Artist Interviews 2021
By Julia Siedenburg
Vanessa Rosa a native Brazilian visual artist and historian, whose work varies from sculptures, to murals and mixed media pieces.
She describes her art herself as” Tales of world history through patterns and drawings.
Traditional and contemporary techniques intertwined” and honestly, I could have not described it better myself.
Her love for history seeps though her diverse magical pieces. Her painted portals seem as if you just look at them long enough, they might transform into the gateway to your dreams.
If you want to find out more about this very talented artist then keep reading.
Describe the meaning of the word “ artist”?
It’s a joker card word. It can mean a lot of different things depending on context. It could mean someone who participates in the niche market known as the ‘art world’, it could be a craft artist who does a traditional job on image/object creation, it could mean someone who tries to live and create things in what they believe to be an artistic manner. One can meet people who are professional artists and yet they lack creativity and thoughtfulness. One can meet someone who lives pretty isolated and is impressively inspiring for the things they create and say. A scientist can be a great artist. An artist can be great at scientific inquire. Most concepts and words are contextual, they don’t have fixed meaning.
How has art changed the way you live and see the world?
Learning to see, thinking about what it means to be alive and what to do with our time is the core of an artistic proposition to me. Why do we do what we do? Why do we bother to struggle? I never felt at home with a specific spiritual practice, learning to love drawing and painting was the most sacred thing to me as a child, mostly for what I learned with my family. Spending the days drawing and creating stories with my sister was my childhood delight. So why would I ever stop doing something that fills my world with joy and wonder if I can choose to keep doing it? Of course, making a living and a career as an artist is a very different thing from loving art, it’s not an obvious path at all and one has to pay a price.
How do you want to influence people with your work?
First of all, I like to give them something beautiful and interesting to look at. I find the world extremely beautiful and I think trying to make things look good is at least a positive contribution to people’s live quality. Then, I like to share the topics I’m fascinated with, such as world history and logic. If one can understand a little bit how things came to be, how complex stories are intertwined, from human behavioral patterns to technologies, to chemistry and physics, then maybe one can accept and enjoy more our reality. And possibly try to add a contribution to the world that makes life a little better for the things we love.
What is your process like?
I’m constantly having a lot of new ideas that stay in the back of my mind until I see an opportunity to bring them to life. Often the idea changes a lot from the initial insight, or I can make something derivative of that insight and at some other point use the insight again for another project. I’m very curious and love to spend time learning and reading very different topics, such as world history, techniques (from ceramics to machine learning!), science books, literature, philosophy, etc. Then I love to combine different techniques while I’m playing with a narrative or a concept. For example, I learned about drawing machines and became super excited with them, so I started to think about the history of automated drawings. That reminded me of my longterm research on linear perspective and all the great artists from XVIth century who were experimenting with mathematical architectural compositions, like Vredeman de Vries. This old dutch artist was very surrealistic, creating impossible looking empty spaces that were extremely precise. I see nowadays 3d simulations as a continuation of this effort. But linear perspective, and much of the Renaissance, is deeply connected to the exchange between the islamic world and the Italian cities, so one can dive into the history of optics, how Alhazen’s work was key for the Italian new model of representation. Thinking of that, I add islamic patterns into my perspective drawings. Then I send the designs to the drawing machine and move the paper while it’s working. So at the end I have these distortions of a funny world culture collage. And for me, creating these drawings is like making historical statements. How one thing leads to another, how we are constantly learning with each other.
What do you do to find inspiration?
Just look around. Everywhere! All the time! Even our boredom can be a source of inspiration. But of course, one might need some time of silence to realize the new things one learns every day.
Do your emotional state play a big role in your art?
Extremely. I wish I was a bit more constant. I have moments of intense activity/creation and moments of exhaustion and sadness. I think my very nomadic lifestyle has contributed to this mood oscillation. It’s often good when I feel challenged and I have a deadline to drive me. But I also need a lot of time quiet and it can be hard to find balance for my creation rhythm.
Which artists are your idols and why?
I’m not so much into artists as idols. I like to think in terms of collective creation much more. Like, I deeply admire several artists who played with linear perspective, from Serlio, Vredeman de Vries, to Escher and the contemporary ones playing with simulation and illusion. Just looking at what people are doing on Instagram and Twitter is amazing! Of course, some artists manage to make a more organized presentation, or they go deeper with a concept. I learned a lot by thinking how Banksy uses street art, memes and media to highlight how images circulate, how to get fast reactions and spread a message, playing with people’s expectations. But then, I love to study ethnomathematics and see images of Kassena mural painting in Burkina Faso. It’s just so good! And a whole other proposition on how to transform our environment, it’s another concept of art and communal creation. Nowadays I’ve been passionated about animators as well, like Don Hertzfeldt latest works and Nina Paley.
How would you describe your style?
I can’t say I have one style as one painting style. I have a style of thinking about images and things. I like to merge things, it’s ceramics and digital fabrication playing together, it’s the physical and the digital, and all the stories around it.
Tell us a little about your childhood and background?
I grew up in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. My background is very mixed, that would need too much explanations. I studied Art History at the State University of Rio, but also studied a bit of business administration, worked with human rights NGOs, learned a bunch of languages and lived in a lot of places, travelled doing street art around the world, created a publishing company with my family (specialized in illustrated children’s books!), I had to deal with death and madness of people very close to me, then I got to see a lot more heavy tragedies by working in favelas and with indigenous people, got to see extreme wealth within the international art world, lived with avant-garde scientists and artists of the newest technologies. This world is quite confusing, it’s painful and exciting at the same time.
Do you feel like art became more or less important through the years?
What is important and why is it important? Why do we bother? Why do we need to buy stuff and live longer? Why do we need more comfort? Why do we want more?
How can we learn new things if we don’t give ourselves the time to wonder, to play and to create?
Which of your pieces is your favorite and why?
I’m always excited about my next project or my future projects. I think my pieces are like an ongoing stream of consciousness.
Any tips or advice that you want to share for young artists?
Be honest. And be interested in the concepts themselves, not in what people seem to approve at the moment. Spend your time in things that give you joy. But also, one needs to have a strategy to survive, try to be attentive. This is f* hard world and one needs to stand up on your own. Participate in a scene of artists that you really enjoy and admire. Collaborate, learn together, but also protect yourself.
What does success mean to you?
Living a joyful life and actually enjoying the things we do and the people we live with. Then, it’s also great if we can spread and exchange ideas with a larger audience that actually learns and grows with whatever it is that we’re creating.
What is next? What are your plans for the future?
Going deeper in our off grid R&D lab called Mars.college in Bombay Beach, California! Sharing our knowledge in a more organized way (I’ve been terrible at sharing most of my projects!).
Experimenting more with ceramics and AI animations - always mixing the physical and the digital. There are so many projects growing around me now… I’m trying to keep focus. I like the
idea of living within art, of creating a city, a community with an artistic vision. So I’m interested in debating and working on food security, renewable energies, material engineering,
how can we build our environment in a sustainable and delightful way? I’m passionated about my partner’s ideas around AI and collective intelligence, how we can share knowledge and let
things grow in an organic path. :)