A conversation with Marta Colombo

Marta Colombo (Italy, 1984) is a multidisciplinary Italian-German artist based between Berlin, Essen and Milan. 

Endless research and the experimentation seems to drive her practice, and all the facets that space and perspective can provide. Experimental drawing, architecture and dialogical compositions are at the heart of her work.

Her work is internationally recognised. She has exhibited in Museums and Public Institutions, such as Kasseler Kunstverein in Fridericianum, Städtische Galerie Iserlohn, Art Center Bethanien Berlin, Italian Cultural Institute in Brussels, Museum Giovanni Fattori LivornoStadtmuseum Düsseldorf, Haus der Kunst in Palermo, Museum Dortmunder UMuseum Kunstpalast DüsseldorfLehmbruck Museum Duisburg and the Museo Palazzo della Permanente in Milan.
Works by Marta Colombo are in several public and privat collections, such as the collection of Stadtmuseum Düsseldorf, collection VIR Via Farini in Milan, collection of North Rhine–Westphalia (Kunsthaus NRW Kornelimünster) and collection Comacina (Academy of Fine Arts of Brera in Milan).

Marta Colombo, Spatial Strategies, 2019 © Copyright Marta Colombo. Photos: Francesca Ióvene & Eric Fritsch.

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Chambre Fluide:  Hello Marta! How are you? Let’s start talking about the meaning of drawing in the real space.

You created a series of installations called: “Drawing in Space”, could you tell us more about your “drawing in space”?  What means to you perform the passage from two-dimensional space to the three-dimensional one?

Marta Colombo: The main topics of my artistic research are the experimental drawings, plastic processes and participative strategies.

Drawing is a central element in my artistic work.  It helps me to observe, think, translate on paper and experiment in real and digital space. It is a faithful media since the time I spent in Art Academy, where I professionally acquired it during the Anatomic Drawing lessons with the lecturer Maria Cristina Galli. With her I learnt Drawing as not just a classic artistic technique but also as a working method and a critical and reflective strategy.

In these last 15 years Drawing emancipated and acquired a new identity in the artistic landscape. This kind of media allows inter-disciplinary experimentations.

In the 60s and 70s Fred Sandback was making slight sculptures with a metallic line. The contemporary artist Monika Grzymala draws with the adhesive tape in the expositive space and Eva Berendes  translates her pictorial elements  into the real space. 

In contemporary Drawing, lines are not forced to stay just on the paper, but they can autonomously run on walls, floors, ceilings, they are in videos or they are translated by different materials and techniques into the real space.

My artistic research aspires to examine, experiment and stimulate the participation of the spectator.

With “Drawing in Space”, one of my first site-specific work, I started experimenting, by using different materials (strands, cables, wood, fabric, painting on wall), the translation of my drawings on paper into the three-dimensional space.

I realised the first works of this series in 2015 for the Kunstpalast Museum of Dusseldorf and for the Lehmbruck in Duisburg. 

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Marta Colombo, The Voice of Drawing, 2020, © Copyright Marta Colombo, Photos: Francesca Ióvene

CF: It seems that Space is the core of your work, it’s investigated in all possible ways. It is often a scenographic space, right? Along your professional development you frequented the Teatro alla Scala, how has this scenographic side influenced your work?

MC: The relationship with scenography is connected to my biography. In fact, my mother studied scenography at Brera Academy in Milan and she had always worked in scenographic laboratories at the Teatro alla Scala. It could be possible that the scenographic space has been influencing me since when I was young. 

In fact, when I was a child I was curious about this world full of materials, costumes, stage props and showy characters. However classic theatre and contemporary art are two different words. In theatre people work together and individual choices are minimised.

I have always wanted to do something different from the job of my mother, I don’t know exactly why. 

Certainly I’m pleased to deepen some artistic and aesthetics aspects on my own and I work well alone and concentrate in my Studio. 

This doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate intellectual and practical exchanges with my colleagues. I don’t know precisely if the Space I’m interested in is always scenographic. What is exactly scenography? Undoubtedly I continuously experiment with visual elements, perspective and materials in space. 

