Interview with Tim Ralson and Diana Cerezino, Founders of PADA Studios, Gallery and Residency

Interviews
By Katharina Wenzel-Vollenbroich
Tim Ralson and Diana Cerezino, Founders of PADA Studios Tim Ralson and Diana Cerezino, Founders of PADA Studios

To begin with, Tim and Diana, could you introduce yourselves?

Tim: We are both artists - painters, to be more specific. Diana is from Lisbon and moved to London in 2007.  I’m from London and have lived there all my life.

Diana: We have recently moved from London to Lisbon to set up PADA, a project that has been in development for nearly two years now, and was launched last September.

You’ve both worked in various galleries for the last 10 years. What made you step against this to build your own gallery, residency, and studios?

Tim: Diana has been working in galleries, and I have been working more as a technician and fabricator, between us we have a wide range of skills. We wanted to take everything we had learnt from these jobs and channel it into our own project together. We loved living in London, but we were definitely ready for a new challenge.

Diana: We were visiting Lisbon quite often, and Lisbon’s art scene was exciting to be around. We had also fallen in love with the quality of life in Lisbon, and we were both keen to try living and working in a new city.
           
You are located in Barreiro, 20 minutes from Lisbon. What inclined you towards this city in particular, do you believe it offers stimuli for artists?

Tim: Barreiro is only a short ferry ride from the centre of Lisbon, but in that time, the landscape changes a lot. You leave the bustling metropolitan city and arrive in a quiet town that is more representative of Portugal as a whole. Barreiro has a long history of Industry, but since the end of the regime in the 70s, it has slowly fallen into decline, and a lot of the old factories and warehouses are vacant and in disrepair. Situating ourselves here, we felt we achieved a great balance for artists – close enough to Lisbon to pop over for openings and events, but somewhere that we can provide big inspiring studios in a calm and focused environment.

Diana: We are also lucky enough to be within Companhia Uniao Fabril industrial park (CUF), managed now by Baia do Tejo, which have been very welcoming of our project and have helped us to have access to all the history and materials that the industrial park is so rich in.

Tell us more about CUF. Are you interested for artists to respond to this history with the work they develop at the residency?

Tim: PADA is located within the old Companhia União Fabril (CUF) industrial park in Barreiro. From 1875 until the company was nationalised as a result of the Carnation revolution in 1974, CUF was the largest corporation in Portugal, exporting products worldwide. Under the control of the industrialist Alfredo da Silva, CUF utilised resources from throughout the Portuguese colonies producing a diverse range of goods, from petrochemicals to carpets.

From the 1980’s, the company slipped in to decline, and now largely abandoned and under the management of Baia do Tejo, the area is redefining itself. We have access to restricted areas where the old brutalist remains of the CUF empire stand. Crumbling concrete structures, vast empty warehouses, and the alien landscapes of the now decontaminated pyrite fields.

The Industrial Park is home to three museums that document the fascinating history of the area, and PADA are working with the historians and curators of these spaces to give artists access to the archives, in order to bring a new audience to the history of CUF.

Diana: Of course we are interested in people responding to the history directly, Barreiro was a microcosm of industry through the 20th century, which is still visible, but we also feel that the area is much more than just its history. From the architecture, the materials found around the park, the derelict areas open to proposals and interventions.

The area inspires productivity, and a desire to be in the studio making. Being within this environment is simply an inspiration to produce.

You've been operating PADA for less than a year. What has been the most challenging aspect you've encountered so far?

Tim: Cake for breakfast! I am still living like I am on holiday, and it really needs to stop, but the Pasteleria’s are too convenient over here. You’ve got to mop up the coffee with something.

Diana: The combination of starting a new project alongside moving to a new country has been at times challenging. Luckily, we have family in Portugal, which has helped massively, but in the last year we have not only launched a residency and gallery, but we have had to begin a new life and learn a new city as we go. It has been a great adventure, but their have definitely been times when we have been overwhelmed by it all, especially the admin and logistics side of a project like this.

Tim: We are both artists as well, and finding time for us to be in the studio is the thing that suffers the most, but we plan to fix this with time, and as PADA grows.

What do you provide to artists and curators through your residency program?

Tim: We are fortunate to have a lot of space and raw materials for artists to work with, alongside that, we aim to provide a comfortable space where artists have got the time and support to concentrate on their practice.

Your residency program runs side by side with your long-term studios. How do the two areas interrelate with each other?

Tim: By providing studios for local artists alongside the residency programme, we hope to create a site of exchange. Local artists will benefit from increased exposure and expanded networks, while international artists will benefit from local knowledge, and will be integrated quickly in to the local art scene.

Diana: We want to bring international artists to Barreiro but we really don’t want to become an island within the city. It is really important to us to become part of the community, and to be able to introduce visiting artists to it. The two programmes work very well together and create different dynamics within the studios and artists exchanges.

What are the criteria for artists and curators to participate at PADA Residency?

Tim: We look for artists and curators who show a real commitment to their practice and are ambitious - looking to spend a concentrated period of time in the studio on a defined project or period of research.

What advice would you give to aspiring artists who would like to apply to your residency programme now?

Tim: We really like to receive applications were the artist has clearly researched the residency and the setting, and has provided us with a clear project detailing how they will spend their time here.

Diana: The most important thing for us is that we feel that PADA can contribute to an artists practice, for this to happen, we work side by side with the artists in residency so ideally we would like to see that they are as passionate about their practice as we are. 

What projects have you got in line from PADA this year?

Diana: Coming up next we have a mentored residency in collaboration with Turps Banana with Phil King, editor of Turps Banana magazine and Scott McCracken from Turps Gallery coming over to work with residents. Turps Art School open studio environment was a big inspiration in setting the residency up, and their support has been invaluable. We hope to foster a similar atmosphere as their studios, stimulating conversation and debate, through discourse and practice.

Other exciting projects this year include Kate Mothes of YNGSPC as curator in residence, and an exhibition during ARCO with Alice Bonnot in the PADA gallery.

Tim: We are also excited to be working on three exhibitions off-site in March. We will be working with ASC Gallery and Recreational Grounds in London, with artists who have been involved with PADA. We will also be presenting a huge four gallery exhibition in the city hall of Barreiro. The space is incredible. and we are really looking forward to showing some of the work that has been produced here since we opened.

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Tim Ralson and Diana Cerezino, Founders of PADA Studios Tim Ralson and Diana Cerezino, Founders of PADA Studios

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