Endeavour Statement of intent
I have recently experienced a series of difficulties that have caused me to look inwardly. It has being a journey through the strain of trying to find where I belong. It is about how memory relates to belonging. I started to develop this theme at the end of my first year and during the second year of my course, without realizing how important it was to me, to identify my space. So, I decided to explore the topic and develop a body of work that investigates that. As a person who came from a third world country, I end up identifying with most people who were born in Latin America, who feel alienated from the outside world and where the great dream is to live in Europe or North America, or even in a Capital City in their own country. It is when the dream becomes an obsession, to seek something special where we can be ourselves without hiding and feel like a true home.
I come from a world where folklore, religion, magic, cult and religious sect live side by side. Superstition and mysticism are very strong in our culture. Practically in every corner, in every pub from almost anywhere on our continent, there is a storyteller. I also consider myself a story-teller and my intention is to create a world where nothing is relative, where space and time can be questioned, where the fantastic lives next to reality and at the same time collide. On this otherworldly scenery, I want to create a world that reflects my reality.
I wish to make objects that defy gravity, not only by the way they stand up but also for its hybrid form, where no one knows what it is. The objects are also mirrored in symbolism where the idea is to create an atmosphere where it is strenuous to reach the desired place. Clay is the material I choose to express myself, and because of it organic qualities, it increases my connection with nature, the land, and the essences of life.
My aim is to create an installation that demonstrates the theme of belonging. I want to produce around nineteen hybrid sculptures, which will be of various sizes. The sculptures will be towers with a resemblance to trees. I want to create an environment that is similar to a forest or a garden, where the viewer can walk around it. To develop my technical skills, I will be working with clay, and for the maturing of the towers, I will use a technique that I developed last year using a mixture of slip and straw, which will give the organic effect that I’m aiming for.
My primary sources will be Forests and architecture, and the main focus will be the trees. Through observation, I will be sketching their shape to understand their structure, and the way the trunk and branches can achieve a balance, mainly, to try to mimic their forms. Using architecture as a primary resource I will observe and record different parts and features of buildings.
The artists who have influenced me are Freda Kahlo (1907–1954), a Mexican painter, Doris Salcedo (1958), an Colombian sculptor, Cildo Meirelles (1948), a Brazilian conceptual artist, and Ernesto Neto (1964), also a Brazilian artist. These artists, except for Frida Kahlo, who was a painter, create contemporary art installations and sculptures, where they use narrative forms visually to explore space, time and memory. Frida Kahlo, uses symbolism to demonstrate her reality, while Doris Salcedo uses the everyday objects to create hybrid figures, she also plays with time and space, symbolizing the memory of those who suffered from the tragic missing people in Colombia. Cildo Meireles displays his work through sculptures and installations that battle with contradictions, whereas Ernesto Neto works with gigantic installations that explore identity and the everyday relation with the space.
I am also influenced in architecture specifically the tribal type, such as the African houses Burkina Faso, the Cave houses, Nevsehir, Central Anatolia, Turkey, the Pailón path del Diablo waterfall in Ecuador, the monasteries on the top of the cliffs and in contrast the colorful town of Cinque Terre, Italy, and not forgetting the shanty towns in Brazil. I also have explored tree house constructions from around the world.
Literature is also a strong influence in my work specifically Bachelard, Gaston, Jolas Maria trans., 1964, The poetics of space, Bowers, Maggie Ann, 2004, Magic (al) Realism, Márquez, Gabriel Garcia, 1972, One Hundred Years of Solitude, Mosquera, Gerardo, ed., 1995, Beyond the fantastic, contemporary art criticism from Latin America, and Zamorra, Parkinson, Louis & Faris, Wendy B., ed., 1995, Magical Realism, Theory, History, Community.
My context is based on Magical Realism; this is a topic that already was part of my work, even before I know about it. I started developing my actual work a few years ago, but when the style was markedly visible in my work, it was at the end of my second year of university. I started getting attached to the fascinating style of writing, where in this context, the language is about contradictions, where its magical elements blend with the real and the fantastic, and at the same time confronting each other. However, magical realism can also be seen as a genre of the everyday, because of its trivial objects, and objectives of a normal life, turning the banality of this into something magical. That is the way this genre plays with time and space, as well as the book One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, some of his characters are hundreds of years old, but live in today’s world.
