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Eryk Pall and Roy Laguna, on the spiral staircase that leads up to their roof terrace. / Francisco Hinojosa

Arty couples

Designing a creative life in common

SIX gatecrashes the homes of two couples: Juan Martín and Roberto Espartero and Eryk Pall and Roy Laguna - partners who love each other so much that they’re able to share home and work

CLAUDIA SAN MARTÍN & CRISTINA PINTO

From one house to another. From two lives to two others. From a static tiger to a cat that won’t keep still. SIX intruded on the lives of these four people; we spent time in their homes, witness to all the details of their lives as a couple. Lots of kisses, love and romantic dinners. But also brainstorming, advice and art in these four creative lives. And two houses. On one hand are Juan Martín and Roberto Espartero; on the other, Eryk Pall and Roy Laguna. Each couple in their home and art in all of them. Those are the designs of creative lives in common in Malaga.

Little Nube leaps from side to side, curious and nervous after the invasion of the SIX team in the home of the “Tiquismiquis”, Juan Martín and Roberto Espartero. However she has no qualms about posing defiantly for the camera of Francis Silva and, later, lets herself be stroked by her owners to become the star of this story. Sorry, little cat, this time design and creativity rule.

Once upon a time, in an app called Grindr, Juan saw in Roberto a potential ‘amigovio’ (a cross between friend, amigo, and boyfriend, novio), someone to share ideas in graphic design with, as well as cultural excursions. However, there’s no denying that when sparks fly they can lead to an uncontrollable fire. After that moment, each going in his own direction, they made use of their individual abilities as creators in different Malaga agencies, until lockdown took them by surprise (as it did millions of others in Spain) and they decided to start their joint project during those times of crisis.

“Tiquismiguis Club” unites their love for editorial design, visual identity and typography, a wide open sea with no limits for these to Malaga designers. And they’re not drowning in it.

They admit that their speciality lies in searching untiringly for typographic combinations that result in a design with appeal, something common in all their projects. And their restless search for something more took them way beyond mere day-to-day work.

In @alioliesajonesa, an Instagram account and a project to recover old signs in Malaga city, they share their passion for what others might consider rubbish.

“This project isn’t what has put food on the table or anything like that, but it has helped us position ourselves as lovers of typography, something that interested us before we studied design, but it created insecurities due to our lack of knowledge,” explains Martín, showing that anything that arouses your interest, however small it might be, will always be something special if you put some tender loving care into it and add some magic in the form of creativity and determination.

The brilliant ideas the pair come up with in Tiquismiquis have caught the attention of another artistic couple, actress Alessandra García and poet Violeta Niebla, who found a strong point with which to create synergies.

The couple have now helped to shape the identity of García, who has made use of the talent of Martín and Espartero to create the posters and booklets for her shows: a way of playing with typography as she plays with social reality.

Coming back to the subject at hand, design and Pride, Juan and Roberto are convinced that they have to use their design skills as a powerful tool to make their protests known; because, yes, you have to keep raising your voice to shout “enough!” whenever necessary. They did so back in 2021, through an ingenious Instagram post in which they used a time-worn Spanish expression to describe homosexuals, “perder aceite” (to leak oil), and turning it round to make them proud of it. In each image of the publication, the drops of liquid gold get bigger and bigger until you can read between them a powerful message: “Pierdo aceite y no pasa nada” (I'm leaking oil and it doesn’t matter).

Juan Martín and Roberto Espartero, with their cat Nube. / Francis Silva

"We have to say it out loud, because there's nothing wrong with being yourself. I don’t have to hide being gay"

The couple say that as adolescents they had to suppress their mannerisms so as not to stand out. “It’s important for families and kids who are going through this to see us as other generations who have also had to run with our arms by our sides so that no one would notice how effeminate we looked. And we have to say it out loud, because there's nothing wrong with being yourself. I don’t have to hide being gay so that ‘no one will notice’,” they say.

So what will they bring us in their social media for Pride 2022? “We’ll launch a little campaign on Instagram.”

From cat to tiger

The little tiger does not jump around. It doesn’t even seem nervous when the SIX team turns up at the house. It remains static on the shelf, shows no signs of life but looks great as part of the wonderful decoration in this home.

Eryk Pall and Roy Laguna, however, do move around their living room, as they look for the ideal place to sit and chat, to talk about the anecdotes of their life together. And about art. In the end they decide to go up to the roof terrace where they can also share a cigarette.

“We share everything: cigarettes, glasses of beer, gin and tonics… It’s obsessive,” says Roy Laguna.

Eryk Pall and Roy Laguna, next to their static cat in their living room.. / Francisco Hinojosa

"We share everything: cigarettes, glasses of beer, gin and tonics… It’s obsessive"

In their case it wasn’t Grindr that brought them together. Eryk and Roy met the old fashioned way in 2017. Or at least that’s the official version of the story, because they have to check with one another before they tell it: “Shall we tell the official [version] or the real one?” they joke.

Roy, who was working then in a cafeteria, made the move and asked Eryk for a date. That’s how they say it all started. Five years later, Roy Laguna is the artistic director of art gallery La Casa Amarilla (LCA) and Eryk Pall is an artist at the same space. In fact the French creator is mainly to blame for Roy ending up working there: “I asked him to come with me to the openings to get to know people and start to move in cultural circles here, as he came from the world of theatre,” reveals Eryk; and that’s how Roy ended up meeting David Burbano, founder of LCA.

Now they live and work together, an arrangement that works as they respect each other’s space: “We can both be in a room for five hours without disturbing one another.”

Their household also has another member, their housemate Lucía, but they say they couldn’t imagine their home without her. “If we move one day, we’ll take her with us.”

When they’re working, their time is their own: “I’ll be doing work for La Casa Amarilla and he’ll be sketching, or he’ll go to his workshop at LCA. We meet up for lunch; we do Intermittent fasting. And, hey, it works well for us,” Roy recommends. Eryk sometimes needs a muse and that is, undoubtedly Roy. “I’m used to having to be the star of the show sometimes,” jokes the artistic director. He provides the sentimental side and Eryk the visual when they do projects together. Such as the one they’re busy with now, a stage play for which they’re having great fun imagining situations.

It’s as if art is beating in the hearts of this couple, who only complain about one thing. Roy does not share the expression “My boyfriend’s friends are my friends.” He had just arrived in Malaga when he met Eryk and he stayed with him and his group of friends.

“If we break up, I’ll be left all by myself,” jokes Roy. But it seems he’ll have friends for some time to come if they stay as they are, as they say themselves, everything is “super”.