Interview with Artist Vanessa Donoso López – Instituto Cervantes Dublin


Vanessa Donoso López on ‘There is neither pine nor apple in pineapple’. – Interview by Andrew Darley

Instituto Cervantes Dublin. Opening 10th February, running until the 24th of March.

Catalan­born Vanessa Donoso López launches her new exhibition ‘There is neither pine nor apple in pineapple’ at Instituto Cervantes Dublin on February 10th. The show continues her exploration of identity when we find ourselves in new contexts or countries which juxtapose what we have come to know. Andrew Darley spoke to Vanessa about the barrier language can be, the experience of embracing Irish culture and the fascinating process of chromatography which is a key feature in her work.

‘There is neither pine nor apple in pineapple’ looks at the limitations of language when we relocate in a new context or country. Did you want to express the loneliness when we do not have language to say how we feel?

Language is an extremely complex matter. When you think you have managed to translate enough words from English into your own language to make sense, you then realize that you’re never quite right. Often the same words or expressions mean different things when translated literally into the second language. This brings up an uncomfortable sense of frustration leading to a feeling of loneliness. Not being able to communicate what you really want to say becomes a really puzzling and arduous everyday situation.

Was the concept initiated by your own homesickness living abroad? 

I have always been interested in the idea of identity and difference. That’s why I was determined to experiment with what could be like to live within a different culture. It was a good few years after I moved abroad when I understood how many other aspects are attached to the idea of living in a different country. Art should be a reflection of what’s happening in your life and the world around you.

The exhibition maintains the idea that speaking in one’s mother tongue may be a more authentic way of living. Has your work given an insight of how people create their homes outside of their homeland?

I have been living in English speaking countries over the last 13 years – 11 of them in Ireland. That may seem like a long time to learn a language, which it is, but it’s not only the language you have to learn, you have to learn the culture and the differences – that is the hardest part. I always make an effort to immerse myself in the society I live but that doesn’t mean I can fully appreciate its ‘hidden’ rules and secrets. I understand why there are communities of people from different countries in Ireland because it’s an easier way of dealing with external reality and saving internal energy.

The show’s title is humorous in the way it captures how words English often cannot be taken literally. Did you want to have a playful title for the exhibition? 

I usually use humor in my work, particularly in the titles. Part of it is to de-dramatize the situation. Humor is always much more inviting and there are many good artists out there working on very serious world issues. Many of my titles are clear examples of how translation misunderstandings can happen easily. The idea of stealing a smile from a viewer really excites me. I have always been a bit of a clown ever since I was a child. I am here to cheer you up. I just can’t help it.

How did this exhibition relate to your previous collection ‘eye before e except after see’? 

I see my work as an ongoing project around ideas of crossed cultural identities and aspects attached to this; language, compatibility between cultures, acculturation processes, transitional phenomena, homesickness. All my shows have links both conceptually and physically. In this show, I focussed specifically on research I started many years ago around materials and colour experimentation.

The main installation of this exhibition uses chromatography using Spanish ink and Irish paper, in which coloured inks are absorbed through the paper and forms patterns. Did you like not having control over how the paper would finally look like? 

Yes, that was my favorite part! I loved leaving the paper soaking the ink over night and discovering the result next morning. I usually create and build drawings and sculptures knowing in advance what they going to look like, I think I have a pretty good vision that way, so leaving these components interacting as they pleased was a very exiting and stimulating process. It always is.

How did you discover chromatography?

The firs time I came across this process was in school in Barcelona, at during Science class. I think we were around 10 years old and we were experimenting with the PH balance of different liquids; soap, vinegar, juices. It obviously impressed me. Much later in time I applied this technique to actual color. Many processes that I use currently in my practice, I learned them as a child.

Are installations your preferred mediums? Do you like the idea of creating rooms for people to immerse themselves in? 

I do – that is the main reason why I build this spaces. I want people to be in them. Some time ago I came across the concept of ‘transitional field’, formulated first by Donald Winnicott, who was an English pediatrician and psychoanalyst. He claimed that when a child is born, they think themselves and their mothers are the same thing. After few months they will choose an object that will work as a bridge between their inner reality and the external reality. This object disappears with time, but what it means stays with us for the rest of our life and becomes the transitional field. I see these constructions as areas, where my inner-Spanish-reality meets the external-Irish-one. Elements of both my cultures meet up and celebrate some sort of a cultural marriage. What I like about installations is the way people are able to be part of the work and experience it physically. The audience walks into my transitional space and can hang out with it and have conversations with it. The installation should embrace the viewer.

How do you feel right before an exhibition opens? 

My installations take days to set up so often I don’t see the full work installed before the show. It’s pretty risky but there is never the time or space to test it first. I like the ‘surprise’ part and as my work is very flexible in terms of reorganization. I often feel like modifying things after everything is set up, but it’s always too late to do so. I have to accept, embrace and enjoy whatever is there. The reaction of the audience is always what closes the full circle.


Instituto Cervantes Dublin. Opening 10th February, running until the 24th of March.

Find out more about Vanessa here.

Categories: Art, Header, interview

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