As I mentioned above, some of the artists I am researching are considered magical realists. Frida Kahlo’s painting considered magical realists. are Frida Kahlo’s painting What I saw in the Water, 1938, is an example of Kahlo’s symbolic representation, where she repainted various parts of her past works in this painting that might represent her reality. Other artists apart from the ones I have already mentioned, which helped me developing my work are: Otto Dix, Giorgio de Chirico, Carlo Carrà, and George Grosz.
All these artists have something in common, everyday usage, space, time and memory. What I want to show in my work are the physical elements, some spiritual, and I want to create an atmosphere of past and future with hybrid objects, which will create an ultimately world with a bizarre serenity.
Through research, I will develop my work as much as possible through the exploration of websites of artists such as John Grade, Mariele Neudecker, Cildo Meireles, Cornelia Parker, Ugo Rondinone, Nika Neelova, Anya Gallaccio, Doris Salcedo, Henrique Oliveira, Leonardo Drew, Marc Janssens and others.
I will visit exhibitions, that have a genre that is related to a similar language and mine. I will also study various pieces of literature, not just about artists but also about magical realism. As well as visit some forests and gardens such as Puzzlewoods in Coleford, Glostershire, England, Dewston Gardens and Grottoes in Monmouthshire, Wales, Wye Valley Sculpture Trail in Glostershire, Engand and the Taff Trail in Cardiff, Wales.
Through research, I will develop my technical abilities through several tests with clay. I will use paper clay to make the sculptures, as it is known for its building qualities when making large objects, and its lightness after firing.
I’ll be recording my every move through my sketchbook and on my blog, including those artists that have influenced my development. This will help me to evaluate my work now and in the future.
Another important thing is that I will be developing a technique using clay mixed with straw, which gives a more organic appearance and sense of movement to the sculptures. I will also develop a glaze that reasserts the organic appearance of the object, through the use of under glazes and oxides, than applying a glaze that causes an organic reaction.
My plan is to produce around four to five sculptures per week, as well as glaze pieces that have already been bisque fired. It is possible to put three sculptures at the same time in the kiln that will be finished in about 48 hours. By my calculations, the sculptures will be ready around the last week of April or first week of May, where I plan to begin to create the final installation. For this, I will make several boxes. For the installation, I will create several boxes of different heights and widths. These boxes will be installed as a support for the sculptures to stand firm and not being at risk of falling. I also alter the floor by possibly using water and finish the piece with lighting.
In conversation with Jan Jenkins, Jess Broomfield and Alicia Chichester
JB: Have you always been creative?
SZ: Yes (long silence, followed by laughs), my mother always said I started drawing even before I starting to speak. My mother has always been a great support to me, my father thought it was cute but never considered art as a profession.
AC: Why did your father think that art was not a profession?
SZ: Because like any good patriarchal country, the woman should be a nurse, a teacher, and primarily a housewife! This is part of my culture, especially when I was young.
AC: Do you think that because of your father thinking that art had no value, it made you push yourself to prove him wrong?
SZ: Yes definitely, later when I started going to school, I was the one who always did the drawings for students and some teachers too. I have always had excellent grades in everything that was manual. Later when I started to work and earn money, the only thing I wanted to do, was related to art. Still probably because of the influences of family and own culture I started doing a course in advertising and marketing instead of fine arts. This was a profession that I hated, it wasn’t for me at all.
AC: You probably liked things that could be more hands on, right?
SZ: Yes, draw, paint and make things has always been part of my life since childhood.
JJ: Did you worked in 2D or 3D?
SZ: I have always worked in 2D, my forte has always been paintings. I never imagined I could make sculptures, although sculpture has attracted me so much, I had a curiosity and the desire to do something sculptural, but never thought it would be possible.
JJ: Do you think this is because you were successful in selling your paintings?
SZ: At this time I was not selling. In Brazil it has always been very difficult be an artist, first, the materials are extremely expensive and difficult to find where to buy. If you do not have much money, and my family did not, it was very hard. At this time all the materials came from Europe, they had to be imported. I did my own canvases, improvising with materials and sometimes also made my own paints, to try to cheapen my expenses. But I never gave up.
JB: This means then that there are more crafts than fine art in Brazil?
