The curriculum vitae of the painter and sculptor, Antonio Eslava is every bit as extensive as his artistic works, but a short summary would read as follows: Born in Pamplona in 1936, he studied in Art School in Madrid and continued his studies in Florence before going on to Rome to complete his studies. He has received many awards and has had exhibitions in America, Japan as well as in Europe. However, he has also found time to take his artist’s brush to Pamplona. In 1988 he published “El Encierro” - a graphic poem on the running of the bulls which seeks to penetrate the origins of this spectacle by way of etchings and xylographs. The Navarran artist believes that only a human being is capable of taking on such a risk in itself, and for no apparent gain, because fate and chance are at the extreme periphery of beauty. Only this fact can justify the daily morning gathering of a large crowd who are about to risk their lives in front of six large bulls with sharp horns.
-Let me propose a cliché definition to you: The running of the bulls is the most complete expression of the fiesta. What would you say to that?
-I believe that the running of the bulls is complete in itself. An exercise in speed and intelligence where it is not intrinsic that the bulls or the people should die. It is just a very personal risk.
-And what element do you feel is the most expressive?
-One friend of mine, an anthropologist from a Californian University, found that what most took his breath away, what most left him gaping, was the resonance of the bulls’ hooves on the cobbled streets, a sound of imminent awesome danger. To feel that on the back of the neck is not something easily forgotten.
-Who is the real artist of the spectacle, the runner, the spectator, the bull…?
-The runner, without a doubt. The one who is risking most, the one who is using his intelligence, his ability and his reflexes. The rest of us only feel the fright.
-And where would you categorize the person who tries to pull the tail of the bull, or who yells for the bull from behind to turn back?
-That type has already been rightly rebuked by the public over the years. He is the “moron” who disrupts the party, the type who has to be taken out, for he is just as boorish as someone who flings a wedding cake on the floor.
-And is there a remedial element for the mind in the running of the bulls?
-Man needs to infiltrate a magical and irrational world at times, so that he can come out again feeling renewed and enhanced. And that is the great effect of the running of the bulls. It is a catharsis, but in its wildest form.
-Let’s leave the running of the bulls and go on with the fiesta. They say that in Sanfermines there are a lot of hidden artists to be found on the streets. Have you discovered any?
-The street in itself cannot offer that aspect. In order to find some kind of artistic context it is necessary to distance oneself from the fiesta. You cannot think if you are directly participating, you have to step back from the dance in order to see how they dance.
-Are these days the most appropriate ones to receive the visit of the Muse, or would it best to leave it for some other moment?
-I would say it is not the best moment. These days are days for fun and enjoyment. Days to lose yourself in an irrational world, and to live it up. Later on the artistic conclusions can come out.
-Part of your work reflects your passion for color - what colors catch your attention in Sanfermin?
-I think that the red and white of the first few days is very elegant when everything is still pretty and clean. It is a spectacle of the inhabitants which is quite unique. And then there is that special color of the sand in the bull-ring, which, when you see it, makes it difficult to pull your eyes away from it.
-And what about the Sanfermin drawings from Kukuxumusu ? How would you classify them - as art, as a joke, or are they both things at the same time?
-I would say that it is a language, a language which has been universalized because it is simple, but it also contains art; the art of language well used.
-Just to finish, a final definition: Sanfermin is an expression of social fervor, a crazy scene, a collective aberration or a cultural act brought to its limit?
-It is an extraordinary fiesta as an expression of a particular people. However, it also has its hidden part; corrosive, hard, tiring and dirty as well as being rather expensive.