Interview with Enrique Roura

By Nora Hole

We’re sitting on one of the wide window frames in the exhibition room of Galleri Neuf. I’ve lowered the sound from one of Enrique Roura’s installations: a wooden box hanging from the ceiling with speakers attached to it. Two people are supposed to be standing underneath it, being unwillingly close to each other listening to the sound. It's the sound of Norwegian snow, of footsteps walking in it. It resembles crushed styrofoam. The further the feet walk, the more distant the sound. Occasionally the sound changes into that of a crowing hen. It’s Enrique doing his special whistle. Only his closest family and friends will be able to recognize it. It’s the code of saying that he’s nearby.


–  When did you decide to do art?


–  I guess I’ve always made art: since I was in high
school and before high school. I’ve always been
painting, but I didn’t take that many classes when
I was younger; I was more self-educated back


As a more grown, Enrique Roura would take a
break from just doing art. In 2007, still very
creative, he was driven by the reasonable thought
of a “decent” job. The solution would turn out to
be an architecture degree at the biggest
university in Mexico, UNAM.


– Even my mother, when I was finishing high
school, was encouraging me to study art or
painting or something like that, but I was like
“No”, he laughs. I should study something that
will give me a steady income or something.
So, then I decided for architecture.


The architectural studies were however so technically demanding, so different from what Roura was good at, that he started struggling.


– It was with the digital aspect of how you should work with architecture. Everything is on the computer. So, I was failing, having troubles with school. I started taking other classes, like wood carving.


In 2010 Enrique came to Norway as an exchange student. He took an art and architecture class at the Art Academy of Trondheim. Enjoying it, he almost dropped out of his bachelor to go there instead.


–  I like very much this Scandinavian freedom. It was kind of self-educated but in a class. So, then I told myself: If I must study art, this will be the way. I even tried to enter to the bachelor and I was almost quitting architecture, but because of good luck, I didn’t get the place.


Roura went back to Mexico and managed to finish his architectural degree. It has now given him a solid foundation for his current art profession.


– When I want to create something I have this whole methodology, all these tools, all this background of knowledge of how things are being built. This allows me to build conceptually, but not just conceptually, but also materially. Things and ideas – brick by brick you build an idea.  


Eventually, in 2014, Enrique ended up taking a Master in Fine Art at the Trondheim Art Academy. He’s been in Trondheim ever since. Adjusting to a new immigrant life while working professionally with art for the first time has affected his artistry.


– I’ve gone through this path of expressing most of the things in my life. From my personal interpretation of a culture to my personal experience of being abroad; of being here and coming from a different culture, trying to expose that different culture. So, I’m kind of walking into the path of places and cultures.


With the exploration of places and cultures, identity becomes a big keyword in Roura’s art.


– This full idea of identity... thinking of identity in something more permeable; you allow other information from the outside to come in, but also the other way around. There are a lot of things that I feel that I adapt to in Norway and that I don’t adapt to in Mexico. I’m trying to make my identity more fluid, or yes – permeable. I like this idea of open and close, in and out, private and public, what is the body and what is the outside of the body. Most of these things repeat themselves.


The exhibition’s most explicit research of the private and public is the installation that shows over 300 pictures of Enrique and his parents skyping. The pictures have eagerly been taken by his father since Roura moved from Mexico to Norway. They show his family, mostly his mother, talking with Roura either on a computer or a phone. Seeing the pictures from his family’s perspective includes an insight into Roura’s family's life.


–  How do you feel about exposing yourself in the way you do?


– I think all art, or not all art, but most of it is – it’s a lot of exposure. Often you expose yourself, even though it’s not literal or obvious like this, he says laughing. I guess being a lot with yourself, traveling alone, being alone, sitting alone, sitting around cafes just with yourself – it allows this exposure to happen.


– Can you tell me a bit about how you work?


– What makes me start doing something is maybe that very place, that very situation; where it is going to be existing. It’s weird but often I don’t work in my studio to do something, I more… I need to have some sort of location.


Roura resembles it with these two possibilities of wood carving: either you have an idea in your mind and start carving after the idea or you follow the patterns in the wood. Enrique chooses the last option, if not the wood, then the room. He adjusts after it.


– I allow my artworks to be gone because of the location and space. I allow the location to give the total of possibilities.


–  There is a lot of wood in your works too. Why the fascination for wood?


–  Wood was one of the reasons why I came to Norway. I was always interested in this material. I don’t exactly know what brought me. I guess it’s a bit literal, but my last name means oak.


–  That’s  nice!


– Yeah, it’s a nice thing, but it’s not enough reason to like something just because… but I just started using it and I like to work with it. It’s the material I’m familiar with and skilled in. I have developed this skill in different aspects: I see this material as very alive, or it was alive and so it has this relation to the self, to us. It’s different from concrete, which is more of a dead material. In the wood you have all these drawings and things; this expression of the dead that has been alive. And I… I like that.


In addition to wood, smell is another natural element in Roura’s exhibition. You’ll find  incenses out of spices like ginger and coriander seeds. It’s not the scent themselves that Roura is most interested in, but rather the concept of scent. The fact that smell is something that can’t be conveyed through technology.

What do you think of technology?


– I’m not against technology, but I often reject it, but at the same time I need it. It’s just to put it on the table; to make it visible, to let us be more aware of the consequences of how we’re changing the behavior through technology. But technology is everything at the same time. History has been divided into technological eras – technology in the stone age, the bronze age, it’s all about the technology and the technology nowadays is communication and possibility of knowing.


– How would you position your work within the history of art?


– I don’t know. I don’t want to lock myself to something, but there are things that come again and again… and I don’t know how to position these things in the whole history of art, so it’s complicated. I may not have achieved that point, he concludes in the end, with another laugh.