First published: Summer 2001
It was thanks to Sue Paull, Coordinator of Long Bay Prison’s Boom Gate Gallery in Sydney, Australia, that I had the pleasure of ‘discovering’ the constructions of Javier Lara-Gomez.
I was introduced to Sue in May ‘99 at an Art Brut exhibition and a few weeks later made the trip down from my home in the Blue Mountains to Long Bay Prison, south of the city. Lara-Gomez’ work was being stored in a small unused gate house, laid out on tables and carefully covered with sheets. When Sue began pulling the sheets away I felt the proverbial chills at the sight of three rows of amazing buildings, twenty-two in total.
Lara-Gomez worked with found materials – cardboard, paper, bread ties, venetian blinds, buttons, plastic spoons, plastic packaging, costume jewelry, fan grills, bits of broom – anything he could find in the prison complex.
The constructions measured, on average, 50 cm wide by 70 cm long and 40 cm high, about the size of a doll house. The craft was superb: every piece joined to the next with the precision one finds in old cabinets. The roofs of most of the buildings could be lifted to reveal their interiors, and all were illuminated with small electric lights.
Lara-Gomez started work on his constructions at lock-up time, four p.m. and worked until the early hours of the morning. Because he was not allowed to have tools in his cell he would cut out and prepare each section of the buildings in the prison’s art class, then glue them together at night. He could get by with just a few hours of sleep.