Q&A with Gary Ross Pastrana

Gary-Ross Pastrana on his Bangkok University Gallery residency and exhibition in January 2011

Gary Pastrana. Photograph by MM Yu

Plantingrice: Congratulations on this endeavor. Can you describe your work at the exhibition with Pratchaya Phinthong? What was your impression of Pratchaya Phinthong’s work, do you think it relates to your practice?

GARY-ROSS PASTRANA: We had two separate shows- the Bangkok University Gallery had two spaces and we each had our own solo exhibitions. I guess the curator Ark Fongsmut saw a certain connection between our works/practice and found it interesting to invite us to show together at the same time. I really like his work, i actually consider him my senior. Because I’m not able to go to graduate school, I savor the opportunity to talk and learn from artists that are more advanced in their careers. I remember when I was learning to play the guitar with my friends in high school, we noticed that best way to learn was to watch and observe someone better than you play. I relate the time we spent hanging out or preparing for the show with this sort of “indirect teaching/learning” experience.

Gary Pastrana. First Attempt at Social Sculpture or Breaking the Fourth Wall, 2011

My show was called Vivo Fragmenta, which if google is reliable translates to ‘Fragments of Living’. I chose the Latin translation because it felt more like a battle cry, something that calls to be shouted or proclaimed, which I thought reflected certain aspects of the show. I stayed in Bangkok for two months and I was able to make 6-7 new pieces for my exhibition.
I normally do not bring any materials or concrete plans when I go on a residency and I just let my experience of the (new) place influence or be integrated in/with what I will produce.

P: What was your first impression of Bangkok and the Bangkok Art Scene?

GRP: I believe my residency went well, (for me at least, it was great. I hope it was the same for my host and the audience) it was very productive and it led me to new areas of concern that I wish to pursue further. I’m sorry but I wasn’t able to see much of the Bangkok art scene- i only went to one opening at 100 Tonson Gallery and I also saw a photography show at the BACC. (Though I was able to hang out with a lot of artists and students though and I felt pretty much at home with them instantly).

I love the food in Bangkok, its very cheap but also very delicious and well made.

I also appreciate their eating habits/customs as well, how each plate and set of utensils are passed to the last person in the table first, how they seldom leave food uneaten, how every dish is usually shared. Overall, it felt like Thai people are generally very gentle and respectful and this made my stay a very pleasant one.

Weapons-making workshop with students

Weapons-making workshop with students

P: You mentioned that you are able to fully focus on your practice on artist-residencies best? Can you let us know the progression and work of your artist residencies from past to present?

GRP: I began making small objects and exhibiting photographs of them during my first residency in Bangkok in 2004. (This is something that I still continue to do up to this day.)

Gary Pastrana, Stream (Propeller), 2011.

When I had a residency in Kyoto, I was able to make my boat piece (“Stream”, 2008) which I think I could never have done elsewhere, specially considering the production budget required and professional assistance I received courtesy of the Japan Foundation. This time I think what became the main area of concern was the attempt to look deeper and possibly integrate a number of things that I’ve recently been exploring- the mechanics of collage, the use of found household and personal items as material and the simple acts of daily living as reference.

Gary Pastrana. Photo by MM Yu

P: What do you think is the place of Manila in the Southeast Asian or Asian Art community?

GRP: Sometimes I feel Manila is somewhat detached from its immediate surroundings, the people are more aware of what’s happening in the States than in Hong Kong or Vietnam for example. Personally I think it would be good to have more ‘exchange projects’ with our neighbors. I believe I somehow benefitted from past exchanges and I hope others can also have this experience.

From what I can gather, I think some people truly believe there is a promising future for South East Asian art. A lot of opportunities are suddenly available and it can be very exciting to some and a bit confusing to others.

Gary Pastrana. War/Surrender (Work in progress)

P: What kind of work do you plan to do next? Any plans for the recent future?

GRP: I currently have a strong desire to somehow evolve my practice and reevaluate my motivations and concerns. I feel like I’m gradually moving beyond ‘physical’ material or at least the way I treat ‘materiality’ in my past projects. I’m also addressing questions on how else can I present my work, like how else works could be arranged in a space, for example. Also, as I’ve been dealing with a lot with process and/or transformation in past projects, i occurred to me that I should also question when does the work actually begin/end? What other kind of document or record can I choose to represent a process?

Gary Pastrana. Objects from a weapons-making-workshop with students



About Gary-Ross Pastrana

Gary-Ross Pastrana (b. 1977) graduated with his BFA (Painting major) from the University of the Philippines in the year 2000. He is a conceptual artist and curator known for his sculptural installations and collages. His collages are miniature paintings and Pastrana’s nod to his contemporary art history influences -- from Duchamp to Rothko, from Man Ray to Felix Gonzalez Torres. Other works include architectural sculptures of chair designs, and Collapsible Stream, a boat airmailed from Japan to Korea in pieces, created during his artist residency in Kyoto. The work was first shown in 2008 Busan Biennale in Korea, and has since been shown in various galleries in South East Asia.

In 2010, Pastrana exhibited at the Aichi Triennial in Japan. Pastrana is a recipient ofthe prestigious Cultural Center of the Philippines Thirteen Artists Award. He is the co-founder of the Future Prospects Art Space in Cubao, Philippines.
First Attempt at Social Sculpture or Breaking the 4th Wall. Gary Pastrana, 2011
Planting Rice