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Imagined Landscapes: An Interview with Contemporary Artist Matias Duville

Matias Duville is one of Argentina’s most promising young talents. We speak to him about finding inspiration in the landscape of Argentina and his latest three-stage project, ‘Alaska’.

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What is unique about Argentina’s contemporary art scene?

We have moved far away from what we understand to be the ‘centre’. We almost have an island mentality and maybe it is this characteristic – which could also be regarded as a negative – that makes us different. When you are working on a piece or a project, all these geographical issues come to light and continue through the creative process.

Matias Duville, 2009
Matias Duville, 2009

Which landscapes do you find inspiring in Argentina?

I like Tierra del Fuego, the end of the world, because in some ways all ‘ends’ are inspiring.

I did a project in Alaska in 2009 (edited by the Drawing Center NY in 2013), motivated by this idea of the end of the land and of the world, both in a geographical and psychological sense.

Matias Duville, 2011
Matias Duville, 2011

How has your style evolved over the course of your career?

I believe that style is defined in the choices and the decisions we make, and in the way we work. I am interested in when this ‘order’ is altered and the materials define the way we work.

There is a deep link between the story and the materials I use; it is consistent from the very beginning of my artworks and it determined the way I learnt to work.

This Was Another Place series. Matias Duville, 2009
This Was Another Place series. Matias Duville, 2009

Do you actively look for inspiration or just wait for it to strike?

The piece appears during the process, as you move the material, when you take it to an extreme level, even through boredom or ennui; I believe one should keep working to explore the possibilities of the outcome.

Sometimes you fail, but sometimes it is as simple as looking around and letting go of your self-control.

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Matias Duville, 2009

How does art present a different way of portraying a country to photography?

A piece of art shows – in an indirect way – a psychological bond with the place, always with an encrypted message, but somehow connected with the place and environment in which it was created.

Tell us about your most recent project ‘Alaska’. What drew you to that part of the world?

In 2008 I decided to work – for the first time – with a real reference point; I needed a place on Earth that was distant from my everyday life, but at the same time on the same continent. So I started sketching and imagining how this place would be (since I have never been to Alaska, I decided not to work with information or images of this place).

These sketches started to form a mental voyage, describing the territory where, a year later in 2009, I would spend a season.

The project was divided into three steps: a group of sketches created in my studio in Buenos Aires in 2008 (my images and my imaginary trip); another group of drawings created in Alaska (concrete and the real reference point of the project); and finally a sequence of drawings done in 2012 from my memories of the trip.

Luckily the project was published by the Drawing Center (NY) in 2013.

Alaska series. Matias Duville, 2009 
Alaska series. Matias Duville, 2009

Do you have a favourite piece to date?

To be honest, I find it difficult to think in my work in terms of individual or separate pieces, unconnected. Often I ask myself the same question, but then I realise that this is just a single job with different outcomes and outlets.

What is your next project?

My next big project is an exhibition that we are preparing for the Rio Modern Art Museum (MAM). It will be curated by Santiago Garcia Navarro and will open next March 2015. The exhibition is an approach to my work from different places, focused on the different ways in which I work. It will consist of a series of big drawings, an installation, and one ‘action’ to be performed outside the museum.

Matias Duville, 2005
Matias Duville, 2005

Matias Duville is based in Buenos Aires, Argentina and his next exhibition will be at the Rio Modern Art Museum in March 2015.