Now Featuring Agustina Mihura
Argentine artist Agustina Mihura pays close attention to the processes and materiality of nature, in a practice that is both intuitive and research-based. The unfolding details in her work mirror the transformations of the natural world, from the tiny scale of cellular growth to the slow shifts of geologic time.
MH: How do you draw threads across your practice to connect your various projects, from sculpture to installation to drawing/collage?
AM: My practice is constantly moving from one point to another. For that reason, I may change the media in the process. I think contemporary artists should wonder about our own practices all the time, and never be satisfied with just one idea or one way of doing things. In my case I have some works that start from the encounter with a particular material that leads to the concept. But in other cases, it is the idea (maybe just a word or a mental image) that materializes in a particular form. I feel comfortable moving from three dimensional space to paper because there is something about switching that I find challenging. Every time I´m working on the two dimensional world I get new ideas to work in the space and vice versa.
MH: What is your day to day practice like?
AM: My works doesn’t develop only at my studio; it starts much earlier in other spaces. I try to spend time just contemplating my environment, walking around my city Buenos Aires, in nature, traveling; I get inspired listening music, or even doing banal things like arranging my studio, my home or even cooking. Then at some point, I come back enthusiastic to the studio with a bunch of new ideas to work on them. My practice in the studio has more to do with trial and error; I never know clearly how some works going to look at the end but it’s in the process, in baby steps, when everything happens. All the decisions I make, in that stage, lead the work to one direction and finally the piece comes up.
MH: What are some of your favorite materials to work with?
AM: Even If I work with every kind of materials, I still love traditional and simple ones, like paper, clay, wood, color pencils and pigments. I think what I like most in each of them is that we can use them for create complex works even though they are so simple.
MH: Your titles and forms evoke natural materials and processes, so how do you select studio materials?
AM: I choose a material for several reasons, probably the first one is their texture, how it feels in my hands, ductility is another quality that I like in a material. I like things that can be transformed easily in something else. Brightness, color, opacity, and all the qualities related to the surface are also important. Often I buy or collect things that I have no idea what I want to do with it but I just want it in my studio, just an intuition. At the same time I work a lot with photography for research, and I take photos of materials that I see in the streets just to remember that I like them. Also I like to create contrasts in between materials, often the way I choose a new material its related to the one I used before.
MH: You recently did a residency at the Vermont Studio Center. What did you work on there? How did the residency influence the direction your practice is taking?
AM: I was there for two months in autumn with a fellowship for Latin American artists. The residency is located in a small town; there are no distractions and the only people you see every day are other artists. The proximity to nature was wonderful. All of the works that I developed there were related to this new environment; the colors and the landscape there really affected my works. At that time I was reading Autumnal Tints, from H.D. Thoreau and that was a really good match. Vermont was my third experience in artist residencies abroad, each was very different and successful in their own way, but I think Vermont was really a breakthrough point in my work.
MH: How much of your interest in the natural world is also rooted in abstraction?
AM: For me, nature and abstraction are totally related. On one hand I believe that everything in nature can be reduced to the simplest and basic forms, and the combinations of all of them compose nature itself. As an astronomer for instance can reduce a galaxy at an spiral shape, at the same time you can find a whole universe in a simple leaf, that passage from complex to simple that goes in the other way too. Some of my works are inspired by nature but I don’t think that I try to copy, I just want to create a new synthetic version in our own human scale.
MH: Do you have a research process, for example into geology or natural history that you use as part of your studio process?
AH: Yes of course, when I’m working with some of my pieces, they happen to remind me of something in the natural world, so at that point I research and read a lot about it. At the moment you start to read about something, a lot of unconscious choices you made during the process start to have a new meaning and you can re-direct the work into another direction. I like to think in the process of production like something open and organic, I want to feel free for going forward and backwards several times, from the concept to the form and the form to the concept.
Geology for instance, really obsesses me these days. Not only because I´m using that imagery on my work, what fascinates me about geology is the idea that everything on earth is made of fluids, sediments and time, a lot of time.
MH: What are you working on now?
AM: Nowadays I’m working in my next solo show “SIMIL,” in October. I’m doing these new pieces, the whole concept of the show is around the idea of fake nature. At the same time I’m working on video and photography about the perception of time related to the changes in nature. For those, even though I have some clear ideas, I am still finding my way through it.