the reason behind that shift in your style? What has your aesthetic development been as an artist?
JC: I don’t like talking about style, you know? Some artists tend to repeat a way of doing, a certain theme, or a very specific approach like a formula. I personally find that enslaving. Style in that sense helps defining a product that people can identify you with, yes, but for me it is just boring. I think art is like a conversation, mostly with oneself. It evolves with us.
Looking back, my early work is more concrete perhaps, it talks about defined shapes, sharper lines, and colour contained within them over a white background. Very minimalistic with a hint of graphic design, probably. The process of these ones was also very different. Once I had the initial sketches, I would use architectural software to define the volume and the composition. With the time I think I'm distancing myself from that process that relies more on rules. In a way I feel more confident with the unknown, with spontaneity… I feel I’m opening the box, and the constraints are more blurred each time, it is liberating really.
Bow Arts: How did you find out about Bow Arts? What is your relationship with the organisation like?
JC: I was looking for a studio space and I came across Bow Arts. The amount of studios Bow Arts has in numerous locations across London was handy, plus the number of artists utilising its spaces grabbed my attention. So far, it has been a very fruitful year, and that is partly because of the space I have.
In terms of our relationship, I let them do their job and they let me do mine! (laughs). On a serious note, although I haven’t got the chance to get to know all of them, the team at Bow Road Studios are great, and we managed to develop a very interesting and collaborative connection.
Bow Arts: What’s next for your practice?
JC: I said before, I feel that I want to explore a more volumetric approach in my future work. On one hand, I think I am liberating myself from the constraints of architecture and that is making me express myself more fluently with painting. On the other side I feel this expression is taking me back to investigate 3D environments like architecture. It's a bit of an unknown for me really.
Javi Cazenave a.k.a hav (b. 1988, Cádiz, Spain) works across art, architecture and design. Heavily influenced by graffiti, fashion design, ephemeral architecture installations and obsessed about materiality and texture, Cazenave’s work explores the relationship between spatial experiences in architecture and their graphic representation.
After completing his MA in architecture at the University of Seville (Spain) and La Villete, University of Paris, (France); Javi moved to London where he currently lives and works. His work has been featured in several group exhibitions including: Who are we, Trampery Fish Island, London (2019); Magic Wave (Online exhibition curated by YNGSPACE and Mark Joshua Epstein) (2019); Context Free, Espacio Gallery, London (2018). With respect to solo shows, Cazenave has recently exhibited at Playground London, 3:30. Three Series, Thirty Works (2019); and Nunnery Gallery (Bow Arts), which is currently on show until next Saturday 11th January.