Like a broken mirror: A dialogue with Clara Conlan

With: Juan Pablo Torres Muñiz
 
The final image, the work of art, forge of light. Indeed, the artisanal work consists fundamentally in the manipulation of this. Art makes its way from the experience of such manipulation, and goes further. It compromises, incidentally, although in a particularly significant way, the darkness, and how much will remain so, in the mystery.
Clara Conlan knows this well. Her work says a lot about it.
 
 

A sea of cordiality, she unfolds to share her thoughts. Her work makes us question. They urge us to an exchange on the sidelines. And this is what is given, with these notes…
 
That if I use my art to illustrate, maybe another world… Yes, it would be easy to affirm this. But I care more about the inner world, where the subconscious reigns and all its private angels and demons go crazy. This is what drives me to do what I do. As a compulsion, a necessity.
 
 
Doing art is like putting my messy mind in order… It’s like I do with chaos, something more defined, and also aesthetically more beautiful… And by doing that, the process itself helps me take control of that inner world, even if it’s only just a moment. The result is relief…
 
This refers to the lights themselves, that is to say, to the lucidity that emerges and with which, in the end, a vision develops. But let us remember that all light, in order to reveal a structure, must produce shadows.
 
 
In this case, we recognize in the darkness of the work, an invitation to intervene with the lights themselves, beyond them.
Communication. Which tempts to give, perhaps, with a recurring motive…
 
But I can say that I do not intend to do anything with my work.
The ones you see are as “real” as anything of this nature… If I think they can express something permanently? Then I would have to say no…
I do not think there is anything permanent, especially when it comes to art, and even more so my own art.
 
And it also changes, communication. Not to mention so many signs, terms and their various meanings.
But Art, if it transcends, does it do so beyond even the material, through the very substance of the message, reproducing itself in new fiction through time. Skin change…
Just the physical, is another matter…
 
 
I like the idea that my work “dies”.
In all my sculptural pieces and in much of my collage work, I use organic materials: foliage, flora, hair, blood, bones, etc… They will continue to decompose over time. In this way the pieces age…, just like us. They are as permanent as I am, which is to say that they are not at all…
The only certain thing in life is death… And so, since my work is a direct reflection of myself, it reflects that fact too…
 
 
Without contradictions, the provocation raises its tone: Behold, the body as evidence. The extremities that multiply, reflect a will that resists. But also a full reality, apart from this and any other will: Our own complexity exceeds the definitions at hand, defies each new invention and mocks even our imagination; life exceeds the framework that we intend to use to understand it every time. Its flow fractures the limits of each stage in which we think it divides.
It goes away, in a thousand ways… 
 
 
(And the questions multiply…)
If life is lost. If it is diluted. Or perhaps it expands. It is projected. Mutates Transcends… But there is no straight line…
 
I never start with a fixed image or a story in mind. Each piece grows in its own way through the creation process.
However, it is also a trance, something deeply personal. The pieces represent moments, stages of emotions. Like those lucid dreams we have in confused sleep.
 
 
Subjectivity.
Our vision is inevitably limited. As a proposal, it results from a thousand refractions to the interior of each one, in its enormous complexity; each beam of reality ends, by force, converted into a simple line, subject, among other elements, to time.
Communication through art (because it does not intend to pose definitions, or anything definitive in general, but just the opposite: to question everything), constitutes the closest experience back to the ungraspable essence… of origin: to the first silence. An exercise of acceptance based on amazement; a defeat from which it becomes possible to learn…
Dialogue allows us to circumvent, if you will, our limitations…
 
Each piece alone contains an element, it lends itself to narrative functioning, but I prefer that each viewer creates their own sequence…
 
 
The net grows… Knit each one with their hands, good and bad, going forward and stumbling. We knot, we get tangled…
It brings to mind the use of the antennae with which the blind insects communicate to make their way. As a false ideal, by the way.
 
I am interested in exploring the spatial and temporal dimensions of neurosis, clumsiness and artifice.
For me, this work is a means to understand and control the creation of characters, public and private, that I use to wrap my essential identity, which reveal my struggle to find a balance.
 
 
There are many sources to which I can refer my work, but they focus mainly on personal struggles, as well as the joys that come with living with mental health problems.
I consider this last, indeed, in a universal sense: an obsessive, compulsive impulse of construction, deconstruction and reconstruction of identity.
 
The prism of identity, where it emerges from the game of refractions, vision.
In the case of your work, it is something literal. But there are other winks, particularly regarding the body. And one also notices the dance…
 
As for the visual, my inspiration comes in large part from my fascination with Irish culture and Japanese culture.
 
Also, of course, of other theories…
 
I have continually referred to the Droste effect in my work. Through the laborious, obsessive and repetitive process of my work; compulsively make notes, draw, photograph, photocopy, deconstruct, enlarge, distort and reconstruct, I am trying to investigate the virtuality of being and various effects, often paralyzing, of neurotic introspection, sometimes caressing psychosis.
 
What about the resources?…
 
With my collage work, of course, there is a digital element, but that usually stays behind…
They all start with photographs of myself. But from this point I use a wide variety of techniques, most of them analogue: cut, fold and layer them with drawings and/or photos, often, again, with natural elements; finally, I combine everything in a digital process.
 
 
As for ourselves, complexity often brings with it a series of complications…
Foucault described culture as a set of overlapping networks. This same image lends itself appropriately to talk about the individual personality as time passes and experiences overlap: several of the personal references, the influences, as well as, of course, the more or less original ideas change (accepted the need to rewrite propositions of others and, on that basis, reinvent ourselves)…
 
I like that the more attention each piece receives, the more unstable it becomes.
In the end, the images that started as sharp photos have degenerated. They are blurred; they obtain a different quality, quasi-pictorial or print like quality. And it is that the digital media I use is very basic. I do not use Photoshop or any other important editing suite; Usually, just the free software that I have on my very old laptop.
I’m someone who does not even own a mobile phone, so… 
 
 
So, with you…
 
What someone may wonder, where is the exit?
 
Inside. In everyone. Through the prism (as a key in a broken mirror)…
 
 
(Translation by Isabella Farrell)
 
 
 

5 Comments

  1. This is truly useful, thanks.

  2. Thanks for the terrific post

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