We interview London based visual artist Susana Sanromán who was born in Galicia, Spain and has achieved a lot in her short career so far. She is an award winning artist and as a person, she has that philosophical depth and edge that makes her work interesting and unique. Her exhibition “The Things We Leave Behind” which highlighted the impact of waste, resulting from the continuous production of goods in our societies, was out at the Leica Gallery in Mayfair during April.The video of the same exhibition has also been selected for the Atkins CIWEM Environmental Photographer of the year 2016. Susana is definitely a talent to watch and is already making waves thanks to her gift for images.It is a pleasure to interview a lady of the world with a big talent and a humble attitude.
How would you describe yourself, a photographer or a visual artist?
Photography was the medium that I initially chose to channel my art, but first and foremost, I’m a visual artist. My projects are born as an idea, the language is always visual and through the process, the concept is verbalised.
It does not mean that it lacks originality or meaning, I simply can not express the idea behind until the work progresses.
As a visual artist , I don’t see myself anchored to a discipline , I like to have different options. Different media provides different forms of expression. The ‘process’ is central to my wok , therefore I use the most convenient media on each occasion.
Probably Photography is the most immediate discipline for me , but I am becoming really comfortable with video ; I find it a fascinating sculpture.Performance is inherent in my work .
Do you think being a woman has shaped your work somehow or do you believe that your art is genreless?
I do not know if I can really break away from the fact that I am a woman. It probably influences my views when creating; but it is also true that as my work has evolved I have gone to adopt a more ‘human’ point of view when creating art. I am interested in the human condition and how we create realionships with everything around us.
A recurring element in my practice is the representation of the human figure, an entity that does not necessarily have gender or sex . I often use the figure of the mummy , essentially asexual, to represent the body ( the human figure ) .In my last year in college when I was writing my thesis “Women looking at women; the female gaze” , I embarked on a book – project quite intimate of self- portrait photography.My gender was clearly present when questioning my self-representation.
Are there any particular themes you like to explore in your work?
My themes are of existentialist nature. I love the analysis of the human condition , observing the memory of the space, the derelict , the ongoing struggle between human and nature, the transformation and the circularity of matter in the cycles of life and death. I do not have a specific topic , but generally keep certain concepts through my various works, and I like to use visual metaphors .
What motivated you to create art through a lens?
My first artistic facet was writing. My inspiration has always come from the visual, cinema has always been the greatest influence. When I picked up the camera for the first time, I realized I could channel my ideas by reproducing the images that ran through my head.
It took a while to understand what kind of photographer/artist I wanted to be; it was a long process.I started photography as a ‘ Hunter ‘; I would seek patiently for the image, always with the camera ready to capture the moment. Eventually I became a ‘ Farmer ‘. Suddenly, hunting was no longer enough, now it became essential to be able to re-create the narratives that were forming in my head. The ‘process’ gradually became central to my work. As a result, a need to open the doors to new media and explore different outputs, emerged.
As a woman and as an artist, do you see clear differences between the work of the two genres when you study the work of other visual artists?
It is very difficult to answer this question . The answer depends on many factors ; the time to which we refer , the cultural and religious environment in which we find ourselves, and the geographical strip where we live, amongst many others.
I can only speak from my immediate reality and artists producing work around me.I think this division is extending also to other groups that were not previously considered , including people who see themselves physically and mentally trapped between the sexes .
How do you portrait women in your work?
I mainly use my friends as models , most of them are artists. I like to establish a kind of dialogue / conversation, where the gender of the person is not as relevant as their personalities. The collaboration is set as a challenge for both sides, but always respecting limits. I do not think I establish differences, at least not consciously.
You have established a name for yourself and have exhibit in major galleries around the world, do you have any tips to artists who may wish a career like yours?
The most important thing is to have a strong drive , believe in your work, find ‘ your ‘ vision and be prepared to make sacrifices.You must have very clear that the artworld is very competitive and art is really demanding.
Collaborating with people is essential, it helps to build bridges of dialogue , opens doors for collaboration and is an essential source of feedback and renewal of ideas. It is as important to be open and knowing how to sell yourself; of the latter I still have a lot to learn , but above all you have to be out there.
Who are your favorite artists or works that may have inspire you to create your own art?
Among my favourite female artists, the ones that inspire me the most are; Ana Mendieta, Frida Khalo, Cindy Sherman, Yayoi Kusama and Francesca Woodman. I particularly love Mendieta’s work, generally focused on themes including feminism, life and death, violence, place and belonging.
Most of the work of these artists, is very intimist and autobiographical, they belong to a different period when to be a woman and an artist was not easy.There are certain performative ritualistic elements in their works which I feel specially connected to. I respect their unique vision, and the great challenge to represent a world through the use of visual metaphores.
Other artist that have affected my way of seeing the art world are; Tom Hunter, Picasso and Dali, among many others.In terms of visual aesthetics, I think film-maker David Lynch was probably the most influencial ,and a clear referent for my vision.
You are a London based artist, what are your favourite galleries or London spots for taking pictures?
Out of the big museums, I visit quite often; the Wellcome Trust , the Tate Modern, the White Cube Gallery, the Hayward Gallery, the Saatchi; but to be honest I prefer smaller and more underground venues.One of my favorite sites has always been the Shunt lounge (unfortunately now closed) , the pop -up shows in Soho and East London , and the openings at Q -park (car park exhibitions) .
To shoot , I choose the derelict and industrial sites in decline. I love these places of transition , abandoned and full of traces of a progress that is gradually erased by the hand of nature .
What are you working on at the moment and what is your dream project, the one you have been planning to do for years but haven’t come around to it yet?
I have two very ambitious projects in mind:
The first one is called ‘Trans-xy’, a project on gender , which tries to break with the idea of labeling , although at the moment I can not give more details…
The other project is called ‘Stories from the Wasteland’, which will take place in Detroit if I manage to raise the funding needed.
It is a critical and conceptual project that seeks to reflect and portray the effects of the fall of one of the great cities of post- industrialism.Detroit,in the 40s , the motor city and paradigm of progress and the American dream, collapses.The city created by people serving people crumbles. Its inhabitants become victims of their own fall, gradually caught between the uncertainty of its own ruins ; physical and psychological marginalization by economic and racial barriers.
Is Detroit an isolated case or a visionary example of a closer global future ?
Thanks a lot Susana and we look forward seeing more and more of your very thought provoking work that has depth and vision and is unique.