SZ: No, we have very good artists, and crafts also. Brazil is unfortunately a big fan of labels, so such as a T-shirt with a print made by hand, has less value than one that has been made by mass production, but with a label.
JJ: How did you come to Britain?
SZ: I was invited to do an exhibition. At that time I was involved with environment, and was doing portraits of Brazilian Indians, when I met a new age songwriter and singer, and we decided to make a multi-media project together, where she made the songs and I made the images to go with the songs. We were going to take part in the biennial in São Paulo, but she was invited to release an album here in Britain, and then she called me because we had to do the work together. That’s why I came.
JJ: When you came to the University you came to an MA, so why you did the BA instead?
SZ: Yes, when I came to talk to Chris, he though that I wasn’t academic enough, and it would be very hard for me to follow the course, so he advised me to do the Ba first.
JB: Was that the best option?
SZ: Yes, definitely.
JJ: Was the university experience a good one?
SZ: Definitely yes it was the best experience, the best I ever had. The uni made me discover who I really am as an artist and as a person. I was doing very well selling my landscape paintings , people really like them , but it became to commercial, and if I had to do this for the rest of my life, I would die, so I was stuck.
JJ: Did the university give you opportunities?
SZ: Yes, the opportunities to try new mediums, to explore materials and techniques that I had never encountered before.
AC: How did you become interested in ceramics?
SZ: I had a taster in the first year with Dan, and I enjoyed the materials, it was a pleasure be able to create something in 3D for the first time. I also like very much the feeling of it, hands on, messy, just the way I like it. I also want to do sculptures and the closest I could get to it was with ceramics. So I was also starting to learn about glazes, and I became more attracted to ceramics even more, the way you mix ingredients and fire, and the waiting for the surprise! Sometimes not too good, but I’ve being lucky as I’ve had a few mistakes.
AC: So, what would you say, between paintings and ceramics, how you now see yourself?
SZ: Sculptor. I can only see in 3D now.
JJ: What excites you about your work?
SZ: What excites me about my work is that now I can express myself the way I want, the possibilities are endless, I can now create a world where the viewer identifies with it and became a part of my journey. It is like telling a story, but leaving the viewer to interpret and decide the end of the story.
JJ: Does your work make you feel emotional?
SZ: Yes very emotional.
SZ: Because my work is about my family, my memories.
JJ: Is it autobiographical?
SZ: Yes I only realise how my family is important to me when I started to do this work, and it all started at the end of my first year, where my work was focused on the memories of my childhood. I had spent holidays with my parents, brothers, uncles and cousins and they were all my favourites. Those holidays I never forgot and I was just a child.
JJ: How do you decide how to display your work, is it your mind or do you have to make everything first and then decide how you will display?
SZ: I usually have an idea in my mind, then I do sketches and start researching other artists such as David Nash, Doris Salcedo, Ernesto Neto and others, all my ideas begin to develop it all starts to make sense, and I get to the conclusion of how to show my work.
JJ: Do you think your work has reached a conclusion?
SZ: Not a conclusion, but I found the theme that I want to further develop. I always looked for a place which I could say that was my home. in Brazil I’ve always been considered an outcast, I was always a bit different from others. I always had this battle to discover where I belong.
AC, JJ, JB: Have you found where do you belong?
SZ: Yes I do ( the trio went ahhh ….)
AC: Do you think the University made you more confident?
SZ: Definitely, even before when I was selling my paintings, I was very insecure. perhaps because I’ve never been to an art school. I always thought that I was not good enough, and all this has changed now, I have a lot more confidence.
JJ: Where do you see your work and yourself going?
SZ: Well if all goes well, I am going to get a studio, do some workshops, have some exhibitons and, before I die I really want to show my work in a big gallery.
My journey started when I decided I should do something special in my life, it was then that I decided to return to study. I chose to do the course in South Wales University because they offered a course much more open to the arts, giving the chance to explore different mediums and techniques for developing my work.
Everything started when the end of the first year, when I had to make a three-dimensional work using the theme about displacement. This work was totally focused on my family and the search for the meaning of home, which I found to be a major influence in my work to this day.
My turning point was when I started to develop my last project in the second year. It was then that everything started getting emotional and personal.
