Interview #7: Baba Scarhead (2020)
“Concrete abstraction”／Interview by Paul Rowland
Baba Scarhead is an experimental artist who is constantly learning new techniques to create and capture the beauty of decay however and wherever he can. He is an abstract artist in the most concrete sense: his compositions are visceral and tactile and as far away from theoretical as you can get. His passion for photography might be seen as an obsession or even a kind of “madness” by those who don’t look hard, closely, or long enough; but for those care to see, he reveals the perfection in imperfection, and the sublime in the banal. Here’s our interview with him.
PR／How has your relationship to photography evolved throughout the years?
BS／As a teenager I used to go around alone with my father’s old analogue SLR taking pictures of landscapes, abandoned places, and degraded details of common objects. I have always been a lover of nature, and wild places have always fascinated me, perhaps because in some way they make me feel at home. When I studied Industrial Design at university, I was able to explore many aspects of photography; but only with the advent of digital did I first experiment. Today’s technology creates possibilities that were unthinkable 100 years ago, due to the high quality of the results obtained with tiny devices that we can always carry with us, exponentially facilitating the act of “capturing the right moment”: a trivial cell phone.
PR／What sparked your interest in abstract photography?
BS／For me, the term “abstract photography” is an oxymoron, because the light, shadows and subjects photographed are very real. Therefore, in photography the relationship with reality is arguably stronger and more direct than with painting. It is this contrast in the real/abstract dualism that fascinates me and motivates me, a dogma to respect and try to overcome every time. Precisely for this reason my latest photographic exhibition is entitled Antithesis: “Painting or photography? Real or abstract?” I made a spontaneous choice and I realized it when I was already on it, which is my way of expressing myself through abstract art: show a particular way of observing the world around me, not to take photographs.
PR／What’s your process of finding new photographic material like?
BS／Most of the time when I take pictures I am alone, but when I am with someone and I see a detail that catches my attention I say: “Wait a minute, I have to take a picture” — with the same urgency as needing to go the bathroom. These details find me during work, on walks, on vacation, or wherever I am. It is a kind of “madness” imposed by a certain way of looking at things, a “madness” that changes and evolves. The most difficult part is being able to transmute the immediate sensation that a certain detail has given me into an image, which is why the geometric and proportional aspects of the image have become very important. I never look for an image that is a masterpiece: for me, photography is a constant exercise.
PR／What are you trying to express with your work, and how do you achieve your purpose?
BS／I try to show a particular way of observing banal everyday objects by transforming them into abstract art, only through photographic subtraction. The different patterns of the materials, both natural and artificial, respond to geometries that are only of nature. The way I try to express my work comes directly from street art: nothing is perfect, nothing is eternal. Through my work, I want to recreate the same emotional impact in the observer that an image had on me. Beauty cannot be imprisoned in a definition, but if you know how and where to look, you find beauty everywhere. The greatest satisfaction comes during an exhibition, when the results are sometimes different and somehow exceed expectations.
PR／What has had an impact on you and influenced your approach to art?
BS／I find this difficult to answer, like picking a bee in a hive. I grew up knowing art, my father was a craftsman — a luthier — and in his spare time he created sculptures, wooden objects, and loved to paint with oils, so art has always been close to me. I am passionate about learning about new materials and artistic techniques, so I have never stopped at just one type of artistic expression, since curiosity has led me to find various ways of expressing myself. With photography, it was the opposite: I chose a path and then I met the authors who had already traveled it in the past, such as Mario Giacomelli and Aaron Siskind, but I was most inspired by the work of Alberto Burri: his study on white and on black colour definitely marked me.
PR／Please tell me more about exhibitions of your work.
BS／I recommend everyone to try to have an exhibition — it is an excellent opportunity to focus on your work and make it unique. I have had several small local exhibitions with my own savings, but I am still at the beginning and I hope to broaden my horizons: I have a lot of work to do. The most wonderful aspect of exhibitions I discovered at my first one: everyone knew they were photographs but they could not explain the true origin of the immortalized subjects. To try to explain something incomprehensible, the human mind draws equally from both known reality and the most dreamlike fantasy. I still have chills remembering the moment I created this thing. If I didn’t have an exhibition, it would never have happened.
PR／How would you describe the creative act for yourself?
BS／This is a complex question, but I will try to explain my experience. The “creative act” is divided into three phases: 1. The Primordial Spark. It is the most difficult to explain, it is like three rays of light that meet at a point in space creating a new light: an idea. 2. The Translation. You must consult all your knowledge to be able to transform that idea into something understandable and in the form that is considered most suitable. 3. In this regard, I find a quote from Marcel Duchamp perfect: “The creative act is not performed only by the artist; the viewer puts the work in contact with the outside world by deciphering and interpreting its inner qualifications and therefore adds his contribution to the creative act.”
PR／What are the next steps for you in your photography?
BS／I started taking these shots as a bit of fun and as a challenge, just for myself and without any expectations. When I showed my work to others, I discovered an appreciation that took me by surprise, so I decided to work towards my first photographic exhibition, and after five years I did it. There is a great joy in having your work appreciated by many people, which increases your enthusiasm and makes you want to improve your work and try new things. I can’t know what my future choices will be, but I am pleased that I am able to meet wonderful people from around the world who see things in a similar way to me, and grateful that I have this opportunity to make myself and my work known to those who might appreciate it.
Baba Scarhead is an experimental artist who is constantly learning new techniques to create and capture the beauty of decay however and wherever he can. He is an abstract artist in the most concrete sense: his compositions are visceral and tactile and as far away from theoretical as you can get. His passion for photography might be seen as an obsession or even a kind of “madness” by those who don’t look hard, closely, or long enough; but for those care to see, he reveals the perfection in imperfection, and the sublime in the banal.
Interviewed by Paul Rowland