Interview with Nadia Barkate

Interview with Nadia Barkate

Interview with Nadia Barkate

Portrait Nadia Barkate

Photo courtesy the artist

CAT: Your works seem to be marks or traces of one continuous dream or a psychedelic trip to a universe populated by fantastical creatures and human figures intertwined in one continuous stream of veining and becoming. Are all your works connected in one story evolving through your hands?

N.B: Lately, I have been thinking that my works often function like metaphors. That is, a natural part is replaced by a chimerical part that makes it more interesting. Within that logic, things generate feedback, images generate new images, hybridisations, mutations, and connections.

What appears in the images is not as important as the relations it produces and the action, the event, the new life it engenders, and what happens in a performative time: the time of drawing. Therefore, I wouldn't say it is a voluntary narrative, but rather an illusion of narrative as it works in a psychedelic journey, which for me is, indeed, the practice itself.

CAT: For your new edition, you present a poem printed on a t-shirt.
What role does writing play in your work? How does it relate to your drawings and other pieces?

N.B: Writing has a very important place in my work, and it plays a double role. On the one hand, drawing, as I have been developing it for years, has a lot to do for me with writing at a formal level. The symbols and figures are very close to calligraphy, to the handwriting, to the signature in the documents, and finally to the doodle. More and more I introduce these types of graphs in my drawings. At first, it was intuitive but I am becoming more and more aware.

On the other hand, I write texts and poems since I can remember. It is a process that I carry out parallel drawing. Probably most of the images that emerge from my work come from these poems, and at least the environment that surrounds my drawings arises from the poetry that I read and write. It has always been behind (as an intimate process) but a few years ago, I started to show it. It is possible that I have begun to show it because this writing has matured, or because in the time in which we live, poetry has gained more importance. I'm not sure,  but I think it's fantastic that it's not so hard for me to teach my words anymore, and even more fantastic that this era focuses on poets.

Poetry seems to me, on the same level as art, an entity that generates image and potential desire (stabiliser/destabiliser). I think it is a very necessary exercise to acquire subjectivity, presence, and awareness, and that surely, and without exaggeration, is the light we need to regain ownership of our thoughts, desires, and dreams. As Anne Carson says, “For poets, the self is the loss of the self", and I think it could not be said better.

CAT: What are your influences? Do you admire the work of any particular artist?

N.B: I don't like the idea of admiring; I always think that we are just people.
But yes, of course, I follow the work of many people. Not necessarily in the field of drawing. For instance, I follow many young artists, and I love what they do in sculpture and installation. I like the work of young people a lot because they still take risks, and that seems very important to me. That they do not do what suits them, but what they want.

Relatively close, there are many artists who are more or less my age and whose work fascinates me, even if it has nothing to do with mine. For example, I love the brilliant and deadly touch of Lucia C. Pino and the warm affection in the modest pieces of Marina González Guerreiro @marinaglezguerreiro. In drawing, Sinead Spelman @sinead_spelman is possibly my favorite today; her clarity surprises me a lot. But there are many more that fascinate me; these are just three that come to mind quickly

Regarding the influences, I could cite many very different and anachronistic big names. But they all have to do with me in some way (Charles Burns, Miriam Cahn, Stu Mead, Anne Carson, Henry Darger, Francisco de Goya, Nancy Spero, Henry Moore, Edward Munch, Honoré Daumier, Louise Bourgeoise, Maria Sybylla Meryam,  René Daniëls, Carl Fredrik Hill, William Blake, Dame Darcy, William-Adolphe Bouguereau, Philip Guston, Wirzlawa Szimborska, Kokoschka .. and many more...)

CAT: Your watercolour works in our program depict hands with faces on each finger. A hand out of control. Each finger is an individual. Each individual has a different emotion. Do these works represent the constant back and forth between dependence and independence or are the fingers free of the hand and the body?