The loss of my mother and the distance were a culminating point where I would end up finding myself as an artist. In the museum project, I chose as the point of inspiration an ecological display, a series of prehistoric arrow heads, which were being shown almost floating in space. In this project my intention was to capture the passion, loss, identity and culture. The intention was to visually communicate with different aspects of identity but placing emphasis of not knowing where to belong and what we stand for.
It was then that I began to make my sketches, and researching other artists, I realised that my interest was in installations and not traditional sculpture or painting, and it was also then that I began to develop an attraction for ceramics because it gave me opportunities to explore shapes and textures that I had never had before.
For my final project I continued with the same theme, but focused more on the difficulties of finding a place where we can feel at home, a place where we can meet and not be outcasts.
I began researching architectures but preferably tribal types and started developing small sculptures of houses, piled on each other, with perhaps a likeness of Brazilian favelas or houses in the rocks in Turkey.
Last year I developed a technique of using straw with the clay to give an organic realistic effect . After many tests and many disappointments, I managed to master the technique.
At this point I started to develop a work, where the scale and space are critical. the room is all white and sculptures as well. My intention is to create an environment where mysterious objects blend with environment. Illumination plays a big part in my work, so I created shadows through light as the shadows were about the size of a regular chair unlike the original sculpture that was very small.
The shadows have a three-dimensional effect on the installation, and gave some movement almost as an animation. When the installation was completed the trees and the shadows looked as if the sculptures were lost in the environment. The sensation was of peace and mystery, harmony, serenity, reality or fiction. Is it real, can be real, or just part of our imagination?
After this work I became more interested in how I could develop work that makes use of the homes. I went to David Nash’s exhibition at Kew Gardens that sparked my imagination. Nash’s work is monumental and I started thinking about houses on the trees. It was then that I got the idea to make the towers with houses on top of them.
The first tower I made with a little inclination, I started thinking how I could make them in a way that challenges gravity, and that’s how I started developing my towers.
I started visiting forests and parks such as Puzzle Woods, Dewstow Gardens and Sculpture Trail in the Forest of Dean. I went to these places to study the shapes of the trees and develop my towers. During this period I started to research the artists Doris Salcedo, Ernesto Neto and Frida Kahlo, and they all have the same theme throughout, the space and memories. Even though they are not ceramicists, they had a great influence in my work.
The method of construction, was to built the tower with paper clay slabs. This time I felt a great need to work with colours and preferably, yellow and orange, the colours of the sun.
There are some symbolic meanings for this colours, what is very interesting:
YELLOW: Yellow shines with optimism, enlightenment, and happiness. Shades of golden yellow carry the promise of a positive future. Yellow will advance from surrounding colours and instil optimism and energy, as well as spark creative thoughts. For more
ORANGE: Orange, a close relative of red, sparks more controversy than any other hue. Usually there is strong positive or negative association to orange and true orange Generally elicits a stronger “love it” or “hate it” response than other colours. Fun and flamboyant orange radiates warmth and energy.
I started making larger towers and increasingly defying gravity, it was then that they began to develop a life of their own. Each tower developed a different personality, and every day they went up and up. They became increasingly organic. I knew I needed a good number of them, to create the effect I was craving. Each day I found myself increasingly surrounded by them. This was an interesting feeling, because they were my creations and I became very attached to them.
As I said before, I really wanted to use colours and tried to make a glaze that contributed to the organic effect. I managed to make a glaze that reacted differently on a black background and a white background, on black it was nearest the moss green and on white it was the colour orange.
Everything was ready and going in a great direction. Now how would I show my work concerning installation? I wanted to use a dark space where I could use a special lighting. When I tested the lighting, shadows were created on the wall that changed the appearance of the towers. They were far more mysterious and intriguing. It was then that I definitely decided that the space would have to be dark.
At first I was going to use plinths with organic matter around them, but it occurred to me the idea of putting the towers in water, which would make the installation cleaner and more contemporary, besides, the water has several meanings, such as insulation, purification and my difficulties to meet the desired goal. That is to find yourself.
We built a small square from planks of wood, then the wall was lined with a membrane for ponds. The sculptures were placed inside and were illuminated with a white light and placed in strategic positions to produce a large number of shadows, which transformed the space.
These have been the most satisfying years of my life and I have managed to create an emotive installation that inspires and excites me, which is part of my reality and my desires.