The artist speaks to us about her new exhibition, which features works created over the last year
Back in 2019, Monica Kim Garza entered a period of self-imposed semi-isolation with the intention of working on a series of paintings exploring groups dynamics, intimacy, and solitude. Oblivious to how prophetic this theme would soon turn out to be, the large-scale oil paint portraits she made during this time depict moments of shared intimacy and friendship alongside other instances of seclusion. “The Wine Tasters (are you thinking what I’m thinking)” (2020) shows two women happily exchanging a conspiratorial glance over their glasses of wine. “Relieving My Stress” (2020) captures a quiet moment in which a lone woman, preoccupied, takes a drag on her cigarette whilst reliving some private bygone moment.
As the world turned and, in an unexpected twist, Garza found her self-initiated solitude rapidly became state-enforced isolation as the global pandemic took hold. Continuing with her project, her paintings began the artist’s nostalgia for socialising; for being among a crowd, and for the lost freedom of choice. Closer, now showing at Copenhagen’s V1 Gallery, presents the array of emotions experienced during isolation and holds them up against visions of togetherness. We talk with Monica Kim Garza about female camaraderie, intimacy, and her reflections on the post-Corona world.
Could you share with us a bit more about how Closer was imagined? And how your intentions changed or developed as a result of the pandemic?
Monica Kim Garza: I had been thinking more about getting closer to my subject matter. What kind of intimacy or feelings can be pulled from zooming in, and what details can surface by doing that. It was a thought that I had in the fall of 2019 not knowing what 2020 would bring. And when 2020 hit, it just made the work even more relevant. I also made the paper works later, and those were a bit more nostalgic of group gatherings.
How would you characterise the difference between the works created in 2019 and the paintings you made during lockdown?
Monica Kim Garza: Many of the works at the start of 2019 were larger groups with more motifs filling the canvas, but now there is less of those superfluous things and more focus of the figure(s). Part of the growth was from the lockdown, but it is also natural growth that comes with time.
I love your depictions of female friendship and camaraderie. Could you define the qualities you find compelling or interesting about relationships between women?
Monica Kim Garza: I think when you are a woman, there isn’t a word or need to describe this feeling of relating to each other. As women, we just know. Our cameradarie is based on this underlying knowledge we all have, that is frankly installed in us at birth.
Oscar Wilde once said, “Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter.” In what ways do you relate to this idea when thinking about your own work? Is there a sense in which every portrait a self-portrait?
Monica Kim Garza: I think every artist looks like their work. Even abstract. You paint yourself, the guts inside you. It doesn’t have to be ‘a portrait’.
The works were made in conditions of isolation (both self-imposed and government-enforced), and now they’re about to be viewed in a gallery space by the general public. In what ways do you feel that’s a kind of happy ending for Closer?
Monica Kim Garza: I’m not sure. I’ll have to see… but I think it’s great to have the general public have felt what I felt in many ways. And so, there’s a great sense of relatability.
What ideas or feelings would you hope people to take away from Closer?
Monica Kim Garza: I like the viewer to always feel what they want without me tainting their thought process. Art and life should be about the freedom to think on your own.
Closer by Monica Kim Garza is showing at V1 Gallery in Copenhagen until 12 September 2020