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Esteu aquí: Inici Magazine Interview with Carles Porta

Interview with Carles Porta

Animac cannot be understood without Carles Porta: he has been part of its animated soul since its origins, 25 years ago. Since 1997, he has been responsible for Animac's distinct graphic image. This year, he has passed on the baton to Gina Thorstensen and at the same time will receive the Lifetime Award for a very fruitful career... and very difficult to sum up!

Lleida-born Carles Porta (1963) is an artist with many heads: designer, audiovisual director, illustrator, sketch artist and poster designer, and he is a teacher of illustration and animation at the Leandre Cristòfol Municipal School of Arts in Lleida.

He has worked as an illustrator for different national magazines, books and cult comics (Madriz, El Víbora, TBO). He is author of the children’s books series "Tales from the Hidden Valley" published by the British Flying Eye Books. His poster work for the graphic art of Animac was recognised internationally in 1999 with the Jules Geret Award at the Annecy Festival. He has directed two independent shorts: the multiple award-winning François le Vaillant (2003) and Las vidas ejemplares (2008), part of the collection “Del Trazo al Píxel”, produced by the CCCB, curated by Carolina López and presented at Annecy 2015.

He has also provided audiovisual support to the children's shows La Guerra de Troia, Sensacional and The Little Night, directed by Jordi Colominas and set to music by Josep Maria Baldomà; and, with music by Baldo, the mapping for "Stone, paper and water" for the celebration of the 75th anniversary of the Institut d'Estudis Ilerdencs in 2017. And, of course, he has produced numerous animated openings for Animac and for the travelling animation cinema PUCK Cinema Caravana. Created by Carles, it is the smallest cinema in the world and, since 2009, has provided an annual selection of the best of international animation.

Carles shares his references, his modus operandi of trial and error, and aspects of his present and future projects with us. And, of course, his connection with Animac and how he has created its graphic image year after year, which we will be able to see in the next exhibition at the Morera Museum. Long live the possible universes!

How did you enter the world of illustration?

I’ve always had an autodidactic and independent attitude. My artistic interests were related to poster and graphic design. Drawing in publications and posters. Drawing that supports or conveys an idea. Not especially a realistic drawing but rather the drawing of a different world, with shapes and colours from another reality. I found it interesting to see how to reach the viewer through everyday means: the poster on a street wall, stickers, stamps, an illustrated book, a box of biscuits. This presence has a transforming power of reality, not transcendent, but enriches the visual experience of our environment, awakening the imagination. It is this idea that attracted me to illustration in all its forms.

Your illustrations tell stories and also have life and movement. How do they relate to animation?

For a long time I was entranced by the spatial representations of German Expressionism. Those crooked houses, forming angles that don’t follow a logical perspective. It’s about creating a visual rhythm. It has to do with music and dance. Things dance. Similarly, when a character appears I tend to think instinctively about how it “acts”, how its presence is expressed in relation to space. It’s like a choreographer’s or theatre director’s job. I’m very interested in this relationship between character and landscape.

We enjoy your multidisciplinary approach when it comes to creating. How do you work with such different formats?

It’s an attitude that needs a certain degree of unconsciousness and a lot of curiosity. Often I’m not fully aware of where I’m going. I’ve found this to be dangerous, but it also has its positives. It allows you to imagine solutions that are not typical. I have the idea of not being a creator who uses a single language or style. For me, every project is a challenge and each one has to provide a solution. I don’t try to find solutions to projects using a pre-established style. I don’t want to feel like I'm always doing the same thing. This would be unbearable for me, so I need to try out media, formats... these are challenges that allow me to do things I haven’t done before, that bring more emotion and don’t relax the creative spirit.

You are now working for one of the best illustrated book publishers in the world, as a professor at Leandre Cristòfol Municipal School of Arts, and you are continuing with beautiful projects like PUCK. Can you tell us a little about these projects and if you have any more lined up for the future?

"Tales from the Hidden Valley" has been a children's picture book project that has matured over six years. It’s an entire hidden world that very few have a chance to discover, a valley full of very special characters and places. An old movie was playing in my head, the memory of Brigadoon that I saw in my childhood, and I mixed it with the tales of the great Tove Jansson. The initial idea was to publish a book written and illustrated by myself, and then try to make an animated film. Things were not as simple as I imagined at first. The ideas and characters grew as I came up with stories that went, one after the other, into the rubbish bin. I had a lot of drawings and ideas that just didn’t work. One after the other, they were examined and discarded by my family and my friend and director Ted Sieger. I imagined a thousand stories without rhyme or reason until Ted gave me the idea of making four books, each dedicated to a season of the year. From there, things started to come together and had a happy ending. Also with the help of Teresa Ibars and Roser Trepat, who helped me polish my texts and how I expressed myself. Finally, the English publishing house Flying Eye Books published them and they are available in several languages. Now my project is to find time to continue with new stories that I’ve left half sketched in the drawer.

