Manolo Paz Foundation, Cambados, Galicia, Spain
Manolo Paz always talks in a soothing tone that seems to float somewhere between the wind and the earth. He speaks in Spanish and I only pick up the occasional word. But when he is translated, I feel like the meaning of what he has to say fits with the way he says it. Grounded yet inspirational.
It’s an appropriate impression for an artist to make.
I meet Manolo at his large outdoor sculpture gallery near the city of Cambados in the Galicia region of Spain. He is creating his dream here on the grass amongst the trees and I ask him what he gets out of it.
“I particularly enjoy it when children come here,” he tells me through a translator.
“Maybe they don’t know exactly where they are but they run and play and the important thing is that they are in contact with contemporary art and they will have something in their mind related to this when they leave.”
The art that Manolo has created here is, in some ways, very accessible for school children. Some of it looks like play equipment and it can be climbed on, incorporated into games.
I’m no psychologist but I do wonder how much this is influenced by Manolo’s own childhood, which he mentions during our conversation.
“I realised I liked art and sculpture when I was a kid,” he says, “but nobody in this region understood it – they were farmers and fishermen.”
“So I went overseas to learn more about art. And although I learned a lot, I also realised how special Galicia is. And so I came back here to create this sculpture park.”
Perhaps he is trying to give to these children what he thought he didn’t have at their age. And it makes sense that has to happen here, where he grew up.
To my mind, there are two ways to approach a visit to the sculpture park at the Manolo Paz Foundation. One is to see it as a collection of art. The other is to see it as a part of Galicia. Or, I suppose, a combination of the two.
Because Manolo says his artwork is not directly based on Galicia… but he does find inspiration here. At one point he gestures to the coastline in the distance below and talks about how, from his sculpture garden, you can see the water flowing in and out through the estuaries each day. And he does find his materials – the stone, for instance – in the region too.
But it’s probably a bit more general than that. In his own words, Manolo describes how his art is related to nature.
“It’s about how we respect nature,” he says, “and, importantly, what we will leave for our children and future generations.
“We have to respect nature because then nature will be generous with us.”
As I wander through the park and take in the various artworks, I try to collect my thoughts about how I’m feeling. What do these sculptures represent to me? How does he choose where to out them?
I’m surprised when I ask Manolo about the placement of the art and he tells me there’s no real strategy or background thinking.
“I don’t usually think about where I’m going to place the sculptures,” he tells me.
“First I work on them and then I think about the location in the garden.”
“For example, last year I moved them all around and already I want to move one of the big ones again because I think it needs more space around it.”
For someone who wants us to have a relationship with nature, to respect it, I would have expected the stones he shapes to have a stronger relationship to their natural surroundings.
Although… on further reflection… perhaps there is a relationship here between all the elements. Just because Manolo doesn’t plan it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. His philosophy is that everything is necessary and everything fits within these spaces. We explore it all and find that each corner has its own meaning and atmosphere. Everything is interacting and coexisting in harmony.
Galicia as a region is peaceful. Here in the Salnes area, I have seen a lot of harmony and coexistence – tradition with modernity, agriculture with industry, comfort with hard work. Perhaps that’s why I find the Manolo Paz Foundation to be so organic.
Manolo says he first had the idea for the park in 1995 and he started working on it when he came back from New York. But it’s not finished yet. He tells me that he still hasn’t realised his vision. One thing he would like to do is expand the size and add even more sculptures.
As long as the children keep coming and keep interacting with the sculptures, I have no doubt that Manolo will have the inspiration to achieve his dream.