I met the artist Amalia Valdés in her cosy studio in Berlin-Wedding at the end of 2019. We talked about religion, craftmanship and her connection to one famous Bauhaus girl: Anni Albers.
By Maria Radke
Amalia, you say, that you are a curious craft person and that you study the performance of materials. Why is it so important to you to know how materials work?
It is fundamental for my research of materials because I want to know how they can behave and react in different situations. At the same time, I am assigning an important influence to them. That they can be a living part of the development of the work in progress and their capacity for change regarding the malleability that these processes entail. When I start using a new material, most of the time I don’t know what will happen, but this interests me precisely the most. To give a material the responsibility so that it can influence a part of the working process and thus become an active agent of participation due to its condition, is very important for me.
Which materials do you prefer working with and why?
At the moment, I am very into cork because it is a noble, flexible, soft and durable material. I am enthusiastic about the organic quality that characterizes it, because it seems to have a life of its own. When I’m painting on it, the material reacts – the cork sheets compress, expand or contract, depending on the technique I use on them. It’s important for me to get in touch with these reactions to improve the final conditions of the paintings.
“I am fascinated by the fact that these symbols are charged with diverse meanings, whether cultural, spiritual or even mystical through all the times.”
In the exhibition “Symbolic Match” at Galerie Seippel, Cologne you showed a big painting made out of cork with coloured, geometrical symbols on it. Some of these symbols descend from the antiquity and are still used in everydays life. Do they have a special meaning to you?
Indeed, they have a special meaning because, as you say, they originated from the antiquity but they still function as modern models today. I love the state and I am deeply interested that such ancient signs are timeless. Likewise, I am fascinated by the fact that these symbols are charged with diverse meanings, whether cultural, spiritual or even mystical through all the times.
My fascination becomes even bigger when I’m getting to know more about the history of some icons and how they were reproduced as a remote in ancient times, when there was no internet, phones or mailing. Examples are ceramics founds on Greek Islands or in the Nazca or Tiwanaku-Wari culture in northern Chile, Peru and Bolivia.
You talk about a universal harmony in your works, moreover in your whole life. What does it mean to you and in which way has this harmony an impact on your creative process?
Most of the symbols or patterns I use are very important because they deliver special meanings. Some of them come from sacred geometry, in this case they are connected to an universal harmony that is represented through our environment. They depict a special closeness to the mysteries of the universe and its composition. As well as to structures that belong to nature such as the ribs of a leaf or the colourful wings of a butterfly. In geometric proportions these are related to canons of beauty and harmony. The impact on my creative process is very big as they connect me with repetitive processes of contemplation, introspection and meditation.
“I think it is very beautiful to transmit the knowledge that we carry within us as unique and different individuals who come from different cultures or geographies.”
Pre-Columbian symbols and geometry are significant elements of your work. Is it important for you to connect your art with your roots?
It’s very important for me to reconnect with my roots as a Latin American artist. Coming from Chile, made me revalue my true identity as well as made me want to project that identity more intensely through my work, because it makes me stand out and be different from the eyes of the world in Berlin. It is something very particular because I realized that living here, as something random that strengthened my work, strengthening my ideas. I think it is very beautiful to transmit the knowledge that we carry within us as unique and different individuals who come from different cultures or geographies.
“Anni Albers’ work excites me, because of her enormous interest in the craftsmanship and textile tradition of the Andean cultures.”
Do you feel connected with other artists from art-history and how do they influence your work?
First of all, I have to mention that the pre-Columbian pottery tradition of South America influenced me because of the special relationship with my grandfather, who was an antique dealer. He was the one, always connecting me with crafts and precious objects. I also have a Special connection to spiritual women artists such as Hilma af Klint or Ema Kunz.
Anni Albers’ work excites me, because of her enormous interest in the craftsmanship and textile tradition of the Andean cultures. At the same time, I greatly admire the work of Brazilian artists Lygia Pape and Lygia Clark and Cuban artist Carmen Herrera. All these women have encouraged my work because of their way of living art and craftsmanship.
You worked at so many different places like Lisboa, Santiago, Brescia and Sylt. Currently you work and live in Berlin. Why did you choose Berlin as your home and workplace?
I think that living in different places is always very stimulating for any artist due to the new experiences and the enormous cultural diversity that you can Always appreciate in other environments. Berlin in this case, offers so many stimulating experiences of cultural and diverse possibilities that the city gives you day by day. I also believe that Berlin is a very special place because it is still resisting the changes we are experiencing as a society in this globalized era through an increasingly accelerated system, immersed in capitalism and excessive consumption. We are losing the true meaning of things and I believe that in this case, Berlin has the meaning set in other values.
“For me as an artist it is fundamental to try to preserve these conditions related to our memory and our roots.”
Do you like the local art scene and how does it differ from other cities?
Every city has a different art scene and that is the amazing thing about travel and doing residency in other places. Berlin has a very diverse scene where you can find large exhibitions with established artists and other more experimental Projects with more risky and innovative features. This is something that makes Berlin a special place, here you can live, experience and see a great and intense cultural diversity.
I really believe that nowadays it is important to identify yourself with something of our own, with the identity that makes us different and unique as human beings because of our traditions and our heritage, otherwise the knowledge with which we come from our territory could be lost. For me as an artist it is fundamental to try to preserve these conditions related to our memory and our roots.
What are you future-projects?
This was an intense year and I hope to take the next one with a little more of calmness. By the end of this year, I will participate in a couple of collective exhibitions in Chile, for example in CV Gallery and the launch of a new art platform called Collectio.
I am also in conversations to carry out a couple of projects in Chile for the second half of next year. These is an exhibition in Valparaiso, another in Santiago and my participation in an artistic residency in the north of the country. And of course, organizing some things in Berlin, for example I’m part of the Group exhibition ›31: Women‹ (Exhibition Concept after Marcel Duchamp, 1943) at Daimler Contemporary.
Amalia, thank you so much for your time, the cookies and tea and of course the great chat!
Next exhibitions of Amalia Valdés:
31: Women (Exhibition Concept after Marcel Duchamp, 1943),
29th of February 2020 – 7th of February 2021,
Opening: 29th February 2020, 3-6 p.m.