Leticia de las Heras
Pamplona (EFE).- The Muñoz brothers have been working without great pretensions for decades in their small workshop in Pamplona, but last week this couple of plasterers crowned the most important contemporary art fair in Spain as a fundamental part of ‘If it resembles something , it would no longer be the whole’, a proposal by the Navarrese architect and artist Alberto Odériz.
This is the winning work of the VII Cervezas Alhambra Prize for Emerging Art ARCO, a contest characterized by promoting the encounter between young artists and artisans that has united the most avant-garde art with the tradition of a trade in a small local in the Txantrea neighborhood purely manual that has practically not evolved over time.
In their day-to-day work, Miguel Muñoz pointed out in statements to EFE, they are dedicated to carrying out work on bathroom and kitchen ceilings, making and placing mouldings, fixing damage and sometimes manufacturing some more special pieces for facades, “the work of a glue maker that It was said before”, but “now we have climbed a step, now we are artisans”, jokes the other piece of this family business, Javier Muñoz.
For Alberto Odériz, however, it was from the first moment “very evident that this was a craftsman’s workshop because there are no electrical tools, they do everything with their hands and they are all the time solving manual work, with molds and with their knowledge about the times of the plaster”.
Both Odériz and Miguel Muñoz, the main person in charge of manufacturing the pieces that make up the work, agree in a meeting with EFE in this workshop on how fruitful this process has been for them and the possibility of sharing work for weeks, providing them with new perspectives and knowledge for their respective fields of work.
“I was learning from them -says Alberto Odériz-, they have a lot of ways to work the plaster and as I was here I was seeing new solutions”. On one occasion, he remembers, Miguel asked him to use a piece as a base for the next one, discovering that the architect could soap it to prevent it from breaking.
“Discovering that the plaster itself serves as a mold is when we began to think about the complete puzzle, making the second piece based on the first” until we created a set that, placed correctly, forms a cube, recalls the artist, a conception that in his opinion judgment was one of the aspects that the competition jury valued positively.
The title ‘If it looked like something, it would no longer be the whole’, he points out, “is a way that the Arab world has of covering space”, a totality that “you can put as chaos or as order” as is the case with this set of parts.
Also for the plasterers it has been an enriching process. “Sometimes I thought he was crazy, he asked me for pieces with stones at one end and Styrofoam at the other to reduce weight inside and with that he managed to make counterweights so that the piece would stay upright,” says Miguel.
Crafts are in many trades
For the architect, it is an important value that “craftsmanship is still alive in many trades” although these, he regrets, are being lost over time. That also seems to be the case of this plaster workshop, the only one that resists in the region of Pamplona but that is without generational relief.
The business, says Javier, has hardly changed at all since his father started it. “The only advance was when they invented glue” for plaster 30 years ago, but in this trade “the material is very cheap and the companies that manufacture it are not dedicated to research” to advance new tools.
In this way, the most common piece of work they have is a “stick with a blade to wear down the pieces” and the only evolution is that “now these brushes are made by a factory and before each one made their own,” he points out.
What has changed over time is a demand that “goes in cycles”, explains Javier: “When I started we had work but it wasn’t outrageous, then there was a time of a lot of work and now we are once again in the doldrums” especially due to the change in fashion towards minimalism and the entry of plasterboard.
Despite being a business opened by his father, Miguel admits that he prefers that this family tradition not continue. “I don’t see clearly being able to live from this in 20 years. Perhaps that piece that costs me an hour and a half to make and now costs 40 euros in a few years will be worth 400, but I would not have wanted my children to stay here”.