SWARTE interviewed by Peripheral ARTeries

We would like to start with our ice breaker question: what in your opinion defines a work of Art?

A piece of art is that creative work which transcends the barriers of beauty for the sake of truth. It is an assumed authentic gesture of communicating one’s deepest thoughts or states of mind. That’s probably the reason why the core never lays into necessarily liking it, as it’s not the esthetics exclusively which makes it so valuable. It is more about the mystery around and its power of popping up strong feelings and question marks, that defines it as no ignorable.

Would you like to tell us something about your background? How much different experiences have impacted on the way you make Art?

Well, as a team we are having a very complex / diverse background. We know a bit about business, we had a lot in common with marketing, we have an idea about the way in which editorial works, and we also know photography and painting and body art. That’s the advantage in working as a duo. It offers the possibility to abuse a variety of experiences if you want to become a story teller in visual formats.

By the way, Manuela, we have read in your bio that you have 12 years of experience as strategic planner and business consultant. So we would like to ask you: what are some of the challenges for a sustainable relationship between the business and arts?

I think the biggest challenge is to stay true to yourself and develop things from your heart. A business experience has the ability to enforce the analytical side of a human mind, which actually helps a lot in creating solid concepts for your artistic projects. The threat of it might be if you would lose the focus and become overcritical. The provocative in these moments is to not take you too seriously and to never forget to play, to stay flexible, and to simply let yourself go.

Do you think that the dichotomy between Modernity and Tradition could be reflected also in Art? I would go as far as to state that even the more innovative pieces of Contemporary Art reflects in a certain way kind of “dialogue” with the Past… what’s your point about this?

Modernity and Tradition are a good match and sometimes a wise solution. The claim is to find the right balance between them. As we were creating our series “One square meter of roots” we were firstly concentrating in finding out what made more than 70 tribes around the world able to survive till our days. It was almost amazing to realize that the humanity didn’t basically change so much. It was more the form of it or it’s “packaging” that suffered bigger transformations.
Otherwise, men and women are the same since ever, all forms of social organizations coexists since aboriginal times, we share the same triggers and since we collapsed into each other, we more or less deal with the same issues today.
It’s therefore probably not a bad idea in times of crisis, to have a look into the past and hang on for a while on the traditional basics or “roots” while trying to build up a more stable version of modernity.
With that in mind, we elaborated our works starting from the most primitive form of art which was the indigenous body painting and stepped up through different layers of modernity such as the drawing and the photography, till we obtained a round assemblage in which the two opposites harmonically coexist.

Do you visualize your Art before creating? Do you know what it will look like before you begin?

In most of the cases, yes, but there are also moments when we just let a free form of expression guide us and simply take control.

Now we would like to focus on your recent series, whose pieces can be admired in the pages of the current issue: could you take us through your creative process when starting a new project?

It all begins with the stories. I create them one by one till we are both satisfied with the round message we intend to put out there within an entire series of art works. That’s probably the main reason why, in most of the cases we preview our pictures, as we have already and entirely digested the message they will contain before starting to visually transform it. On the other hand, as we are both women, we have to deal on daily bases with a sack of emotions so therefore some of the works were matter of free expression and came out in shapes which were in the end surprisingly also for us.

We suggest to our reader to visit the related website www.sw-arte.com/stories and read the stories close to each piece. By the way, we have been impressed by “An Inuit story“… could you elaborate a bit the role of a story as a “companion” of a visual art piece?

Thank you! Our works are generally categorized as mixed media art. So within this mix, we like to include words too as we basically communicate through them. They function more or less like frames for our paintings and they induce an extra touch and sensitivity to what the eyes can usually see.
Anyway, we do not intend to glue the mind of a viewer to our personal way of thinking. On the contrary we would like his/her imagination to further flow.

It goes without saying that your works reveal a clear social criticism. Do you think that art could play an important role in facing social questions? And what role does the artist have in society?

I think it always did. Let’s think about Guernica. It is probably the best known piece of political art yet created, and definitely one of the most important. But that’s not the only example. Goya’s series “The Disasters of War” or the Brueghel’s “Massacre of the innocents” are also clear version of art meeting politics.
Art can register big problems and influence the world towards a better future.
It is clearly not its role to offer the clear solutions but it is in its power to rise up fundamental questions and to invite to personal reflection.

In a recent interview, the German artist Swaantje Guentzel stated that “the exploitation of the environment have never been executed on a higher level while at the same time people have never been more convinced of their passion for nature“. It’s quite impossible to not share this analysis, and although this is evident, we still accept this paradoxical situation: would it seem that this contradiction is not clear enough as to force us to change our behavior or, at least, our consciousness?

I start to believe more and more that the process of fully understanding things in this world is partially handicapped as long as it is reduced to its theoretical level or limited palettes of personal experiences. We start changing our behavior and way of thinking only when we are both emotionally and rationally capable of totally relating to an issue due to the fact that we were personally and directly affected by it. Is it good so? Is that bad? I don’t know, but it’s definitely classically human.

And last but not least, you have established a fruitful collaboration: could you tell us something about this effective synergy? How did you two meet? Did you have similarities in your Art at the time?

We met each other few years ago, when I left the business career and came back from Germany after attending the studying program of the Make-up Academy in Munich. We became friends and realized that we have a lot in common so we decided to start our SWARTE project which we probably would have never done apart, as we definitely need the way in which we complete each other within the creating process.

By the way, we would like to remember a quote of the artist Peter Tabor who once said that “collaboration is working together with another to create something as a synthesis of two practices, that alone one could not“: what’s your point about this? Can you explain how your work demonstrates communication between two artists? This reminds a famous line by Shakespeare: “for the eye sees not itself, but by reflection, by some other things”…

Actually it’s all based on communication, trust and respect. I feel free to build up my stories, to transform them in body art and never interfere into the rest of visual concept which stays fully in the hands of Corina.
She has a way o seeing what I think that makes me fully trust her instincts in rounding what we both separately create within our projects.

Thank you for this interview Manuela and Corina: our last question deals with your future plans: anything coming up for you professionally that you would like readers to be aware of?

Thank you too for having us! Last but not least we would be more than happy to let you know that after winning some international competitions immediately after launching “One square meter of roots” in January this year, we will present our series in a solo exhibition at Ross + Ross Galerie, Friedrichstraße 23b, 70174 Stuttgart, Germany. We would be honored if the readers of your magazine would have the pleasure and time to visit us there. The exhibition will run from 22nd of March till 31st of May 2013. Thanks again!


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