Introducing Susana Belen, Chilean Collagist based in Australia
/DRI:M/SPACE is pleased to spotlight Susana Belen aka susanei_. Susana was awarded a Spotlight feature for the International Women's Day open call "Don't Run from the Fire" for her collage "The Borders of the Dissidents".
I loved Susana's submission for its concise interpretation on the open call theme. Her collage is a powerful message for women who continually face discrimation and adversity, being of migrant status herself, she knows such hurdles first hand.
Belen writes, "'The Borders of the Dissidents' is about how women are forced to cross physical or mental borders on the way to their goals in this society. Being a dissident means that we need to be able to continuously cross borders (and sometimes to destroy them) in order to reach equality and a space for our vision of the world."
From the Collagist:
I was born in Chile, in a family very inclined to artistic talents. Knowing that my life was irretrievably linked to art, but still trying to figure it out how, I studied a Bachelor of Theory and Art History, from where I came out with top honors, but with a great existential void.
After a couple of years of denying everything related to the artistic world and its meaning in my life and in society, collage came to me as a revelation; what I had always been looking for, had been always there: the desire to connect the remnants left in this world by different cultures, at different times and in various formats, with the aim of externalizing how intimate a work that exposes and re-exposes experiences taken from their original context can become.
For me, being a collage artist means interconnecting who we are and who we were, making us wonder in what way we are connected to each other, to other eras, and even to other people's dreams and intimacy.
I consider my artwork as "pleasant weirdness" where I look for the strange through a pleasant aesthetic that captures the viewer in different planes of the art experience.
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Clockwise - Untitled, 2022 / We Are All Immigrants 2, 2021 / The Walk, 2021 /
Maybe The Others Didn't Get Chance To Scream, 2020 / Niñas Secretas, 2021 /
Ocean Designers, 2021 /
Susana's collages are indeed quirky! Her paper cuts are colorful, the shapes and forms organic and full of movement. She often incorporates narrative storytelling in her work and the protagonists pasted in her collages weave their own stories, which are full of mystery.
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Susana's Studio, "Solve et Coagula" featured in Cut Me Up Magazine, 2021, & Process Shot
"Maybe The Others Didn't Get a Chance To Scream" (see previous gallery) is an example of Susana using collage to tell a story. We see a figure walking in front of a building and passing by an arched doorway with two figures standing in a darkened foyer. Susana throws in a bit of text to lead us on a quest to find meaning.
She writes, "This collage is about how different people's lives can be, depending on their economical, social or even emotional situation, and specifically in this case, depending on where they were born. We can see this person walking around, probably a tourist, holding his camera, exploring, but unaware of what is really going on around him, seeing only what he wants to see, ignoring other lives that may be experiencing a hell on earth, while others just live their lives, because not everyone has a chance to scream."
My House On My Shoulders, 2021
As you can see Susana's collages aren't just "pretty" art. Darker aspects of the human experience emerged the more I studied them. Of course, you can chalk this up to subjective viewing on my part, but one thing's for sure, if you spend some time with her work you will discover an activist spirit.
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Top Panel - Mask, 2020 / Colab with @cutandrepeat_, 2021 / Seeing Red, 2019
Bottom Panel - New Skin, 2020 / Fade To White, 2019 / Colab with @cutandrepeat_, 2021
But it's not all seriousness at play here! Susana really shines with her small collage works and in them we discover a playful artist with an eye for detail.
Her collaged tiny books showcase her talent working with little bits. "Rare records n°1" is a favorite of mine. The book has a retro-futuristic vibe featuring veiled women and the cut-out words glued to the surface read, "Rare records of female protesters fighting for the Planetary Revolution of 2498". You just have to see it for yourself! You can check it out here along with her other inspired tiny books.
Another stand-out is Susana's collage postcards made during her stay in Japan, which are pure pop perfection using found imagery. And, a new series of artist cards produced for an art exchange promoted by @pnwcollagecollective are spectacular. They would make amazing Tarot Cards with their magical-realism vibe. Please, please make them!
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Top Panel - From the Japanese Postcard Series, 2020
Bottom Panel - Collaged Artist Cards, 2020 / Tiny Books Collection, 2021
Susana, who in the past year alone has been featured in numerous publications and exhibitions, is definitely a collagist to watch out for. Her collages are sure to win the hearts of more fans as she continues to evolve in her artistic practice. I, for one, am looking forward to seeing more of her work!
Better ideas, 2019
Q&A with the Artist:
/DRI:M/ARTZ: In your Bio you mentioned that you went through a denial of sorts, questioning how art fits into your life. What was the push & pull you felt during this period in your life? Can you elaborate on this time and tell us how you came back to the visual arts?
Susana Belen: When I finished my bachelor’s degree, I felt very disappointed about the contemporary art scene in general. I met too many people with enormous egos, pedantic, with God complexes or getting positions not because they were good, but because they had the right connections, so I felt that I could not be part of a field that looked like a constant fight against other people to gain even little things. It was not me, and definitely not what I wanted for my life.
But after some time, while I was living in Japan, I could say that the visual arts found me again. It was not planned or decided in a rational way, it just happened naturally, because I could not hold it all inside me anymore, so I had to start creating to focus all the emotions that I was not able to express otherwise, and doing collage, I found the most supportive community that I could ever imagine. The international collage community is amazing in terms of companionship and generosity, which made me think that finally, I was in the right place.
DA: Much of your work has socio-political undertones. Can you talk about where you get your inspiration from? Is there an overarching message you want to convey to your viewers?
SB: Even when socio-political issues are not a topic that I want to express deliberately, sometimes I cannot really control it due to my life story, my way of thinking, and my migrant status. To be honest, my inspiration comes from the desire I have sometimes to make reality disappear, taking visual arts as a medium to escape all of the problems that this world has, but sometimes it ends up being the opposite, showing clearly what bothers me, and my opinions about topics that for some people can be sensitive.
DA: What can your fans look forward to this year and beyond? Any exciting projects that you would like to share?
SB: Sadly, I had to cancel most of the projects I had for the rest of the year because of the pandemic. We have been in lockdown again in this area of Australia, so I have no other choice but to adapt to the circumstances, like we all have.
For my artistic practice itself, I’m experimenting with other sources, beyond the paper. I think that I will never leave collage completely, because it really makes me feel connected with the world in so many ways, but I think that evolution is fundamental, and I feel like I am on my way to new challenges.
Check out Susana's tune recommendation "Corazón Astral" performed by Javiera Mena. Enjoy!
Instagram | susanei_