After forsaking her native New York, artist Lola Montes Schnabel is now based in a remote corner of southern Sicily, where she works in various media on works that explore issues surrounding existentialism and the inner being. She gives Canvas an exclusive insight into her practice and the joys of solitude during the pandemic.
Can you tell us something about how thepandemic has affected your day-to-day life?
LMS: I’ve been in Sicily throughout, where I set up my studio two years ago. It was a time of tremendous anxiety for me, as something was boiling inside of me and about to burst. I became determined to work in a natural environment, editing out as much of the extraneous noise in life as possible so that I could hear and visualise what was going on inside me at my own pace. By deliberately placing myself away from society I’ve been able to free my imagination and concentrate fully on my art. As for this particular moment in history, we are all suspended in time and space.No planning can take place. I’m treating it as a sadhana, a time for meditation, and am totally immersed in the potential beauty that this pause is offering us.
What has been the impact on your creative output?
I’ve been busy working on my ongoing series, The King of Love, which has taken on special resonance during the pandemic and with other current issues, such as BLM. The series began when I came back from the last Venice Biennale, perturbed by all the machine-made art I had seen there and wondering if the human touch can ever prevail in a world of shiny, slick art made with mechanical devices. Then I saw a billboard, covered in layers of old advertising posters peeling off to reveal different shapes and forms. It was like a collage, and in it I found the point where figurative and abstract meet. I could see human forms emerging from the amorphous shapes, standing above images of tomatoes that were being unveiled by the deteriorating layers. For me it was a very powerful creative signal and so I photographed the billboard and have been producing paintings based around what it signifies ever since. It has become my own icon. The figures of black, brown, yellow and white express the skins of humanity, while down below are representations of tomatoes, signaling regeneration and the rejuvenation of the planet through the planting of seeds. The theme is one of inclusiveness, so important in these times of division, and of inviting us to question the very nature of existence.
What should artists be doing right now?
The world needs artists to interpret truth. Our job is to make an eloquent and coherent work of art that helps find an exit from the reality presented to us. Even if one is freaking out in times like these, I feel art can put people into a transcendent state and be a revelation.