LUMEN an interview with Laura Madera:
February 21, 2015
Laura Madera's recent exhibition at Monastiraki in Montreal titled Lumen captured a pivotal essence of sentience. This Peterborough, Ontario based artist expands from nature, collective dream studies from the 60’s and 70’s and transimmanence.
The luminosity emanating from Maderas watercolors summon sun bleached scenes evocative of drug induced hallucinations. These bursts of light have an inherent spirituality about them and are reminiscent of the drifting moments of a beautiful serene dream.
Laura Horne-Gaul: The age old idea of beauty... Man creates it and nature adds to it or vice versa nature creates it and we add/ adapt it... How do you feel your paintings evolve?
Laura Madera: I'm not sure I follow the line of thinking that man creates beauty and nature adds to it. I mean, how can a person do better than Nature? However, it may be interesting to try.
I think you can work to understand the nature of something, it's internal logic, it's properties - a kind of get-to-know-you symbiosis. Collaborating in this way I can obliquely arrive at some profound moments within a process; creating something approximating the terrible beauty found in Nature. At it's best there are glimpses, at it's worst piles of uninteresting visual jibberish.
When I am surprised in the studio I think it is when this collaboration or conversation gets interesting. My work is involved in an active questioning and seeking within a process of material making. A call and response. The beginning of a work comes from witnessing and wondering. Then I have a way of proceeding in the studio where I try to have a flow with my materials - where internal and external boundaries dissolve. Then there is a period of analyzing, conversing and working through of what is there.
LHG: When viewing your paintings, it makes me think of a dreamer dreaming a dream and then living in it.... Do you have recurring dreams or any recent powerful dreams that you care to share, that you feel relate to your practice?
LM: Perhaps it is the bleached out quality of light? There is something dreamlike about it. I have spent a considerable amount of time learning about collective dreams and idealistic thoughts, particularly those of the counter culture movements in the 1960s and 70s. Which I suppose, is a kind personal daydreaming and indirectly informs my practice.
Personal dreams are wonderfully rich material. What a capacity there is in the mind for experience, symbolism and healing! I do have reoccurring dreams and certainly touchstone dreams. But if I told them to you in words, I think I would botch their significance. If they relate to my practice they are best left explained through my materials.
LHG: What do you feel is the most important element to a painting, whether it yours or another artist?
LM: Precision of action matched with intent is most important. It's that ineffable quality when someone just nails it. It's there in David Milne's watercolours, Bonnard's portraits of Marthe and Klee's drawings for instance. Some of the straw, ash and dirt paintings of Anselm Kiefer contain this quality for me as well. Formally, it's colour. I admire the use of colour for it's subjective and emotional power.
LHG: Your work has a vivid spirituality about it but also seems as though something is off, like a hidden darkness lurking? May you expand?
LM: There is a duality in most phenomena; the sun for instance supports all life on earth but can blind and burn. Even in day to day events there are simultaneous upsides and downsides. Nothing is purely positive or negative.
I am often preoccupied with difficult, unanswerable questions. I find the more I learn about the theories surrounding why we are here and how we came to be here the more I run into mystical territory. I am a flawed person figuring these things out visually. Perhaps the darkness or imperfection present is part of a flawed unsanitized reckoning with spiritual concerns.
LHG: transimmanence - you mention in an interview - as Jean-Luc Nancy explains is "expositional through the arts, works to clear passageways, moving deftly, creatively, to make place(s) and space(s) of world" - the logic of contact in separation - Art being the supreme expression. Do you agree? How does philosophy play a role in your practice?
LM: Philosophy is a tool for expanding the mind but not necessarily a practice in the studio. I'm cautious about falling into the trap of attempting to illustrate philosophical theories, because that's not what good painting does.
It is the physical act of touching in Jean-Luc Nancy's "transimmanence" that interests me. The touching in art practice is a way of communication in separation because of the basic and fundamental experience we all share of being in a body, and having meaningful experiences through our bodily senses or sensations.
My work is touched into being so I am intrigued by his theory. I am somewhat of a dinosaur within contemporary art as I have no desire to have others make my work now or ever. The repetition of touching in painting or drawing allows for an interval of contact and time to be recorded and transmitted in later encounters. I am drawn to other artwork that has this same interval of contact, it is a way of being
with others across time.
LHG: I really like Martin Pearce's essay on "afterglow" and his reference to Ken Johnson's book "Are You Experienced? How psychedelic consciousness transformed Modern Art" and how Johnson believes that altered states are fundamental to creative practice. Do you agree?
LM: In general I think the influence of the psychedelic revolution can't be ignored and has opened up experiential avenues for art. I'm not sure altered states are fundamental to all creative practice though. In terms of my own practice I have been asked if I use drugs while making and the answer is no. Not because drugs are necessarily bad, they can be a great tool for some, it's just I find there are other methods of exploring being in the world that are more sustaining over the long term. I have a parallel interest in contemplative practices and mindfulness. More and more I am finding there are many similarities to that practice and being in the studio.
LHG: Does painting get rid of negativity for you? if so how? (As the sunlight gets rid of the darkness...)
LM: I find making in the studio an affirming, if sometimes frustrating or even terrifying, act. I've shifted my view of what it might mean to do this with my life from a career to more of a calling. I think that I try to be open in the studio, on all levels to what arises, positive and negative.
LHG: You had a recent exhibition at Monastiraki in Montreal, how is it going? What is coming up for you? Are you working on any new series? Are they in a similar vein to your past work?
LM: Having the show Lumen with Monastiraki introduced me to a section of the Montreal arts community I might otherwise not have had a chance to encounter. The place is like a wonderful old curiosity shop. The type of spot to lose an afternoon in. It's no wonder it has a reputation amongst Montreal artists as somewhere to find inspiration.
Looking ahead I am entering a period of expanded time in the studio. I'm continuing my work with watercolour and it's potentials. And I'm also curious about the act of drawing. To draw out, or drawing something out of oneself; what that could imply and how it might manifest through my materials. You know, maybe pour a little metaphorical salt in the metaphysical wound and see what happens.