An invitation by Talita Hoffman
Curated by Galeria Aura for Artsy
“In conversation with”, in which periodically two artists represented or invited Present a virtual exhibition on Artsy platform. The fourth guests are Bruna Canepa and Talita Hoffmann.
BC: Hi Talita! First of all, it is an honor to have works being shown alongside yours. I would like to start by asking you about your work process. I tend to deal with the drawings more like projects, in a sense that I elaborate a lot (mentally but also with sketches and tests) before constructing the final version of each one. Even with this preparation, some questions about color, composition, the idea in general and the execution itself only appear when I’m doing the work, as apparent errors can become cool new ways of doing it and things that I was certain about can be replaced by better solutions as I go. How much of your paintings and drawings are pre-elaborated and how much you elaborate as you are constructing the final work? Do you have different approaches for the drawings and paintings?
TH: Hi, Bruna. I’m really glad to do this project with you! And to have this opportunity to exchange ideas. But about the process: I start with some saved images and set them up as a sort of collage on Photoshop. It serves as the basic structure of the final image. Sometimes I’ll make some pencil drawings, scan them and throw that in there too. After this project is ready I project it on canvas or paper and make some adjustments, it’s not always exactly the same as the initial project. After that I’ll add colors and other elements. I also make a draft of the color blocks that the work will have, but in a very loose manner, it always ends up a bit different. I’ll adapt it while I paint, and only go back to testing things in Photoshop if I have any major doubts. In the past, I used to follow this initial planning more strictly, but I’ve been recently opening up to improvise. I think the process works the same, both in painting and in drawing! Actually, I never know quite well what to call painting or what to call drawing, I don’t know if it’s the paper or the canvas that defines it. I think my work stands somewhere between the two.
But Bruna, I wanted to ask you about these decals you use in your work. Are they part of a collection that you have? How do you choose which ones to use and how did this use start in your work?
BC: Nice to read about your process of elaboration, it seems very fruitful that you go back and forth from manual to digital, like the use of the projector to transfer the drawing to different surfaces and with that the possibility to experiment with scales, which is great. I don’t usually use digital tools to prepare the drawings but by reading your description it makes me want to explore more of these transits (from digital to manual tools, vice versa) and see what interesting things could happen.
About the decals, instant lettering etc: I have been collecting this type of thing for more than a decade now! My father gave me the first ones from his own archive when I was a teen and since then I began to collect it. Sadly, all the stores that I used to get them closed their doors or don’t sell them anymore. Still, I see potential in all types of stationery materials, old and new, and I’m always looking for these graphic items or different tools from the technical drawing universe to add up to my collection as well. In the works that I did for our collaboration I’ve used banal new items combined with old special ones. I really like to research these graphic materials that are not necessarily part of the technical drawing official set and apply them into the drawings in a repurposed way, different from their original motive. I don’t always use the items in their entirety, usually cutting and repositioning the fragments with the intention to dismantle their graphic meaning but also to add a certain complexity and noise to it. The juxtaposition of different elements also helps to achieve this intent. I choose the specific materials that I’m going to use for each work in relation to the drawn base that I did to receive them, but if the decals or the collages are very expressive, it goes the other way around: I begin from the graphic elements and then I elaborate a drawing-structure to hold them.
Speaking about materials, one of the possible approximations I see between our works is through the succession of layers in their respective constructions and compositions: in your case, successions of painted layers / in my case, layers of drawn papers and acetate. Your instrumental arsenal is the same since your early days (paint, canvas, paper) or did it change along the years? To use paint and big canvases demands a different type of space than a drawing space, for instance. How would you describe your ideal workplace?
TH: Yeah, this thing with the workplace has changed over the years. When I started drawing, around 2007, 2008, I was more focused on doing works on notebooks, small papers, it was all very hand-dimensioned. Then, slowly, the paper increased in size, the ink pen was replaced by paint and at some point I went to the canvas. I think in that moment there was also a shift in the corporal relation with the work, from moving away from the horizontal of the table and going into the vertical of the wall. Even today, when I make works on paper they tend to be larger than a standard A3 or A2 pad size, for example, so I continue to paint them on the wall. There’s also something to be said about the scale of the body in relation to the wall, that works almost as a surface dive. It’s something that I found out over time that makes me very excited to paint! That’s especially the case with mural paintings, it’s almost a scenographic experience.
It’s interesting what you said about your collection of decals and technical drawing materials, because you can see a certain respect that you have with these materials, even when you subvert their use. There’s a lot of attention to detail on the way that you work with them, and a lot of care with the finishing. The work get’s a certain digital “disguise” (in the sense that you work manually something that would perhaps be easier to produce on a computer, or through screen printing). But I think it’s this analogue trace that makes the work more interesting, the final result is a bit more ambiguous. I really like to explore this confusion in my work as well, and I am often asked if the paintings are prints, if they are digitally made… Have you ever worked with other media? I remember you were doing some tests with acrylic paint in some recent works and I also remember some collages with photographs.