CF: Well, Let's talk about your project “Scenographic Laboratory“ at Kunstverein in Kassel. What is it about? 

MC: In 2019 I was invited by EDI (Exhibition Design Institute of Peter Behrens Schools of Arts in Dusseldorf) to collaborate on a research project. I conceived a series of workshops  regarding contemporary scenography and in December 2019 I have organised  an exhibition at the Kunstverein in Kassel about the same topic. 

My main interest was and still is to find out how to sensitise the perception of space all around us, identifying its qualities and potentialities. 

During the exhibition in Kassel I showed a series of drawings and collages on paper and “Scenographic Laboratory”, a site- specific laboratory work. In a laboratory room inside of the Kunstverein I invited the spectators to actively interact with my composition. Visitors could move, change, modify materials and object proposed. What is important is that they were invited and encouraged to reflect about topics such as composition, assemblage and aesthetics of space. During the first three days “Scenographic Laboratory” was continuously modified and it questioned visitors about the space and the interaction.

Marta Colombo, Scenographic Laboratory, 2019, © Copyright Marta Colombo, Photos: Eric Fritsch

CF:  Let’s talk about your research practice, how does it develop?

MC: My artistic research is in continuous and coherent development. Central topics are experimental drawing, plastic processes and participative strategies. 

I listed a catalogue of questions and I’m trying to answer them to give a concrete structure to my work. 

There are pillar and fluid  questions. 

Fluid questions slightly modify themselves during the research process and in relation to contemporary situations.  

Currently, I am interested in investigating how the participation to the work changes in relation to the pandemic situation. How can analogue and digital strategies collaborate in this time of social restrictions? 

CF: You are an Italian artist, but now Germany is your home. Why did you decide to leave your country and what’s your relationship with it?

MC: I moved to Germany at the end of 2009. Going abroad has been a need since when I was in High School.

I needed autonomy. During my bachelor education at Brera Academy I had the opportunity of living and studying in Madrid at the Complutense University for one year, thanks to the Erasmus scholarship. After this productive experience I looked for new opportunities in Europe.

At the end of my master's at Brera I won the Comenius European scholarship, so I moved to Essen, in Nordrhein-Westfalen. Then I remained in Germany. Now I’m living in Berlin since 2018 and for a few  years now I obtained the german citizenship. 

I think it is very important  to build grounded bridges between different cities and european Nations. Indeed I am interested in keeping alive contacts with the italian art scene and with the cities where I worked.

CF: Describing your piece “20 minutes”, you state that together with the other two artists you analyzed “the potential of artistic collaboration”. Could you examine in depth how is it working together? What does it allow you to experience more than an individual work?

MC: The project “20 minutes” was born in 2019 in collaboration with two other artists: Anais Edely and Elma Riza.

The artistic collaboration is not something new. Already with Happenings and Performances in the 60s we can see a climate of experimentation, collaboration between artists and disciplines and the participation of the spectators. Here there are some examples: “Tapp - und Tastkino'' (1968) of  Valie Export, “Imponderabilia” (1977) of Marina Abramovic & Ulay, “This Variation” (2012) of Tino Sehgal, performed at Documenta in Kassel. The performances of Anne Imhof such as “Sun & Sea (Marina)”, opera for thirteen voices performed at the Biennale of Venice in the Lithuania pavilion in 2019. 

Nevertheless, what is the importance of continuing the research in these directions, especially in this time of social distancing?

With “20 minutes” and the collaboration with other artists, my primary goal is to investigate contemporary and future questions about artistic cooperation strategies, and also to reflect on my personal research in a critical and detached way.

What kind of creative and reflective process emerges when more artists are working together on a composition in the real space? At the end of the work is it possible to identify themselves with all elements?  

Regarding the work methods, how democratically decisions are taken ? How can artistic teamwork influence your own artistic research?

Which ones will be the new formats of artistic collaboration in times of physical distancing?

Marta Colombo, 20 minutes2019, © Copyright Marta Colombo

You can find more works of the Artist here: 

Website: Marta Colombo 

Instagram: @martacolombostudio