PUCK Cinema Caravana is a project about my need to share things that I think are worth knowing, in this case independent animated short films, which I thought needed a channel beyond festivals. PUCK was born for this purpose: it’s the smallest cinema in the world and can go anywhere. It’s been 10 years, and to celebrate we’ve built wooden games around the caravan. They’re inspired by films that have been very popular in PUCK over the years. None of this would have been possible without Toni Tomàs, who has been my partner and accomplice on this adventure.

The School is my current project that absorbs me so much that the other projects are piling up. I wish I could convey something of what I’ve learned over the years, trying to develop the world of animation with the desire to help new animated projects grow from the city. I think this is a necessity for Lleida after 25 years of being the venue for a major animation festival.

You’ve worked on immersive, interactive projects... What do you think immersive technologies (and technologies in general) can bring to the world of illustration and animation?

I’ve made a couple of immersive visual productions for young kids: SENSACIONAL and LITTLE NIGHT. In these productions not only does the screening space change, but so do the spatial relationship and role of the audience. It pushes them to play by responding in some way to different stimuli. Their psychology is exposed. Shyness, prevention, mistrust, inhibition... They also become actors. The real audience are the parents who observe an unwritten work and the reaction of their children to visual and sound stimuli. Here the role of the director is very different from a short film. Each medium proposes different rules of the game to the creator.

How do you see the evolution of Animac over the years?

Animac has grown with us and I’ve been a privileged spectator. Over the years, it has allowed me to discover all the richness of possibilities, the different faces and forms of expression of the languages of animation.

I think Animac has been intelligently managed, taking advantage of all the possibilities available to it, and being very aware of and sensitive to the great transformation of the sector during these years. The transformative role of new technologies in the field of production, as well as the boom in schools from which an army of highly trained young animators is emerging, to give two examples.

On the other hand, as someone from Lleida, I think that Animac still has great potential to exploit, especially for a city traditionally lacking certain identity references, with a somewhat weak sense of pride sometimes poorly focused. The potential of projecting its external image at national, state or international level. And, in addition, the influence it could have in the local artistic or productive world. I think it would be very positive for the city to invest more decisively in this idea with the combined strength of the different institutions, as I had the opportunity to see how French policies worked locally in Valence during my "residence". We can’t continue to do politics from the logic of parties. It impoverishes us, limits us and frustrates the possibilities of the projects.

What has working at Animac since its inception meant for you? What identity do you think you have given Animac with your body of work? What has it been like to work throughout these years on an opening for an animation festival?

Animac has been the ideal commission for me. It allowed me to combine two worlds I’m passionate about: animation and posters, and the opportunity and challenge of proposing different ideas, of transforming myself year after year. I’ve also experienced this as a great responsibility. I’ve grown and learned. At first, it was very clear that my work had to try to transform those boring posters of the animation festivals of the time that put up flags and film tapes making waves. We had to somehow transfer the exciting experience that cinema brings us to graphics. That's why my posters often try to recreate an imaginary film, the image of a film that doesn’t exist but that I would certainly like to make if I had the time and resources. Usually the opening was a kind of very broad trailer for this film.

How are you approaching the exhibition of your work related to Animac at the Morera Museum on the 25th anniversary of the festival. Does it have a title yet?

The exhibition will be called “The Infinite House”. The idea we’re working on is to go beyond a review of the image of these 25 years and show much of the work that goes on behind it, many of the things that could have been, but that stayed as part of the work process. As I said, the poster often tries to recreate a possible world, an imaginary world with its graphic nature and characters. These images are part of what the films we can see in Animac try to do. Possible universes, with their laws and particular atmosphere.

What has this pandemic taught you and what do you miss most?

I miss the little things. Being able to breathe without a mask, being able to share a space with someone else without being afraid.

Congratulations on the Lifetime Award. What does it mean to you?

To be honest, I'm still digesting it. I’m greatly appreciative and moved by it. It reminded me of my dear friend Miguel Gallardo who, after losing track of me for many years, told me that I had a very strange career. If I think about things I’d like to do, or haven’t been able to do yet, the award weighs on me, because I feel like I don’t deserve it yet. If I look back, it’s true that I see a restless spirit that has tried to do things in a medium that I find extraordinary. Things like two shorts, festival openings, some advertisements, animated institutional messages, visuals for plays, immersive children's shows, a mapping, a cinema dedicated to animation in a small caravan... I hope my negative side, which is so critical, ends up accepting it... and enjoying it.


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