N.B: It’s funny because I’ve never seen it like this, but it makes a lot of sense. What I like most about art is that it escapes from single interpretations. So if you see it that way, it is that way.
These watercolours come from a strong impulse that I had after a long creative blockade. I used to go to the atelier a lot, but I got bored and nothing came of it, and these drawings come out of this frustration. It’s like I was conversing with my hands, and I implored them, and I asked them why they don’t give me anything. Since I had no answer, I started to draw my hands in this silly dialogue that happens in my mind. The drawings are comical and a bit pathetic. And above all, they got me out of the blockade.

CAT: Your works in glass are such a wonderful mix of medieval aesthetics and almost cartoonish gestures. How do you come up with these?

N.B: You have hit the nail on the head. Medieval iconography has always been very present in my work, you are not the only one who has noticed it, but few people see it. It’s funny, because it took me a while to see it myself, but it’s not so strange… I look at a lot of books on Romanesque altarpieces that I have had in my house since I was little. Although I have never been educated in religion, I am not even baptised, I have always been fascinated by the mythology and symbology contained in the stories of these altarpieces. Cosmology and alchemy, the bestiaries of this time, the martyrdoms of the saints, and other related bizarre things.
I don’t deal with them directly (literally) but I do understand that these shapes may be showing themselves as an influence. And the truth is that I like the idea of seeing the logic of a Romanesque altarpiece. Other people have told me that my images look like fantasy movies, which is also true. There will also be images of books I’ve read. I’ve been consuming images for many years, I can’t take full responsibility.
In any case, these glass pieces deal with simple themes: motherhood, heads, and hands. They are thought of from drawings and limited by that technique, glass blowing, which demands thinking of the pieces from very simple geometric shapes. The early medieval representation also starts from simple geometric shapes.

CAT: Are you always incorporating sculptures in your workflow?

N.B: Not necessarily. In fact, it is difficult for me to incorporate them, because the corpus of my work is drawing, and it is where I feel most secure. The fact of starting to make sculptures has been a complication for me because I didn’t know where to start, but it is also a challenge.
Although I studied at a university with a strong sculptural tradition, and I know the techniques, it is not easy for me to reach the image through bricolage or assemblage. Theoretically, I know it very well, but in practice, it doesn’t work for me. To approach the sculpture, I have to go through the drawing, otherwise, it seems to me that I am pretending something that I am not. These kinds of insecurities happen when I get into it.
With these glass pieces, it happens that I don’t waste time thinking about insecurities, because the technique is so fast and fragile that it doesn’t allow me to have any doubts. It’s like I hit on a technique that allows me to be impulsive and basic, so that works better for me. It is similar to watercolour and airbrush, all fast techniques, in which everything has to be done the first time and accepted as such.

CAT: Your large-scale mural works are unbelievable! How do you create these amazing pieces?

N.B: I work with notebooks. I make quick sketches with a marker, on the bus, on a terrace, anywhere… Later I have a bunch of drawings that I then arrange and mix in front of the wall. I work live, I copy my sketches, I work on the transitions, I try to connect them, overlap them… Imagine that they were sounds that you sampled in a DJ session, I like to think that way, for me, it’s similar to a live session (but more intimate, without an audience).

The drawings in the notebooks work separately, they are like scenes, but then on the wall, they compose a confusion of images, a spiral, a tube, a spider web, or something like that… Again, it’s like a narrative illusion, not linear as in a comic or a book, but circular and ruminant as in the mind (or at least, as is my obsessive mind). I try to put on the wall the way those images appear in my mind, literally and without filters. I don’t know if I achieve it completely. What I try, what I would like, is that it could be read from anywhere. That it always produces meaning and movement.

CAT: Would you like to add something else?

NB: Yeah! That I am very happy to exhibit in Berlin again, and I thank you very much for the invitation. And I really want to meet you in person too.

CAT: Yes! We are very much looking forward to the opening! Thank you for your time!

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