Interview: Sophie Donatien
Luca Curci talks with Sophie Donatien during CONTEMPORARY VENICE 2021, at THE ROOM Contemporary Art Space.
Sophie Donatien was born in 1967 in Martinique where she works and lives. Her means of expression is painting associated with collages and inclusions of natural or recycled elements. She studied, from 1987 to 1995, at Belle Arti of Florence, Italy and at Ecole du Louvre in Paris. After years of teaching, she has devoted herself to creation since 2019 exploring how, between Figuration and Abstraction, the encounter of materials manifests the Human presence in Nature. “Inspired by apparently antinomic materials, which give birth to surprising encounters, I create compositions which aim at giving life to matter, through imitation or collage, through the mixing or juxtaposition of elements coming from nature or artifacts. I am in need of mixing, color-blending which relates to my multiple origins, an island of sonority, colors, where the night is inhabited by tales. In my everyday life, beyond selective recycling, I indulge, guided by my emotions, in an improvised domestic sorting based on color, shape or texture. This is the first gathering of materials, completed by the seeds and waste I collect or pick up on my way. I welcome strangeness when it erases normality, but for the sake of a balance that is true to past encounters. The worn-out enhances the new, the natural embrace the artificial, the illusory consumes the real, the mundane and the noble mix with each other, in the interplay of brushes which splash or melt, of hammers which wrinkle, of clamps which wring and distort. The glue fixes, and becomes color or matter, among the lids, capsules, plugs, nets, exotic bark, which try to escape the sprayers. The juxtaposition of elements plunges me into the magic of their encounter”.
LUCA CURCI – What is art for you?
SOPHIE DONATIEN – I listen to my emotions, my sentiments to go in the deep self, in the inner, the core. That’s the way, I can connect either to Nature or to my nature, in which I hope to reach my childlike side. I want to follow the sentiment that goes beyond reality to the magic, a moment things transform themselves. I imagine that Nature is able of emotions and thoughts… I would like to show the scream of a leaf or its compliance to destiny when it falls. I know it is a form of animism, but at my actual work stage, I just let things come out without judgment. Thus I let the tools define my setting. My work consists in observing Nature, especially the vegetation and I also feel drawn to use recycled materials or everyday materials. Consequently, I can say that I am concerned by the environmental issue and infatuated by magico-religious thoughts as well.
LC – What are you currently working on?
SD – Most of the time I like to combine Nature and recycled materials to experiment with the magic of their encounter. I draw particular attention to the breadfruit tree leaves. That tree, fwiyapen in creol, is originally from Oceania and gives a nutrient feculent, the basis of slaves’ diet in the past. It exemplifies particularly the biodiversity of Martinique and its cultural mix.
LC – Where do you find your inspiration?
SD – I find my inspiration in everyday life either in the vegetation around me or the recycled materials I find on my way. They create feelings that awake creativity. I appreciate coffee capsules for their shape and color. I use them as is or cover them with spray paints. I use also materials from improvised domestic sorting such as golden chocolate wrappers, fabric flowers, velvet make-up bags…I collect or pick up on my way seeds and waste. I use dedicated tools like brushes, painting knives or improvised tools like hammers that wrinkle or clamp to wring or distort. I welcome strangeness when it erases normality.
LC – How is being an artist nowadays?
SD – Art is a common eye for everyone and each artist tries to establish its vision among the many facets of reality. Nowadays through social networking, the artists are more successful than it was in the past.
LC – Did your style change over the years? In which way?
SD – With the practice, I focus more on the choice of materials and creative gestures and I feel less attracted by details or ornamentation. I focus more on the balance and relation between imagination and objects. I feel also more confident mixing two and three-dimensional spaces.
LC – What do you think about the concept of this exhibition? How did it inspire you?
SD – I think the concept of this exhibition is really linked to interesting contemporary issues. My paintings were pre-existing works but since they focus on the relationship between Man and Consciousness / Nature and the Natural cycle I was excited to take part in the event.
LC – What is the message linked to the artwork you have shown in this exhibition? How is it connected to the theme of the entire exhibition?
SD – I have two artworks in this exhibition, The appeal of Nature and The red flame tree. In the blue piece, I used both stylization and imitation to represent a hybridization of different exotic plants such as orchids, canon wood leaf, boldo (polyscias), a detox plant. I added also a western plant such as roses created out paper towel to complete the mixing. There is a hybridization between vegetation and human with hands raising from the ground and small hands growing from that hybrid plant stalks in a kind of contrapposto. I imagine a world where Humans and Nature are in osmosis so this piece is linked both to Mixing Identities and Future Landscapes. The Red flame tree is related to global warming because human artifacts mix with nature. As you can see I have used coffee capsules and lids glued onto the canvas. The flame tree is a breathtaking exotic tree with a linear trunk and branches wearing a crown of vermillion heavy flower clusters like an umbrella that provides shades. Such a tree gives you a majestical sensation of elevation. It is a sovereign living being, divine energy worthy of respect.
LC – What do you think about ITSLIQUID Platform?
SD – I think the name of the platform reflects well its value. In fact, a liquid can adopt the shape of the container. Being present in major capitals all over the world and concerned about diversity ITSLIQUID is both very flexible and representative of contemporary issues with a wide range of techniques and sensibilities also.
LC – Would you suggest a collaboration with us? What do you think about our services?
SD – I will naturally suggest a collaboration with your platform because I was welcomed by a very well-organized team, nice and full of resources. Your platform is like a bridge connecting artists with people from the art field. The location of Venice with the canals and the water was also very fitting for that purpose.
LC – Did you enjoy cooperating with us?
SD – It was a pleasure working with your group. I felt welcomed, glad and honored to be part of your festival in the mythical location of Venice. I was excited to come back to Italy for the opening and enchanted to exchange in Italian with you and your team. This interview was a new challenge to me and I am grateful to you for giving me the opportunity to experiment with another tool to present my work.