Interview With Marisabel Gonzalez

Marisabel Gonzalez is a Venezuelian born artist, who experiments with block colour to communicate an abstract landscape. Her use of texture and antithesis of rough and soft colours permeates the conduit of her subjective narrative. Marisabel often finds herself “recalling places that have imprinted in [her] heart and soul.” Her vivacious and conceptual works recall memories from both her Australian and Venezuelan life: “My pieces are the result of this blend of similarities from two places miles apart but so close to my heart at the same time.” Heralding mixed media, acrylic paints and woodblocks Marisabel’s artistic pilgrimage extends the constellation of everyday life, in a tenacity of creative vigour.

When did you begin your artistic career?
I am mainly a self-taught artist. Initially a ceramist, I turned into drawing and painting more than 20 years ago. Being a medical doctor by trade meant that I had to satisfy my artistic aspirations by completing as many short courses I could possibly fit into my schedule.

How would you describe your works?
My work tends to draw to the abstract expressionism. Probably because my favourite artists belong to this period, but I also found that through the years the freedom on the brushstrokes provided by abstract representations allows me to communicate with my audience in a more appropriate way.

What is your general art making process?
I have two main bodies of works: Canvas works and woodblocks. Usually they are produced in a series.

When working on canvas, I mainly paint landscapes. I do not sketch. I get drawn under the colours and shapes, which I then transform into interpretations of the view. I use many layers of materials, allowing the texture become part of my work.

The woodwork is oriented towards colour relationship rather than textures and shapes. These blocks are made of high quality pine wood and are handcrafted manually on every face. This process allows the observer to actively participate with the artwork as these pieces can be displayed in as many options as the number of faces of the block.

How do you conceptualise what you feature within your works?
My work features a mixture of my personal interpretations of subjects with the emotions that these emulate on me. There is a lot of insight through the process, hence my works talk about myself.

You are/were an artist in residence in Warringah creative space in Curl Curl, how has this contributed to the outcome of your current works?
The Warringah Creative Space is an amazing working spot. Every week or two weeks there is a new exhibition, you are continuously exposed to an environment that stimulates the senses. The space is locked within sports training fields, which contribute to a beautiful view every day and its surrounded by a garden that is kept by community volunteers. My residency at WCS had opened a whole new world of possibilities for me.  I have come to realise that “ignoring your passion is suffocating your soul”. I have been made aware that the lack of “formal” training was not enough to silence the need of imprinting my emotions and my message on a canvas. I have been able to remember that art is a powerful communication medium; a link between individuals in the most intimate, subtle and delicate way. Being able to work in Studio 3 at the WCS had provided me with confidence to set a steady foot in the arts world and start a career that have been longing to surface.  No more wrapped works in my basement!

Do you think your childhood and heritage, as Venezuelan, has come through in your artworks?
Absolutely, yes. My works are a biography, an open book. Landscapes are my main source of inspiration. I always find myself recalling places that have imprinted my heart and soul. My mind usually wanders between my present Australian life and the memories from my home country, Venezuela.

My pieces are the result of this blend of similarities from two places miles apart but so close to my heart at the same time.

Does your professional role as a Sonographer influence your artworks?
I wouldn’t say it plays a major role per se, but definitively will have some influence. As a sonographer I am continually exposed to a dark room and a screen that displays all the shades of grey that you can possibly imagine. Differentiating within these tones of grey is how we are able to identify normal from abnormal structures. This probably had impacted in the way in which I look and interpret colour.  You could almost say that during my day I experience a “classical” art classroom scenario in which you move from black, white and grey drawing to adding colour and materials.

Does the health system play a part within your art making processes?
Having completed my medical career in Venezuela meant that I was exposed to a lot of human suffering, not just the one related to the disease process per se, but the one inherent of being sick in a third world country. The lack of resources limited our ability to help but at the same time we needed to be creative and sort things out with what was available. Somehow, a continuous creative challenge for both doctor and patient. That resulted in the formation of incredibly strong bonds between; consequently a lot of the time we were exposed to the same feelings of pain and frustration our patients were experiencing.

All those places that I have been, all those patients that I tried to help and those I couldn’t, the recollections of my home country, etc. play a very important role in the way I process my creations.

You “approach the canvas 'without a preconceived idea', choosing instead to 'let feelings flow”. How does this manifest artistically within your work?
I do not plan ahead before approaching a canvas. I take lots of photos: of the landscape, the colours, the shapes. If I could photograph the smell of the air, I would! I informally draw on the spot; squiggles almost. Then I come back to the studio and try to represent the mixture of data collected with a lot of emotions added to it. Hence, my work has many layers and textures. Although, my main inspiration comes from the landscape, the link between that and my background always comes to flourish.

Where do you hope to lead your art towards?
I intend to keep moving forward, to keep on creating. There is always more room for learning, improving techniques, trying new ones, work more, be more exposed. I intend to keep working with mixed media on canvas and woodblocks for the time being.

What are you working on at the moment? Do you have any upcoming art shows?
I am working on series of works for my upcoming show at the Warringah Creative Space in late June. This will be a group show to close the cycle of residency.  The selection is quite bold in colours and emotions.  I can’t say much about it now. Watch the space!

I am just about to embark on a collaboration with SBS in Spanish. This is a beautiful community project which aims to empowering Spanish speaking women living in Australia. The project is called: “Mujer, tu me inspiras” (Woman, you inspire me) and will be completed in 2017.

Other projects are in draft stage at the moment.

See all of Marisabel’s works here.

Words by Lotte Thomson-Vock