|Juan Manuel Sánchez in his Vancouver studio, 2006|
In 2006 I met an Argentine artist, Juan Manuel Sánchez. We collaborated for about 8 years in Vancouver in tandem with his wife, also an artist, Nora Patrich. I visited him in Buenos Aires, a few months before he died October 5 2016.
This man was a commanding influence in my life. Before I met him, even though I had shows in galleries with my photographs, I considered myself a competent magazine photographer. Sánchez convinced me that I was indeed an artist.
While he was older that I was, we shared that now forgotten interest in depicting a woman with little clothing.
Sánchez was a man with an obsession. He painted every day
and his subject was the woman of his imagination. He would start with a blank
canvas. He told me that when he stared at the canvas he had a problem that had
to be resolved. His problem was the task of reducing the woman to a Platonic
essence. How much could he remove from his painting and still have the woman? The Spanish word "resolución" is much more mathematical in its meaning than resolution.
One day I said, “Juan if one day you stare at your canvas and then mark the centre with a point, will that be the essence you are looking for?” With a smile on his face he answered, “Perhaps.”
Over coffee in Buenos Aires, in 2016 I told him that the next time I visited him…he did not allow me to finish, saying, “I will not be here when you come.”
Sánchez told me that my own obsession of taking photographs of women, many without clothes was a perfectly natural thing to do. When the man telling you this looked like a portly Picasso you tended to believe his word. I did.
Now in this century, the many photographs I have taken and keep taking can never be shown anywhere in this city.
I am not bitter about this as I take a cue from American photographer Garry Winogrand who when he died hundreds of undeveloped rolls were found in his house. Winogrand liked to take photographs. That was enough for him.
I share my photographs with my subjects and when I fix them before I send them by email I enjoy the process. That is enough for me.
Of late I am approaching the Sánchez problem of a resolution. My photography is going into a direction of minimalism.
While I do not believe in ghosts, I can almost sense behind me, Juan Manuel Sánchez and his smile, telling me, “Sos un artista.”
|C - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward|