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Texas Liquid Smoke

We catch a chat with Toronto-born artist Zoe Barcza about her ongoing solo show Texas Liquid Smoke at Loyal Gallery in Stockholm.

C-P: Congrats on ”Texas Liquid Smoke”, your solo show at Loyal Gallery in Stockholm. It’s quite spectacular! I love how you've made use of industrial kitchen appliances and worked with the small space in a way which feels very grand and “institutional”. How did the idea for the show come about?

Z.B: Hi, and thanks! The ideas for this show have been kicking around in my head for a while, and come basically direct from my day job, where I cook at a restaurant. There are so many visual things and substances to be inspired by there, both beautiful and abject. And I guess one time I was hosing down one of the baking racks, and it was flipped on its side, and this little slip of form from function was enough to trigger the thought that these machines were pretty funky as objects.

Restaurants are these weird little ecosystems... wasteful, hard to make a profit from, where your inventory literally starts to rot after some days. I feel like it's a microcosm for all these bigger forces... consumption, death, sex...Like for example, gelatin, an ingredient I use a lot (I do deserts). When I encounter gelatin, it's this perfect glassy sheet, with delicate embossed lacy patterns in an ornate little blue box, that melts into hot goo to give your desert a firmer texture. Which is light years away from where the gelatin started out, as the joints and hooves of cows and pigs... This abstraction totally boggles my mind! So the show is somehow about that.

And then the paintings, which have images within mazes, are using this blunt metaphor that could mean all sorts of things: work is like a maze or life is like a maze or sex is like a maze... It's quite cheesy and I'm almost parodying myself, but I also mean it.

C-P: Alongside two paintings, the show notably exhibits a number of unique glass objects depicting sperm. For the production I believe you worked very closely with Ebba von Wachenfeldt, a glass blower. Tell us a little about this collaborative process.

Z.B: I was just trying to decide which material would fit the idea of having all the machines covered with the sperm shapes, either like as a sperm factory, or maybe, an absurd nightmare scenario of what your not supposed to do in a professional kitchen... And blown glass has the ability to magically resemble organic liquid goo.

Ebba's style and her own work really resonated with me, it has a similar organic doodly style that felt related to the way I draw. Her workshop is just outside Stockholm, so I could go and we could try out different things, like making mutant double tailed sperm or whatever came to mind.

C-P: Although your widely exhibited abstract paintings seem to have become your character trait, I learnt that you mostly worked with the video medium while a student at the Städelschule in Frankfurt. What were some of the themes informing your (video) work?

Z.B: I guess it was another day-job inspiration, but I used to work at a video store in Toronto before art school. I was watching infinite movie hours for a while there, so taking a crack at making film just happened. I guess the themes I was interested in came from the structure of movies themselves. I would read dry textbooks on cinematography, camera lenses, different kinds of shots, continuity editing, production companies, anti-piracy campaigns by the Motion Picture Association of America, everything. At one point I got into making films on 16mm, but I was mostly interested in just learning how to make it work. When you are learning something new you can get enchanted when anything happens at all, but it doesn't necessarily make it any good.

Some artists I know have to make things constantly or they die. I'm not like that, but I'm more into learning new things and having like 10 hobbies on the go. I'm glad I got into painting because you almost never get good at it, it's just one unending problem you've caused for yourself, so there's no reason to get bored. I don't know if there's anything thematically consistent with what I'm doing now, except maybe just my approach. Making paintings is a way for me to funnel a million visual interests, and specifically working with airbrush has this technical nerdy appeal. I've taught myself painting basically watching youtube videos on motorcycle refinishing and stuff like that, and visually it's tied to looking at Heavy Metal Magazine a lot, and prog album covers, and science fiction paperback art, and DeviantArt, and fine art too.

C-P: Having previously studied in your native Toronto and later pursued a MFA in Frankfurt, what made you decide on settling down in Stockholm after completing your studies? Also, how do you find the city to be making art as an international artist?

Z.B: It was a purely impulsive emotional decision to move to Stockholm. My boyfriend Alfred Boman (who is a bitchin artist himself), is from the suburbs of Stockholm and I came so that we could be together. I'm glad it happened anyway, after Städel a lot of students move straight to Berlin or maybe Brussels, but that likely would have been more of the same. Not to generalize but I really like Swedish people; and people are probably more important than the features of the city itself. We have a bunch of friends here who are also artists who are super inspiring, and generous, and kind. It worked out better than if I had planned it.

Zoe Barcza’s Texas Liquid Smoke runs at Loyal Gallery in Stockholm through July 2. C-print would like to forward a special thanks to Amy and Martin of Loyal Gallery.

To learn more about Zoe Barcza’s work, visit:

Images courtesy of Loyal Gallery

1) Installation view, Zoe Barcza 'Texas Liquid Smoke, Loyal Gallery; Sperm, hand blown glass, varying sizes approx 7 x 7 x 35 cm

2) Zoe Barcza 'Erotic Maze Painting' (Young Lady and Witch), acrylic on canvas, 65 x 51 in, 165 x 130 cm 3) Zoe Barcza at Loyal Gallery 4) Installation view, Zoe Barcza 'Texas Liquid Smoke, Loyal Gallery 5) Back: Zoe Barcza 'Erotic Maze Painting' (Face, Ear, and Little Bird), acrylic on canvas, 65 x 51 in, 165 x 130 cm Front: Zoe Barcza 'Texas Liquid Smoke 2', 12 hand-blown glass ‘Sperms’ on metal rack, 72 x 16 x 24 in,182 x 40 x 60 cm 6) Installation view, Zoe Barcza 'Texas Liquid Smoke, Loyal Gallery

7) Installation view, Zoe Barcza 'Texas Liquid Smoke, Loyal Gallery

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