Judith Collell stayed with us as Artist in Residence for two months last year and we sat down to have a talk about what inspires her work and progress. Concluding her residency, Judith showed her work in gallery De Bouwput.
How does a new work or project usually start for you? My work usually begins with a mix of everything, from a reflection in a seminar to a poem read. Many times one line of work inspires the next or from attempts/failures of other projects new concerns are born that I want to explore. For sure how other artist explore concepts are references too. Many times what makes me start a new project is a seed in my mind that asks me to grow and that I have to bring to life, the restlessness to know more and from new perspectives, both plastic and conceptual always keeps me in movement.
Can you tell us what started this project at AGA LAB? What graphic technique will you mainly be working with here at AGA LAB?
I did have a project in mind where I wanted to try new things, maybe a technique that I did not yet learn or something new in the process, like working with other people, participants, collaborators. I did have that in mind: I wanted to try something new. When it came up to assemble a project, I knew that the screen printing department was big and I wanted to do big pieces. And I said, ok, let’s take the chance.
It is a technique which I am not very familiar with, but I am very interested in the variety of surfaces to which it can be applied, not only paper or fabric. Its multiple translations to different surfaces as well as the multiplicity of the layers is what attracted me and what I have most connected to my artistic practice. An engraving technique that allows you to connect with areas of art not necessarily linked to printmaking, creating bridges between art departments, concepts and materials.
About the theme of the project, depression: It’s not about me, but about my loved ones. I do experience their side of their illness from up close. It’s a theme that involves me in some kind of way, but still, it’s not about me. So I think it all merged together in a project that I’m proud of.
Did you have a clear idea of what you wanted to create, or were you surprised by the outcome?
It came out like this. Because also: the latex.
You wanted to learn screen printing, but you didn’t start with a traditional canvas. You take a whole new approach with this latex.
Yeah. I did take a lot of jumps of faith with this project, even though I prepared a lot in Spain, like trying the materials at home, buying it and doing trials. But I was kind of tired of paper. I used paper before, for all the prints I did, for etching, for painting. I wanted to try something new, and I met another artist using latex in Paris, and I thought: what is it, I love it. It’s latex. And it came from meeting other people’s work. I think that’s also beautiful, ideas that you get from others, being inspired and out of it comes a new project.
I did some tests, to see if the latex could handle the ink. Does it stick, will it fade? The merging of colors just happened in the final pieces. I work like that with most other printing techniques. I have the tools, the ingredients. Now let’s cook. And see what happens.
The outcome started surprising me when screen printing became part of it. I expected it to be more readable, clearer. I meant for it to be an understandable text that you could really read. I did have the idea of bruises and I thought okay, I am going to scale it precisely, so you can read it in four colors. It came out differently.
The unexpected outcome of layering the colors, the text, became a ‘happy mistake.’ Because the ink sometimes exploded, I couldn’t read it. So I grabbed a sponge and I spread the ink to look more like a bruise. And at the end I had left-over latex, so I decided to make some more pieces. I tried layering them, with just one color, experimenting some more. Yes, I had my happy accidents and I think they merged with the project and with the pieces so I don’t think people can tell that they are mistakes, it’s just part of the process. I had this idea and thought let’s see what happens, so it’s all part of it.
The me of some months ago might have thought the pieces would be ruined, because I did not envision them like that, but during the process and with the AiR Talks, experimenting, talking with other artists on Instagram, friends that helped me…A project I think flourishes when you don’t limit it. So I think it’s better to have an idea, a direction. I think it’s more free when you enjoy the process, which I think is good.
Sometimes screen printing can be very precise, and this is more organic.
I did get that from Rodolfo, the other AiR during my first month. He did have a screen but he made whatever with it and then, Sandra and Pepi – the second AiRs – were very strict with the screen, but very playful with colors, and the sizes of the dots. So I did grab both of those experiences and I think it translated a little bit to how I interacted with the technique. I think I had fun with it, but I was also kind of clean for my way of working because I do know how I usually work: I’m like, okay let’s go and see what happens. With this technique you can’t always work that way. You have a frame, you have to do this, and that; it has aspects that you cannot skip, but at the same time you can have fun. You can be playful, but you still have to focus. And you still have to clean the frame, you can’t forget about that.
Before you arrived, you mentioned that you like to collaborate and be inspired by others. To exchange ideas and knowledge. Can you tell a bit more about your experience with this, working on this project?
I think it was very inspiring, being in an environment of fully printmaking. At school there are other artists, and they work with other materials, which is nice too, but being at AGA LAB was all about printmaking. All the techniques are there, so sometimes I’d be talking to a veteran doing etching: Monika, or Herma, and I did connect with them and started trying things. Because of my broken elbow I had to stop the etching part of the project. I will finish that in Spain. But it was a good experience and the same thing happened with screen printing. People come in to do their projects, or there is a workshop, and you see what everybody is doing, for example with this shiny kind of silk. You get a glimpse of all kinds of different projects and people are open to talk to you, they’re not just in their own world, working. From that I got good feedback.
And so yes, the experience has been very great. There was also a bbq, and painting the outside wall; the environment is very ‘alive.’ The second month was not the same as the first. The first month was more about interacting with other artists, with the building, things happening. The second month was more about exploring the city, exploring the Netherlands: we took a train with the girls, we went to the beach, went to Maastricht.
What you are showing in De Bouwput? How does presenting your work – the installation – influence the work itself?
It’s funny you ask that, because of the light aspect for example. It was something that came from the AiR Talks. It does look good because some parts are very dark and hard to see. But the light also adds another dimension. Does it connect well with the theme? I don’t think so but it’s something that you add while you work. If you want to show it well, it doesn’t always have to help the concept itself. It becomes it’s own thing.
I did want to mimic the metaphor or envision someone ‘shedding old skin’ or taking off old clothes. Clothes you take off before a shower. Peeling it off and laying it out on the floor. Something old, that you want to discard, like things that you tell about yourself. Some are laying on the floor. The hanging pieces give some more dimension to the work. So this particular space and sharing it with the other artists, it works as a tool.
More work of Judith Collell can be found on: