Happy to have two end-of-summer shows abuzz in the city where she first saw the light of day, Esperanza Gómez-Carrera (Malaga, 1957) greets me expansively. No hugs or kisses. "Covid forbid...!" Just the feeling that anything and anyone linked to her country of adoption (my native Perfidious Albion) is welcome with open arms. A compulsive Londoner, Esperanza says: "London has given me a lot... making me grow not just as an artist, but as a person."
Gómez-Carrera's comings and goings to "Cool Britannia" culminated in a career change. Previously established as a practising psychologist in her hometown (long before Picasso's birthplace was branded as Malaga Ciudad Genial - City of Museums), the well-named Esperanza relocated to London in 2005, gaining a BA in Fine Arts with Hons.
International collaborations are part of the picture - involving among other younger mainstreamers: Tino Sehgal at Tate Modern and the Palais de Tokyo in Paris; Dora García at the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid and the Martin-Gropius-Bau in Berlin (...).
So are joint artistic ventures: the Degrees of Freedom collective stages exhibitions at Espacio Gallery (an XXL arts space, which she co-founded in 2012), as well as outdoor performances and in situ projects.
So what districts does Gómez-Carrera like best? W14. "Curiously, I'm about to move to West Kensington, near Blythe Road Village, within steps of where I used to live in '86 and '87 - My life is full of 'happenstances' and 'synchronicities' of this nature."
And, for work purposes? "I adore Shoreditch." This is where Espacio is; she describes the area - "now famous for its galleries and street art" - as a "limitless and free" feast for the eyes. "I also hang out a lot in Waterloo and Lambeth North, where I have a studio at Make Space Studios (home to 80 artists, artisans and creative businesses)."
Diversity is the key to her unbridled creative energy. "There are photographers, designers, sculptors, illustrators, painters... I go there about three times a week; we get together to plan projects." Her latest? "I belong to a group called The Artists' Pool, and we're currently preparing The Infinity of 8"; this multidisciplinary mega event will be presented at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe next summer. In May of 2022, she'll be showing "whatever's left of the Casa Amarilla exhibition" (she's "selling so many" ) at 54 The Gallery, in Mayfair.
The solo show at La Casa Amarilla (Calle Santos, 7) is an open-book guide to this cross-Channel artist's inner fantasies. A paper-plane sculpture leads the way, twirling towards the window. Read what you will into it. The "artist-autora" sees this airy-fairy string of recycled book pages as an expression of freedom.
The book recycling process is at the heart of the assemblages displayed here. A clever combo of Brit wit, English quaintness and playful serendipity - reminiscent of Hispanic magical realism, they are designed to captivate the visitor's attention.
The trick? More often than not, Esperanza Gómez-Carrera draws inspiration from the title of the book she wants to recycle; she 'doctors' the cover, transforming it into a mini stage set; and relies on miniature trees and furniture and - above all - on tiny scale model figures ("bought online") to tell a story within a story.
Upon closer inspection, some of her vignettes have a saucy twist (cf. Alone in London by Hesba Stretton, featuring a 'flasher' lurking in the park.)
Named after one of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda's three houses, Isla Negra, an antiquarian book shop/contemporary art gallery in the historical centre of Malaga (Calle Álamos, 15), is the venue of a four-artist show entitled Deconstruction for Creation - Feeling Art Made of Books, and Esperanza has a hand (or should that be several hands?) in it.
Desire Over the Taboo (2014) is the title of her main contribution: a 'groping-hand' installation structured around the vestiges of vintage sepia-hued erotic pictures. "Books have always been an important part of my life, present in my art," explains the interviewee, keen to emphasise that bookish themes like these are not her artistic niche. The hand signals speak volumes. What this Spanglish artist is into is making things happen, as if by magic: "Large-scale installations and performances, producing documentaries... I'm always on the move, trying to tame my imagination."
The best "(surreal) object lesson/introduction" to María de la Esperanza del Rosario Soledad Dolores Angustias de la Santísima Trinidad (her full name) is Art in Motion, a prizewinning documentary (awarded a Silver Biznaga at the Mujeres en Escena women-in-film fest).
"Muy, muy British" but nonetheless "very, very Spanish", Esperanza is a family girl, proud of her ancestry, which includes a great-aunt "who was Picasso's godmother at his christening" and of her progeny "Mi niña..." - her daughter, a student in London (where else?): "The most important thing in my life... a gift from the universe."