q&a Amador Braojos is a sculptor based in Madrid.
'I call stones the talismans of the earth'
How would you describe your work? I make sculptures, mainly with semi-precious minerals such as quartz, ruby and amethyst. As far as I know, I'm the first artist to use these stones in this way, and each piece is totally unique because of the natural properties of the stones. The minerals used in sculpture are usually much smaller. I also make jewellery. I do work for private individuals and corporate clients and my sculptures are exhibited both indoors and outdoors. Sometimes the sculptures are very small, but some of the stones, especially those exhibited in public spaces, can be up to 20 tons in weight. I call the stones the talismans of the earth because they each carry a spiritual message.
How did you get the idea to use these materials? I was travelling in Brazil and happened to know some people who were working at mines in the country. They said I would not believe the size of the stones they were finding. At the time, even they didn't know such big stones existed. That's when I started to discover and import them. I have been doing this for about 10 years now but I have been a sculptor for 40 years. Each sculpture starts with a trip. I find and fall in love with a particular mineral, so it's a kind of adventure. I now import stones from all over Brazil and southern Africa: Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia and South Africa. I travel for at least two months of the year.
What are your artistic influences? There are no direct influences on my work but everyone is influenced by everything that has ever happened to them, in their past or present. The present is particularly important and I believe the life of an artist should always be adventurous. I was very moved by the primitive ethnic art I saw in the Kalahari Desert. Their paintings really communicate a spirit. I believe the beauty of these stones helps me to reveal the beauty of the earth. The prettiest minerals attract me and I am just motivated to take these minerals from the earth into the big world of art.
What are you doing in Abu Dhabi? I am on a brief visit prior to an exhibition of contemporary Spanish art, to be hosted by the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage in October. I will bring between 12 and 15 sculptures from Madrid, including two pieces which weigh 500 kg each. I will be part of a group of 13 Spanish artists, including Fernando Bellver, Rafael Canogar, Joaquin Capa and Jorge Castillo. We will exhibit a mixture of sculpture and paintings. I am looking forward to my return, partly because I want to give thanks to the Arab world for what we have in southern Spain. I am originally from Toledo and al Andalus is part of my heritage.
What do you think of the arts scene here? I have not met any local artists yet but I am very impressed and surprised by what is planned for Saadiyat Island. In any part of the world, this would be a huge project. I also love the Picasso exhibition at the Emirates Palace hotel. It's not just because he's Spanish; he's one of the most important contemporary artists who looks at the parts of life people want to look at, in a unique way. He doesn't always look at beautiful things, and he sometimes looks at bad things, but his aesthetic is unique and very powerful.
How do you work at home? I have a big workshop and office in my home in Madrid, and my own art gallery. The process starts from the moment the mineral is extracted from the earth. Usually, it's cut from a much bigger piece of stone. Then I cut, shape and polish the stones and tie them together with metal. Some are arranged on stands and some are suspended using wire or steel. I also teach sculpture and design to individuals from home. I look for patterns in the stones because I believe that to observe and understand nature's patterns is the path to the earth's spirit and life's secrets.
How do the stones communicate a message to you? It's difficult to explain in words, but working with the minerals, I see patterns and harmony in their opaqueness, but it is a frustrated, broken transparency, which keeps the mystery in them awake. * Rosemary Behan