Joana Escoval / Joana Roda – Bombon Project

Here at Site-Specific Conversation, we have initiated a collaboration with Barcelona Gallery Weekend 2022, offering a series of conversations that will be published weekly over the summer.

The proposal takes Lucy Lippard’s novel, I See/You Mean, as a reference and uses its title to talk about affinities in the choices made by artists and gallery directors and about practices, projects and work dynamics. During the writing process, Lucy realised she was ashamed of being a woman. This same feeling has been experienced by many over the years, and still is to this day. For this reason, we have selected eight galleries exhibiting works by women at this edition of BGW. Throughout this series, we will be conversing with artists and gallery directors, focusing on the relationships generated in a field like this, where the creative is often mixed with the affective.

We talk to Joana Escoval and Joana Roda about the project the former will be presenting to coincide with Barcelona Gallery Weekend 2022 at Bombon Projects, the gallery the latter runs with her partner, artist Bernat Daviu. With all the familiar, fresh proximity that characterises them both, the conversation brings us ‘love at first sight’, bare feet, torrential rain, and plenty of experiences, coincidences, and intuitions. But, above all, it helps us to understand their thorough way of working, full of trust and intimacy, full of those imperceptible things generated between people, things that are such an essential part of healthy professional (and personal) relationships.



You’ve been working together at Bombon for a while, but how did you meet? When and how did your relationship start?

Joana Escoval / We met in Lisbon a few years ago. A mutual friend, the curator João Laia, introduced us during Arco Lisboa, in the spring of 2017 or 2018. As soon as we met, I loved Joana’s and Bernat’s presence and their project’s energy

Joana Roda / We saw some very subtle pieces. They could even go unnoticed, perhaps. It was like love at first sight. There was something alchemical, magical about them, a really special energy. João Laia encouraged us to meet her, because he knew we would get along. This immediate love of her work got even stronger when we met the artist. There was plenty of chemistry and everything flowed effortlessly. Straight away, we wrote to her asking if she would like to collaborate with us, because we really wanted to get to know her more, to work with her. There’s something invisible in Joana’s work that captivates us and I’m not sure exactly what it is. What grabs my attention about the artists I work with is their way of thinking, of seeing things. Even if you don’t know her, her sculptures express what she’s like and how she positions herself in the world. You can see that she’s part of something bigger, of nature, and that we are all part of it, too. Putting nature and all that’s collective first is revolutionary.

Joana E., we know that you were in an artistic residency in 2011 at Halfhouse, Barcelona. Did this influence your decision to start that adventure together?

Joana Escoval / Of course, the great experience I had working with Alberto and Sinead at Halfhouse influenced me a bit, though perhaps indirectly. The residency left me with a wonderful feeling inside, and the idea of working in the same city and context again made me very happy.

How was your first exhibition with them? How many projects have you made together with the Bombon team and how has it been working with them?

Joana Escoval / My first exhibition developed very naturally. When I arrived in Barcelona, Joana and Bernat picked me up directly from the airport and we headed straight off on a little road trip together to see some geologically interesting spots. I was looking for specific rock sites, as usual. That first trip together was a great way of starting our collaboration and getting to know each other better. We had some joyful bonding experiences during those days when we were setting up. We got caught in quite a few rainstorms while walking through the city, including on the way to the opening. I was completely soaked during the opening, to the point where I couldn’t wear my shoes and had to be barefoot. This was especially meaningful, or symbolic, let’s say, because the title of that first exhibition at Bombon Projects was Hecho para acompañar el sonido de una tormenta [Made to Accompany the Sound of a Storm]. Everything seemed fine-tuned, even the weather!

We haven’t worked on many projects together yet but the ones we have collaborated on have been sheer bliss, and every time we meet up to discuss present or future projects I feel a lot of friendship, empathy, and care between us.
The beginning was somehow very instinctive and natural, with nothing planned or even programmed. When I met Joana and Bernat I was just so happy that there was a young gallery of my generation with such good principles and close interaction with artists and friends. It felt like a real community based on friendship. I loved that Bernat is an artist and that Joana has been involved in performances. Their fluid, non-hierarchical approach is very special and similar to what I believe to be the best way for the art system to function healthily. By opening up multiple perspectives and understandings from within artistic processes, and not focusing on strictly market considerations. This sense of interdependence and companionship is also how I started to work back in Lisbon, when we used to gather with fellow artists to organise projects and debate what we truly believed in. I met Joana and Bernat at a time when I was missing that energy. There’s a real beauty in working over the long term and building relationships before bringing concrete projects to life.

