Spanish artist Susanna Inglada has been in The Netherlands for many years. She lives with her young son in Amsterdam and exhibits her work all over the world. Susanna creates large figurative drawings that she transforms into three-dimensional sculptures. They seem to float in an exhibition space, radiating a dark undercurrent. In an interview Susanna talks about the undercurrent and its underlying sources of inspiration.
by Anna Geven
You use realism and symbolism in your works. You like to play with the dimensions of your work too. Why do you use so many aspects?
When I make a work, I always think about the narrative. It might be based on personal experience or what’s happening in our society. All research and all my emotions I transform directly into a work. If I make detailed sketches first, I will lose that first energy of all these emotions, thoughts and ideas. Until recently the characters in my work were dressed in clothes that represented their role in society. I showed a work in Paris in which the characters are naked. They have strings of braided hair all around them. The work is inspired by motherhood and my childhood memory of my grandmother. It was custom in her village that women always had long hair until they married. After they were married, they cut their hair short and so did my grandmother. She kept her hair in a large braid. To me the braid is a symbol of losing her freedom, it symbolizes vulnerability. I tried to use this idea in the installation called The Fit. In this work the braid has a double meaning because it also resembles an umbilical cord. The naked characters interact with each other, and it is not clear whether they enjoy the interaction or whether it’s a struggle.
What is the role of the spectator in your work?
It is important that my installations surround the spectator by attracting and raising questions. The main characters activate the work by confronting the viewer so that the viewer becomes the protagonist.
You studied at various art schools, but you also studied performing arts in Barcelona to become an actor. Do you use your experience as an actor in your artwork?
I brought theatre back into my work, in the way I use space and in the gestures and expressions of the characters I draw. Every time I have an exhibition, I consider it a stage where I put up my props and place the actors. I am using the space as an opportunity to show new work. Sometimes I create something especially for that space.
My impression is that there is anger in some of your works. Is anger a source of inspiration for you?
The trigger to make a work comes from something in our society which I don’t understand, and which creates emotions which fill me with an obsessive urge to research and find answers. Before I went to Rome to study there, the newspapers wrote about the rape of a young woman in Spain and how this case was handled in court. In Rome I saw these beautiful sculptures made by Bernini like The Rape of Proserpina, and Apollo & Daphne. Wonderful sculptures with beautiful images about rape. I was shocked how women were depicted in these sculptures, all this romanticism. I decided to make an installation showing big hands, like the hands created by Bernini in the sculpture, The Rape of Proserpina. I took these hands and blew them up. They became monstrous hands and also a bit deformed in order to take away their power.
Are you pointing in your work to the ones responsible for the harm done?
I don’t think I am pointing at people, I try to show a universal story. In my work I never put a specific face on the characters. I like to keep them open, so that they become universal. The problems I am talking about are not specific for one place, but they are all around. I don’t expect spectators to change or act. I like it when they start asking questions about certain topics I am pointing out in my work. I want to confront them with issues we are currently dealing with; issues we don’t pay enough attention to.
Are there other sources of inspiration that feed your creating process?
I discovered that using new crafts is inspiring. It makes me step out of my comfort zone and suddenly something new happens. Now I am trying to translate my work into ceramics, textile and animation. Working with animation is interesting. Normally I work with fragments of drawings with narratives interacting with each other. But working with animation is different because you have to work with time frames and a screen. Working with textile means working with needles and sewing. It offers new possibilities.
You have lived in The Netherlands for a while now. Did Dutch culture inspire you in your work?
Being in The Netherlands made me aware that I come from a different culture. It gave me a view on Spain from a distance and I started to create work that was inspired by this reflection. The art scene in The Netherlands inspired me, I met a lot of artists and was offered interesting commissions. Of course, local issues influenced my work. I think if I wasn’t in The Netherlands, I was not making the work I create now.
What is your upcoming project?
This summer I will show a big sculpture in Drenthe in the biennale, Into Nature. I created it specifically for this location and it was inspired by the history of the location and its folk stories. I have a solo show coming up in Spain, in Tarragona. And I am preparing an exhibition with Gallery Maurits van de Laar in The Hague. Next year, in 2024, I am doing a couple of art-residencies. One in Germany and one in Morocco. So, a busy schedule with super interesting projects.