Artist_Macarena Rojas OsterlingMeet the Artist

Macarena Rojas Osterling

Can you describe your work in three words?
Time-consuming, contradictory, weaving.

You started your career as an architect. What got you into the arts? How did you become an artist?
I initially aspired to be an architect and spent two years in a foundation course at a university in Lima, but the curriculum was heavily skewed towards engineering, lacking in humanities, which made me feel unfulfilled. I decided to transfer to a Bachelor's degree in Communications, which, despite its broad scope, satisfied my intellectual curiosity. In communications I shifted towards graphic design and photography, eventually working solely as a photographer. I started working as an artist during my Master’s in Photography at the International Center for Photography in New York. This moment in life – around 2011 – took me back to drawing, and I haven’t stopped since then.

You work across painting and drawing, encompassing line, figuration, abstraction, and text. Can you talk about the relationship between these different aspects of your work?
I have a very hyperactive mind, and my drawings reflect a quest for a space of tranquility that is constantly interrupted by the noise in my head. This struggle intensified when I became a mother, as I found it increasingly difficult to control the drawings. I think motherhood brought a constant state of interruption that pushed me to explore different mediums and new ways in which to approach my practice. Motherhood felt like so much work already, that I needed variety and some flexibility in my artistic work. My drawings are extremely meticulous and the process can be tiring to the eyes, to the posture of the body. I knew I still wanted to draw geometrically, but at the same time I knew I needed to combine it with a laxity in my mind, with my own bodily response. That is why I allow the doodles, the scratches, the arbitrary lines, the stains etc. to infiltrate my drawings. My other body of work which I call the Time paintings are more abstract but still carry some subtle wording. What connects me the most to them is the fact that I take between one or two years to make and they constantly change with me, I don’t ever consider them finished, since there is always the possibility of one more layer of paint!

What is the process behind your practice? How are your works constructed?
Typically with my abstract geometry drawings, I start with a basic draft of an idea. This initial sketch serves as a foundation that I build upon, allowing spontaneity and intuition to guide the final composition. I always look at them from afar, trying to find shapes in which I find abstraction might seem figurative, and vice versa. The process for the paintings is completely different, because I make them during long periods of time in which I paint and pause for a week, then sand, paint again, and pause for two weeks. I use the paintings as an escape from the drawings, as a place to free my hand and my use of colour. I love to play with that idea of infinitely redoing a piece of work. Some of these paintings have just been shown in an exhibition, so I’ve stopped working on them for now, but if they come back to my studio, I will most likely keep painting on them.

Would you say there is an autobiographical aspect to your work?
Absolutely. From a very niche perspective, that conveys architecture and language, my work reflects upon my experience of an upbringing in South America. The geometrical forms symbolise my longing for the modern country that never existed to the reggaeton and Latino music lyrics interspersed with my thoughts. Both elements have a very direct connection to my childhood and serve as pathways to access memories from the past.

What do you hope to capture and convey through your work?
I aim to evoke a sense of nostalgia through my drawings. The scattered bits of text suggest intimacy and a diary-like notation, while the geometrical shapes reflect on a sense of identity that is quite personal, as I have mentioned before, that longing and obsession for the modern, the developed, the functioning new country. I want people to get close to the work, to understand it from different perspectives. I want to show vulnerability and I want to invite for a reflection on the shapes and the doodles. I am always interested in seeing what people see in my works and what meaning they take with them.

Who are the artists that have inspired you most?
Honestly, so many, but if I have to pin down some names I would say Agnes Martin, Louise Despont, Julie Mehretu, Cy Twombly, Francesca Woodman, Sally Mann, and Lygia Pape.

What interested you about joining Canopy Collections?
I was drawn to the diverse selection of artists on the platform. I connect with many of the works showcased and am particularly attracted to art that differs from mine. The painting and ceramic works, with their unique materiality and sensitivity, fascinate me. Additionally, Cécile and Louise's openness and curiosity about my work made me feel welcomed. For me, it's crucial to connect intimately and openly with the people I collaborate with.

Do you collect art from other artists? How important is it for you to live with art?
I am an avid collector, and living with art is extremely important to me. I started by collecting works from my Peruvian and Latin American artist friends, then expanded to emerging art from galleries. Now, living in England, my collection has broadened to include a wider spectrum of emerging artists, with a particular interest in prints and ceramics.

Any major projets recently?
Yes! I am happy to have just closed a solo show with Praxis Gallery in New York City, which is my first solo show in the US. I also just published my first monography, titled Macarena Rojas Osterling: Draughtswoman with essays by art curator Jenn Ellis, architectural historian Max Moya and music composer Alex Mills.