Tell us a little bit more about your next project  coinciding with Barcelona Gallery Weekend

Joana Escoval / The title is ‘Wordless and Earthen’ and it will be made up of mostly mineral matter. All elements will be involved – earth, fire, water, and air – and, in due time, circulation and mutations will make their own poetry. Generally, I don’t like to talk about my projects before they open to the public. It feels like taking their soul away… I believe that things are allowed to still be moving and finding their own sense of place until the first visitor arrives. The connections and empty spaces between things are crucial, so talking about the project without these spaces existing yet is like talking about separate, individual parts of a body. I can tell you a little bit about those loose parts, though. For example, for the first time, I’ve written the texts for the exhibition. They’re a bit like short stories that will evoke fragments of dreams I’ve had over the last few years while working with soil and metals. Along with them, for the first time in Barcelona, I’ll be presenting some of the sculptures I made in collaboration with a master craftsman using clay skilfully harvested from the soils of Alentejo, Portugal, where I spent part of my teenage years. Soils that, in recent years, have been haunted again by intensified industrial monoculture. Some areas have become contemporary symbols of the territories deeply distorted by the breakdown of the age-old connections between humans and their motherland. Nevertheless, even though the objects presented will be born out of what occurs naturally underground, they will also channel the power of the wind, which connects all the surfaces simultaneously, as though its pressure were being translated into breath, movement and sound.

Joana Roda / The project can be considered a continuation of Joana’s exhibition at Galeria Vera Cortês in Lisbon, Wind Dreams, which marked the beginning of a new body of work made of ceramic, without abandoning the precious metals element, of course. We are in the process right now, and what’s interesting to me is her reinforcement of this idea that everything is part of a union between materials, people, animals. Between what’s natural and what isn’t. She removes the boundaries between species and materials. When you read the poem she’s sent us for the exhibition brochure, you understand this idea of the constant death and resurrection of nature, but also of materials, like a kind of wheel where everything is highly important but at the same time it isn’t… Because everything dies and gets reborn. It’s hard to explain in words; it’s more like a sensation. In fact, Joana’s exhibitions tend to be a lot like that. In the way she installs the pieces, the way she works with the space and the materials, she is very generous with her audience. She puts a lot of energy into working the materials, and that creates a very pleasant environment. Her respect for nature and for humans makes people feel good at her exhibitions.

Joana E., how does this new project relate with your previous practice?

Joana Escoval / All my projects are interrelated; there’s no separation. In both my practice and my life, everything cooperates, like a wave in the ocean or the wind that I so often mention as my companion or assistant while working. Everything is always in movement, and this project is no exception. It’s a continuum of sea tides that can either calm down under the full moon or manifest storms and trouble.
At the same time, this project will be really special to me, because I’ve been working with the transformation of old jewellery from my family, and Joana Roda is the first person who has kindly shared a family piece to be transformed into otherness. It’s such a beautiful gesture and channels a lot of meaning for both of us. I’ve been longing to be able to work in this manner for ages. This level of trust and intimacy is a step forward in my practice.

Joana Roda / We like working with genuine artists who accept no concessions, and whose work is just like them. It’s interesting because their work really reflects their way of thinking, and that’s why it’s important to give them space. Bernat and I met through work. Love blossomed when we started collaborating on his performances. He had a project space, Passatge Estudio, and I was working in a gallery, and I got really involved. It was all very organic. That’s our way of life. I think our gallery works because it’s a lifestyle. It’s quite hard to define where the gallery ends and our home begins, or where the professional sphere ends and friendship begins… I like to think the gallery isn’t just me and Bernat, but rather a collective of people who like to be together, and a space where a lot of things can happen and everyone is welcome! Perhaps the trust generated between people is thanks to the energy we have all built together, bit by bit.

Barcelona Gallery Weekend seeks to reinforce and make visible the rich and varied artistic scene of Barcelona, promote art collecting and highlight the work of the galleries, as culture generating spaces open to citizens, and the artists they represent. From 15th to 18th September 2022, we celebrate our 8th edition in 32 galleries, presenting the work of more than 60 artists.