Compositions by Beatriz Mahan
Interview with Lorette C. Luzajic from IdeaFountain
Barcelona artist Beatriz Mahan creates intriguing, composition-based collages that she refers to as matrices. She uses a variety of simple elements to play with shape, colour, texture, and mark-making. I found her visually stunning creations on flickr and saw right away an eerie kinship with some aspects of my own work. Since my weakness as an artist is to complicate my organization or make my works too busy, Beatriz has inspired my creative growth by reminding me to simplify and allow the elements some breathing room. I was thrilled to talk with her through email and to share her great collages with you.
Lorette C. Luzajic: How are your collages born? Do you start with a particular texture or interesting piece of paper? What do you have in mind when you begin?
Beatriz Mahan: I never have a specific idea in mind when begin a work. Sometimes I can start with a piece of paper that I like, an interesting font, or very often with a background that I have created experimenting with colours, paints and textures. Sometimes it’s chance that generates an interesting composition while I’m doing something else and then I start a new work. Actually, my job is very intuitive.
The hallmark of your collage work is simplicity. How do you resist the temptation to add too many elements?
I don’t see this as a temptation, but I think the work demands certain things, I just listen to it carefully. If I feel that the work needs more elements, I just simply put them and see if they can be part of the composition. I think my work is a constant dialogue with materials and compositions. Sometimes I’m stuck in a work which I think is hopeless, but suddenly something accidental happens. Paper is pure magic and again, I was just there listening carefully.
Many collage workers fill an entire page or canvas, but for you, space is a major element of composition. Was your work always minimalist? How did your style evolve?
I do not really know where my compositions come from, but I have always tended to be simple and minimalist. I think that the more space and silence the work has- or creates- the more room for contemplation and inner reflection. I also think that the elements can speak more for themselves when they have more room. This creates a striking contrast, which is what I like to explore. The elements have always been there in all the compositions, but now we see them more as they are “alone”.
You continually use the words “matrix” or “matrices” when describing your work. What do these terms mean to you, philosophically, and in the context of your art?
A matrix is a plate that is used in etching and can create several works. I never thought of it as a philosophical term in my art, but this is the perfect example for me to explain what the long and detailed process of creating means, without knowing how it will end and learning all while I’m creating. It is a vivid example of the meaning of the process of creation.
Tell me about your collecting process. Where do you cull your elements from?
I use a lot of pieces of my test prints, papers painted by me while experimenting with other techniques. I have a great assortment of papers and scraps that have been accumulating for years, and old photographs recovered from my family. I often go to the recycling point in my neighborhood and pick up magazines and books. It’s amazing the amount of ephemera that we can use and these are everywhere, you just have to look at them.
What and who inspires you and your work?
I am inspired by craftsmanship, hand made pieces, in any discipline. I am inspired by the ancient arts and crafts, I love going to fairs and seeing the blacksmith, the old type printer, the shoe maker doing their work as in the Middle Ages. It inspires me to see the artwork of others in all possible styles! I surf the web a lot and follow the work of many modern artists (and constantly search for more). I love the classics Chagall, Rembrandt and Goya, and I enjoy especially abstract art.