Interview: Jara Marken
Written by Elnaz Azadpour
Photos by Norunn Marie Nese
UltraNaive is the title of Jara Marken’s exhibition at Galleri Neuf that took place in the last week of November of last year. Jara Marken is a Norwegian artist from Norstrand, Oslo.
She graduated from Oslo National Academy of the Arts in Spring 2018.
Marken works with sculptures, images and installations, and uses textile as her main medium.
Nature, as well as changes in nature that subconsciously affect humans, are among the main inspirations for her works, in which she aims to understand and portray various kinds of associations.
When you enter her current exhibition at Galleri Neuf, all your eyes can see is blue – you feel somehow overwhelmed by this rich colour. In the middle of the room there is a big sculpture hanging from the roof, which immediately attracts the viewer’s attention. On one side of the gallery you can see four big carpets hanging in a rhythmic order, and on the other side you can see four images made of plastic, polyester and other materials.
There is also a tiny sculpture on a base. The works have different forms made of different materials but what they all have in common at first glance is the eye-catching colour blue.
– When did you decide to do art?
– All my life I have been interested in art, and I’ve been exposed to it a lot as well. My mother used to paint, and I started to do theatre in primary school. But I only started doing visual arts when I was done with high school.
– Can you tell me more about the title of the exhibition UltraNaive?
– I chose this title for two main reasons. First of all, I work in a naive and playful way with the forms, like children do when they create paintings, which have so much freedom. I don’t want to give an answer to the viewer. My work is kind of asking questions or exploring something, without bringing a specific answer to it.
Secondly, I was also working with a colour similar to ultramarine. Ultramarine is a shade of blue which is very exclusive. I have not used the real pigment because it is very expensive, but I have used a colour that looks like it. This title is also a reference to the colour ultramarine as well as to the word marine which refers to the ocean. So, it is all different types of blue, cold ones and warmer ones, and some more green, but it all starts with the thought of ultramarine.
– What medium do you prefer and how did you come to use it as your primary one?
– As you see in this exhibition, I am not attached to one medium. In this exhibition I have the carpets with textile and smaller textile collages. A lot of my works include textile, but I also do paintings and make plaster sculptures. So, my work is not limited to one specific medium. You will see a lot of textile in my work, but it is more about colour and rhythm and composition. I want to explore how I can do that through different types of media. I think it is interesting to see how different kinds of media interact with each other.
In all the different parts of the exhibition you can see that the textile in the hanging sculpture is the same textile as the one in the big carpets. I use the same fabric in different parts. It is like it is moving, as all the things in the exhibition are part of each other, coming from the same fabric or having the same organic form. The carpets are made of different materials. The background is cotton which I dyed and I also have used silk and polyester. I like to mix everything. I also paint on it with spray-painting.
The images are made of silk, polyester and different textiles. Another image is made of oil paint on silk. It is the same silk on the wall. They are reflecting each other. I want all the works to reflect each other - that is important to me.
– Why did you choose blue for this exhibition? As a viewer, that was what I first asked myself when I entered the room.
– I often work with the time of year. Since this exhibition was going to be in November, when winter was coming, I was thinking a lot about the fact that in the north of Norway it is very blue in the winter time. For example, in the mountains it is so blue, especially when it starts to get dark.
I also wanted to challenge myself and try to work with only one colour in different shapes, somehow to make rules for myself. And I think blue has different associations. For example, “blue” could mean feeling sad. I think there are a lot of associations around that colour. And it is also a neutral colour, as it is not the first colour that reaches your eye compared to other/when it is among different colours such as red and yellow. And we are surrounded by blue, the sky and ocean.
– Where does the idea of the exhibition UltraNaive come from?
– I mentioned that I often work with seasons or time of year and my bachelor project was also about seasons. When I got the email from Galleri Neuf this summer, saying that I was going to have an exhibition in winter, I thought about having the colour blue as the main colour for this exhibition.
I wanted to further develop my bachelor project "Sculptures Paradise" which was related to the season spring and so it was colourful. UltraNaive is related to winter, So blue seemed like the natural colour to work with.
I also wanted to invite the visitors into something. It is almost like a scenography related to something that has happened or is about to happen.
– Can you tell me about the process of your work?
– I often start with digital drawings on my iPhone or iPad. That is something I do almost every day to keep going and think about different opportunities with colours, compositions and forms. I use a simple sketching application. I use it as a kind of diary so I can draw when I am sitting on the tram or wherever I am, if I suddenly get an idea.
I start with that and then I think about how to use the room. So, in this case, the big carpets are made for a specific wall in the gallery which is six meters long. I wanted to have four carpets in different layers. I did that in order to create depth and to make it more sculptural.
In these carpets there is a circle which moves and changes. It starts in the middle and then slowly goes down. It is referring to everything around us that moves in its own cycle that we cannot control. Everything around us has its own drive.
The smaller works are very different from the bigger ones in terms of the process. When I do small works with plastic and silk it is more intuitive. In the case of the bigger ones I often use small works as sketches to make big works. I often make a lot of small pieces before making big works. They are in fact not sketches but individual works. The way of working with composition in the small ones is easier and faster but in the big ones I have to think more about how I cut the pieces and put everything together and so it is more physical. I often use the floor and try different textiles together and see what works with the composition.
– So you use the same material in a small scale and then you apply them to a bigger scale, right?
– Yes. Let me explain with the example of the circle. I have the idea that the circle should go like that, but then I start playing with the idea. I know this should be like that but with the rest of it I am free to choose. So my thinking changes all the time. I also do not want to be strict in the process. If I want to change fabric, I will do that or if the form is more organic or more geometric I let myself free to change it. I think it is important to trust the work when you are working and accept that thinking always changes.
– Are there any major differences when working in different scales?
– There are very big differences between small works and big ones. When I make the small ones I am more in control, but when I do the bigger works I somehow lose that control. So the process is more difficult, but at the same time more interesting, because these fabrics are 2.35 cm and when you use the sewing machine you will be surprised. You have to look at it, you have to take a few steps away to see how it looks like, while in the small ones you always have the control of different pieces.
– Do you also want to show something by using different scales?
– Yes, I want to talk in different ways. For instance, when you look at a small picture it is like a face to face interaction in which you are using your eyes. However, in the big ones it is like you are using your entire body. I think it can be more challenging to look at big works than small works. And also, because we are used to look at our cell phones and computers all the time we feel like we have more control over small scales.
– Does this idea of working with different seasons have something to do with where you come from or where you live?
– Yes, kind of. In Norway we have different seasons and you can see how fast the seasons change here. We talk about the weather all the time. We long to be more in touch with nature. Also, when I make this blue in the winter it is because I want to do the same as nature. And I think these days we are not in touch with nature that much. We live in cities in our houses and so we are losing touch with our natural environment.