Interview // Beatriz Morales: Unveiling the Hidden Truth

Interview by Nora Kovacs in Berlin; Saturday, Jun. 13, 2015

berlin-art-link_beatrizmoralesinterview_Chiara Bonetti .jpgBeatriz Morales; Photo by Chiara Bonetti

Beatriz Morales puts a contemporary spin on artistic styles of the past with her colorful, emotive, and (sometimes) nuanced paintings. As a Mexican artist living and working in Berlin, her works are charged with a political and cultural energy that is unique to her background and the Mexican Embassy in Berlin recently invited her to do a solo exhibition, titled HIDDEN, to place these questions and controversies before the public eye. We got a chance to chat with Morales about the exhibition and how exactly she navigates between the realms of clarity and obscurity, truth and abstraction, reality and wonderland, and between what is shown and what is hidden.

NK: How does this exhibition differ from your previous ones, not only in medium/process, but within the context of the Mexican Embassy in Berlin?

BM: This exhibition was quite a challenge, in more than one way. First of all I’m showing my first big scale 15 m2 painting, which feels a bit like a milestone. Then the paintings are hanging inside a governmental space, which is of course quite different to a neutral museum space.

Mexico is going through a very dark period concerning human rights, and the situation in my country influences my work profoundly, if I want it or not. So, while I do not set out to make political statements in my work they nevertheless carry a political charge simply because I am who I am, because I am affected by what’s going on and because I paint.

I show works from two interrelated painting cycles in the exhibition, Hidden Truth, which also gives the exhibition it’s name HIDDEN, and Wonderland. The Hidden Truth paintings are figurative at the core, and enhanced with abstract techniques. Each of these paintings shows a scene where the crucial element – the center of action that the characters focus their attention on – is hidden from our sight by big splashes of colour. We see that something is happening and are drawn in, but are ultimately forced to come to our own conclusion. The spectrum of interpretation is wide open. And the way each of us sees the painting and interprets the scene can tell us a lot about our own focal points and preoccupations. The stories are told and retold with every pair of eyes that sees them. The Wonderland paintings, which are purely abstract in nature, depict the emotional universe that the protagonists of the Hidden Truth series live in.That’s how I see it. So the works are very closely related, and explain each other.

Of course, with all that is going on in the paintings – or should I say with all that may be going on behind those violent splashes? – I was not sure until the end whether the paintings would be left hanging in the Embassy. But there they are.

berlin-art-link_moralesinterview_hidden_ Chiara Bonetti .jpgBeatriz Morales – “Hidden” (2015), exhibition view, Embassy of Mexico in Berlin; Photo by Chiara Bonetti

NK: As a Mexican artist living and working in Berlin, what effects do you think the political, economic, and social differences have had on the way your work is created and also on the way it has been received?

BM: Living outside of Mexico has definitely helped me to understand the country in a more profound way, and I see it with very different eyes. I think that is a natural process. I never intended to be perceived as a ‘Mexican painter’ as such, i.e. an artist focussing exclusively or even primarily on Mexican subjects, energies and issues. But where we come from forms our identity, one way or another. And that part of my identity I can approach and express from a different angle, being abroad.

Working in Berlin is much more challenging than working in Mexico. There is such an enormous range of art in this city, and I find it requires much more focus to work here, to not get distracted. Berlin is one of those few places in the world where there is a constant sense of the ‘next big thing’ or the ‘next relevant movement’ just around the corner. It is not always substantial, of course, but that excitement is there, and it is inspiring. At the same time it means that as an artist you really need to be in touch with your own vision, else you get swept away by the short-lived trends.

Mexico is different in that respect, and felt like uncharted territory in comparison until recently. Right now, however, it seems like the dam has broken – some of the most exciting art I am aware of comes from Mexico. And not just in painting, in so many fields.

berlin-art-link_beatrizmorales_Chiara Bonetti .jpgBeatriz Morales – “Hidden” (2015), exhibition view, Embassy of Mexico in Berlin; Photo by Chiara Bonetti

NK: The paintings leave a lot up to the viewer and their own perception/imagination; why is this such an important aspect of your work and the message you are seeking to portray?

BM: It’s simple. I don’t see it as my job to provide answers. I feel the most profound and most substantial exchange I can have with someone who sees one of my paintings is if they become part of the process by engaging with what I show. And that is not limited to the relatively straightforward act of completing a story that is half hidden on the canvas in the figurative pieces. It can happen just as easily – I hope – with the abstract work. My paintings need an audience, the reception and interpretation is part of the creative process. That is truly how I see it.

berlin-art-link_morales_Chiara Bonetti .jpgBeatriz Morales – “Hidden” (2015), exhibition view, Embassy of Mexico in Berlin; Photo by Chiara Bonetti

NK: Your work has been described as “bridging the gap between abstract expressionism and figurative depiction”; how do you navigate between these two, between what is “hidden” and what is shown? How does chance play a role in your artistic process?

BM: I approach this question very freely. On a technical and artistic level I was and am actually moving away from figurative depiction in general. So I see it as a special challenge to integrate figurative elements and to set them into relation to purely abstract colour fields. With the Hidden Truth paintings I found a conceptual bracket that allows me to pursue this tension between figurative and abstract painting.

Chance plays a role from a technical point of view. The first step in all the paintings, the Wonderlands and the Hidden Truths, is to splash the main colour stain onto the canvas. Everything else is then carefully composed around that initial form. I start with an idea of colour, thrust, direction and a sense of emotion. In a way, everything is encapsulated in that first splash, the painting will take a completely different route depending on the way I apply this first stain, whether it is soft or forceful, dynamic or subdued, and so on. I use various techniques to influence the running of colour on the canvas in this initial step of the process, but the very first act is crucial. It’s a very concentrated and pure act. And then my job is to uncover and trace the bits that are not hidden.

First comes chance, then comes the composition, and in the end the result is half revelatory and half obscure. The truth is out of reach, in as much as no one possesses a final answer. And at the same time, we all form our own truths. The paintings invite us to. I search for answers in my paintings like everyone else.


Additional Information

Exhibition: Jun. 1 – 25, 2015
Finissage: Jun. 23; 7pm
Klingelhöferstrasse 3 (click here for map)