BC: Cool to know about the evolution of your work through the change of scales and their respective compatible materials. But not only that, your transition from working on a horizontal surface to a vertical one. I tried to use an angled drawing table for some time but I couldn’t adapt. I went back to the horizontal table as soon as I could. Talking about an ideal workplace: if I have a table with a parallel ruler attached to it, together with the basic drawing materials (technical pens, papers and so on) I’m all set. Everything I did was using this basic set of tools and materials, no big space needed. But as we were talking about scales, it makes me wonder about the limits of my instruments of work, since there is a scale intrinsic to this particular set of tools and materials. There is also a scale of our own eyes and its perception, which can be related to what you were saying about people mistaking your handmade work for a digital one, it happens to me a lot as well. As an architect working with handmade drawings, I tend to prepare them with the intent to restrain the extra noise and dirtiness from the process itself but it doesn’t mean they don’t have it in them. There is a certain asepsis to my drawings as a result of the delicate aspect of the materials that I use actually shows, but also an impossibility of what our eyes can really catch in terms of textures, noise, roughness. They don’t lack all those things, but it is a matter of scale and perception. We also need to consider the way the works are captured (digital pictures, scans) and the way their images circulate, mainly in a digital context, which contributes a lot for this apparent asepsis. In this sense, I consider a handmade drawing a constructed object, the result of a succession of gestures with an intent. And if we look closely, maybe beyond the scale of the eyes and its apparent neatness, we can see with no doubts that it is a handmade object full of imperfections. That the lines are not so straight as they seem but instead a bumpy long line of ink, that the apparent color blocks are actually a colorful and erratic texture and that the materials are overlay on the not so smooth, and in fact heterogeneous, surface that holds them. A drawing is three-dimensional, not flat and 2D.
About the materials, I’m always adding things to my basic set of tools. The occasional paint and collages you mentioned are common, but for some of my new works I’ve been using resin. The fact that its use emphasizes the 3D aspect of the drawings feels really cool to me, it makes it more obvious and somehow crystallizes it, like an archeological finding backwards. At this moment I’m excited with these possibilities. Speaking about other formats, from paintings to illustrating incredible kid’s books: your work is very elaborated and complex. There is a visible possibility of changing scales not only from your set of tools, as you talked about, but also from the subjects and narratives built in your works. Having in mind a theatrical scale, for instance (set design, costume, objects), have you worked with your universe of creatures and scenarios in this specific context or think about doing so?
TH: I’ve never worked with theater, but I would love to! I’m very passionate about this universe and it is actually a big influence in my painting. Not so much the dramaturgy itself, but the whole iconography of the stage settings, the backstage, the aisles… The architecture that concerns not only theater but also these spaces that are open to shows and stagings, like movie theaters, concert stages, and so on. I feel that these spaces have a lot of tension, because they are several places and none, at the same time. I find this duality very interesting. I would love to someday try something on a larger scale that could perhaps involve not only people but an actual show.
But going back to what you said about the procedures of architecture, it’s very nice to see this relation with the architectural drawing in your work. The scales seem shuffled, with suggestions of horizons and cutouts that resemble big windows that put the viewer in many simultaneous places. There are also some views of what seem to be projects of absurd buildings. How did you come up with the idea of these works that you are presenting now? Do you work on more than one piece simultaneously?
I would also like to ask what are your references in the world of architecture or visual arts that circulate somehow in-between a technical and a more poetic drawing (or if that’s even where your references come from, and not from somewhere else).
BC: I hope it becomes a reality in some moment! Your work already provides a consistent mental immersion into your microcosm, I can imagine how wonderful would be a physical experience as well.
For these groups of works I was thinking about window frames, billboards and their possible variations and combinations. With the graphite horizon lines in 3 of the works (and also the lack of them in 2) I wanted to indicate a shift in scale, even if I was using the same modules forming the rectangles with the same graphic items. With small changes, what was supposed to be a window becomes a billboard, what was supposed to be a sticker on the glass window becomes a lettering on a panel, what was supposed to be a postal becomes a view on the horizon. I usually work simultaneously in a few works, especially when they are part of a set. I try to equilibrate the weight of the colors, lines and adornments between them.
My main references are not necessarily from architecture and the arts itself, I’m much more attentive to the ways of doing it regardless of its specific source. I would say that drawing as a craft and the curiosity about everything that involves it, in different contexts, is what interests me the most. And these particular qualities can be present in a specific architect’s production as much as on a banal and bureaucratic technical manual of any sorts. If I were to pick one main primal reference, I would say that is my father. He worked as a set designer for decades along with designing and constructing a variety of objects and furniture. His drawings were done mostly by hand till the beginning of the 2000’s with the same set of tools that I use now, only in a different context and purpose than his, but that was my first contact with the universe of handmade drawing. I would say that more than the sets and furniture already constructed, what always fascinated me the most was his process of drawing and its whole apparatus: the materials, the tools, the furniture, the techniques and the gestures of the act of drawing itself, necessary for its elaboration and concretization.
As my last question, I would like to know more about the works you are presenting here as well as what are your main references, if you have. I see similarities in our subjects but different ways of approaching and dealing with them on paper. Structures, windows, frames, canvases. Window-frames superpositions, structures framing views, canvas-windows inside windows. The juxtaposition of distinct elements in different scales gives room and complexity for many ways of seeing it. What were you envisioning with this group of works?
TH: These works were all done within this subject of staging spaces. I was also looking at some images of parties and swimming pools, these kitschy environments that are somewhat banal and funny. One night during quarantine I watched a movie called “Carnival of Souls”, from 1962, and I thought there were a lot of cool sets there, so I used some of them as reference. I like these old movies that have a kind of familiar image that is at the same time both weird and comical. In these works, specifically, I saw some films by David Lynch and Jacques Tati, which have these bizarre and displaced architecture and photography. I also became a little obsessed with films that were set in outer space (I think it was a little to try to balance out the confinement at home, in an unconscious way). In this I was inspired a little by Sun Ra, in his weird way of producing science fiction.
But overall I think there’s a big influence of what you said about windows and different frames and views, that’s an ever-present theme. “I like to think of these unorganized horizons, and how far an image can be pushed so that it is perceived as landscape.Read less