Amaia Marzabal’s paintings explore human relationships, forming part of her own process of self-discovery, as well as sharing “a message that helps people with their own reflections about society, stereotypes and social rules”. In this interview, Amaia says more on what drives her towards that exploration, the challenges she encounters on that path, and what role she sees artists having today in shaping society.
You write that your practice is “concerned with human relationships, social rules, emotions and [your] own personal development”. What influences in particular drove you towards exploring those themes?
As I grew up during the 80’s and 90’s, I never had access to an emotional education like most of us. Going through my child and teenagehood was a difficult time for me, where I didn’t understand much of myself or my own emotions. I always felt very disconnected at school, and from all these old education models that made me feel trapped in a box. Observing all of that when growing up made me think how important it is for kids to have a sense of belonging to a meaningful group and a healthy reference they can mirror. When I started teaching kids, more than ever I realized that the tools that society has now to educate children, especially in an emotional way, are very different than they were before. The era of the Internet has given us access to a lot of new and quality content that I had never imagined to consume through social media.
As an artist I’m prone to existential crisis, but I have always been interested in understanding myself better as a human being. Part of this curiosity took me to explore as a painter, how to comprehend better relationships, social rules and stereotypes. I feel a deep connection between these ideas and reflecting them into my paintings. At the end, my work is like a big mirror to me and it brings order to my mind. The concept here is also creating a dialogue with the viewer about their own emotions, but instead of words, I feel more comfortable using images. For me, my art helps me reconnect with my inner child, and I hope my images will help other people too.
How do you go about choosing a subject for each piece?
I don’t have a fixed structure. I just look constantly at a lot of images from media, or sometimes I make my own photos and see what the images express. Other times, inspiration comes from books I’m reading, mostly about personal development. If I like a concept or a sentence, I write it down and make my own notes. Normally, when I’m observing images, it is more about what the image says and how it connects me with a certain momentum from my past, a memory or a feeling.
After the selection process, I play with the image in a pictorial way and try to represent how the image makes me feel. So what happens in this part is very flexible and depends on what I’m feeling at the moment. I would say at some point it can be like a ritual, where you dive into the image, a little bit like in a trance.
What do you think your art says about you?
My art is very subjective and it depends on the piece of course, but most of it speaks about society and my reflections about it. My paintings have also helped me understand myself better. For me, self-expression through images has been always easier than through words. That’s why images help me create my inner structure and organize my thoughts.
You have said that you “use patterns in your paintings to depict the balance between order and chaos, perfection and imperfection.” What are the greatest challenges in capturing that balance?
A long time ago, when working as a graphic designer creating patterns for fashion, it made me think about the relationship between repeating an image and the behavioral patterns that we repeat from childhood to adulthood without questioning. For me, putting all these ideas together helped me go deeper into my work. Also, some of the patterns I started introducing were a reference of old patterns I saw in my childhood environment.
As I kept developing a bigger body of works, I realized my art opened some personal doors that connected me with my past emotions and that questioned me. But not only that, I also started working with the fact of accepting my own imperfections as well in my work. And that meant a big healing process for me.
How do you see those challenges replicated in the world outside of artwork?
Right now we live in a very open time with access to a lot of content and information. It is also our responsibility to filter this information and use it in our own benefit to grow as people and as a society. Finding the ways to accept that we are not perfect, but that we have a will to be better as a community. I think conscience is a big concept here if we want to understand each other better.
What role do you see artists having today in shaping society?
As an artist I try to create a meaningful work, not only for me, but also for the people that follow my art. I want to have interesting content and a message that helps people with their own reflections about society, stereotypes and social rules.
With my art I want to propose a society that is more open to work in their own emotional education. In the end, we are responsible for our own self-growth and we need diverse models and references from art, politics, social media and so on.