Clara Durán – Artist of the Month

Our winner of last year’s Graduate Art Prize, the brilliantly talented Clara Durán, is our artist of the month for October.

Clara creates stunning pieces using photography as her main medium, pushing its boundaries and integrating other media such as painting, poetry and performance and was recently exhibited at John Cullen on the King’s Road as part of London Design Festival. She has also taken over our Instagram for the following week.

Read the full interview below.

How has your work developed over time?

My work has developed very significantly since the beginning. I specialised in photography, so I knew that my personal path had started when I developed my first film roll. In Fine Arts we had annual courses of painting, sculpture, drawing and other disciplines. I had a passion about other media as well, so I tried to put together all the things I loved.

In the beginning, I used alternative photography processes for pictorial qualities and then I started to paint photographs with watercolour. After that, I felt the urge to write small poems that went with the photos. In the third year of my degree I joined a workshop/group for poetry as well as a performance/theatre group. I explored other painting techniques and developed performance and poetry more deeply. That same year I started my research on water.

The fourth and last year of the degree I had a much wider approach and understanding of the union of these four media, intrinsically connected to my research on water. During the following two years, throughout my master’s degree, I found many new ways of working and I learned to self-conduct. My work has developed in a way that I follow my intuition to expand as much as I want and am then able to compress everything into a fine body of artwork. I have been increasingly more self-critical, perfectionist, organised, capable of pushing through setbacks, and self-aware, embracing everything that it means to be an artist.

What artists have influenced your practice?

I take nourishment from different sources of inspiration, such as Gaston Bachelard’s analysis on the four elements, Zygmunt Bauman’s concept of liquidity, Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis or the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. I also have a very delicate appreciation for musicians and composers such as Frederic Chopin, Franz Liszt or Beethoven. In the visual arts I am influenced by the work of Bill Viola, Olafur Eliasson, Andy Goldsworthy, Fabienne Rivory, or Jason Shulman. And of course the classics like Francis Bacon, Mark Rothko, or Egon Schiele simply take my breath away.

What would you do if you weren’t an artist?

Who knows! I’m interested in so many things… Before studying Fine Arts I started Pharmacy because I love science, but there’s a reason why that wouldn’t have made me happy. I would still be into a creative sector; I studied music for 7 years so I would say a musician.

How do you see your art as a part of our society?

I believe art is such a powerful tool to improve societies and make people reflect and communicate messages in a unique way. It is also a very powerful means of making people feel strong emotions, and I aim to connect with the audience and make the audience connect with itself. To understand context is essential, finding ideas and ways of expressing them that are relevant. My research on water and the diversity and interconnectedness of fields and media – analysed through synaesthesia and emotion – are, from my point of view, at the root of every human being. One thing that I feel contemporary art fails to do, is to connect with people; some art takes such a big distance from the viewer that it fails to establish any point of connection. If we don’t succeed in curating our own way of expression, then we don’t fulfil our very nature and duty as artists.

What’s the last exhibition you saw that made an impact on you?

Soundscapes (Hear the painting, See the sound) at the The National Gallery. The piece that made the greatest impact on me was Ultramarine by Jamie xx on Théo van Rysselberghe’s 1982 neo-impressionist painting Coastal Scene. The music was composed by many bits of sound, just like the painting by many dots of colour. The concept behind it was genius and the feeling that the work carried made me tremble. It immensely inspired me; the harmony created by all these bits and how it changed depending where you were in the room – I fully understood the power of sound and the beauty of its immateriality.

Tell us about your dream project

I have just started my next project, collaborating with sound artists amongst other people. The aim is to integrate sound with the four media that I have been working with. We will do this through interactive technologies, and it will be presented and exhibited at Instituto Cervantes of Bucharest in May 2017.
This is the start of my dream project, as I would like to achieve in a near future a full integration of music and visual arts. I see myself in a theatre making both fields merge, creating a fusion of materiality and immateriality through emotion and creativity, expanding the idea we have of art.

What art do you, or would you, collect?

I love illustration and graphic design, especially if it touches topics of higher consciousness, perception and reality, astrology, ethnicity and folklore.

What is the most memorable piece of art you have produced?

Although I enjoyed the most making The river runs down in a tear because I found a lot of creativity and space within the movement of the performances; the most memorable would be Hail radiates across the ripple.

I mounted a photography set inside a shower and did the shooting very early in the morning to have the right light that came from the window. It was challenging to keep the equipment and the background dry as well as concentrating to perform, while also trying not to choke with the water that came through my mouth and nose (I swallowed a lot).

I traveled to Spain in a very short trip to take the photo in that specific spot, and my mum was the one who helped me. We used several rolls of film, and I couldn’t develop and scan the film until I was back in Bucharest; I took a high risk there. I trusted the work we did, and I was so amazed when I saw that only one photograph was good, but it was the one, it was exactly what I wanted. I normally work in series, but this work was about oneness and I needed to make just one big and strong piece – so having just the one on the film made me feel thrilled at how concept was working already by itself. It is my best piece so far.

Has any place or environment affected your work?

Since I started my career in the Arts, I have lived in Madrid, Chicago, London and Bucharest. These cities have affected my work in many ways, as the creative process is influenced by daily life and the atmospheres you are exposed to. Also, each city has a completely different art scene and way of thinking. I appreciate this nomadism in the way that it has made my mind and creative hand more flexible.

The environment that has had the biggest importance in my work is the yoga studio. When you practice, you have time and space in your mind, and your physical body becomes light. You learn to make your breath and energy flow naturally, and both mind and body are connected becoming one. I find this extraordinary; you are able to clear way the noise and the dust, having an open environment in which you understand many things about your own nature. While practicing yoga, I have been inspired and have solved blockages in my research, especially in savasana, the last relaxation pose.

What do you do in your spare time?

A perfect weekend for me would be on Friday evening to go to a classical music concert to make my senses pop out through my pores. On Saturday to work in the morning and then have lunch with friends. Then start the evening with a good bottle of white wine and finish in a venue with good music and atmosphere, and dance with all my energy until I can. On Sunday I love to get up mid-early, take a walk with my partner and share brunch in any beautiful café in Bucharest. The rest of the day, play some music at home while we both work calmly on our projects, supporting each other with our thoughts, ideas and company. I truly love that.

What advice would you give a younger you?

There are many things I would tell a younger me to do differently, or earlier, but to be honest, I’m quite happy of how things have developed. You learn something from every experience, even painful moments can make you achieve very positive things by the struggle itself, so I wouldn’t give a younger me any advice to let things flow naturally.

How does material/medium inform your practice?

Material/medium is everything in my practice. I’m a very process-based artist who deeply integrates research. Both are equally important to me, and both conform my work in an evident way. I strive to unite multiple media [photography, painting, performance and poetry, and now sound] so I’m always looking for a different order in which each media takes action in the process. To do this, I constantly look for new materials in which all the media can be seamlessly integrated together. I’m always open to integrating a new medium so that the work goes through metamorphosis – and does what life does; change and grow.

What is the one thing you cannot live without?

The one thing I would say, that is common to the entire world, is love. Love is what moves life and it is something within us all; if you express it and develop it then you’ll find it back. Love for your friends, for your family, for your lover, for yourself, for your work and job, for nature, for animals… And very importantly, love for the present, making the “now” matter. I believe this propels all your energy into a positive life. Do what you love, and love what you do.