Interview with visual artist Shey Nanette
Shey Nanette is an extremely talented and multifaceted Uruguayan visual artist, definitely one of the most relevant and powerful artists of the younger generation. She was born in Montevideo on August 1988 and from a very early age felt drawn to art as a means of expression. She is a photographer, makeup artist, body paint artist, painter and drawer. Her life revolves around brushes, textures, colors, nature, music, spiritual connections and an eagerness to express herself. She currently lives in Montevideo, Uruguay, and I had the pleasure and honor of interviewing her for CULT.
How was the process of getting wrapped, involved and dragged into the Universe of art?
Let’s say that art came after me and demanded that I to devote myself to it. Somehow I connected with art from a very early age, as a means of escaping from reality, and a way to transport myself to a world created by my imagination.
I have lived among brushes basically since I was born. My dad dedicated a good part of his life to drawing and painting, but with a very low profile, and without the intention of taking me down that path. So, after school, I dedicated most of my free time to secretly experiment with his tools and, by my own will, attend art workshops for children.
I was always very applied in all subjects, but clearly drawing was where I shinned the most. I grew up without being very aware of this. During my adolescence I kept creating images inside my head, I had no clue where they came from, and towards the end of high school I decided I was going to be an artistic makeup artist. I wanted to draw on skin; experiment with what I had already learned was the one dimension drawing. But life led me to study photography first, and then social makeup and only years later I began to self-teach myself in body art and painting.
In 2014 I decided to try to enter the School of Fine Arts, and after three days of trials I was admitted. I began to experience a new world that was way beyond what I had imagined. Then for the first time I gathered the courage to create in front of other people, to show what I had been doing my whole life, to get carried away between the lines, colors and textures. Why? Because all my life I have felt a stronger inner movement than anything else, I mean the desire to speak by drawing, be it explicit or abstract.
At what age or at what stage of your life you conceived and declared yourself strictly as an artist? (when you understood you wanted to dedicate your life to art?)
I believe it was at age 17 when I told my mom very determined that I was leaving high school (in the last year) because all I did was draw and listen to music in class, instead of taking notes. As I have worked since a young age, I had some savings, and I decided to leave my house and I began to explore life in a different way. I slowly started to understand that what until then had been a hobby, was not, and it took me another ten years to completely understand and accept that this was who I was, and that this was my path, to see myself and breathe myself completely as an artist. And there is much more to do and so much more to say that my life will continue to be devoted entirely to this.
What emotions emerge when you paint? What feelings and sensations do you like exploring, or simply bloom when you create?
What a broad topic … usually it depends on the day, the moment I’m going through, the situation I’m in, if I’m alone, or with a group, you connect with them as well.
Overall I appeal to melancholy, love, joy. For some part of my life I connected with sadness, as a process of personal cleansing , as a way to get rid of everything bad I felt and maybe didn’t know how to talk about it. At times this still happens, but now I keep very few words inside, since I started meditating everything emerges with much more inner peace. The feeling of truly connecting with myself is very similar to meditating (or to ride a bike, which I really love!). In that moment alone, where you’re alone in the present (after shuffling with the past and longing the future) and you find yourself in an almost subconscious state between colors.
What are the colors for you?
An exquisite language… They are words that express my world much more than what I can usually express by talking. And exquisite because only a good observer can decipher what each one of them has to say and how they chat between each other. I usually write a lot, literally, but when I paint I feel I speak much more clearly, to quote colors naturally flows within me.
You make art but what art does for you? Where does art in your life?
Art rescues me from losing control and at the same time it liberates me from everything. Who ever sees some of my creations can almost immediately interpret my intensity. I’m impulsive, passionate, transparent, direct, restless … so when all this feelings come out at the same time, it’s creation that brings me back to balance, where all these feelings speak with “coherence”, and it leads me to shut my mind off for a few seconds and just enjoy these rich emotions. It definitely ranks the best place inside me.
How do body, mind and soul coexist inside your work?
They converge divinely well! Honestly, in all areas of life, in my work is where these three best understand each other. That precise moment when they agree and take me to unknown places in my interior, where my body responds to the soul in a present state and to a mind that was perhaps talking from the past, but they manage to converge in shared time and space. I rarely achieve this balance in other areas!!
I was struck by the absence of Pollock in a list “top 5 of influences” you gave. There are undoubtedly certain Pollockean reminiscences in some of your works, why this omission in the rank?
Pollock is and always will be a reference of all times, I admire him for the way he dialogues with painting. But he is not one of the most influential painters of my life. Let’s see, this might seem a bit crazy, but I am passionate about surreal art, it’s what I’ve studied always, however, when it comes to expressing myself, abstract art has always felt more instantaneous and natural, avant-garde expressionism so far… this could explain associations with Pollock.
I started researching him a lot more than usual after people started telling me that we carry a common style, and I could capture his language instantly. Additionally, what I did was to take my painting to a body, to use skin as a canvas, in this way the creation acquires a totally different life. Then I started to paint paintings with a similar style, but the start, in my case, was to bring something from flat to volume. That is my passion, body art.
Anyone as passionate about this as me can see that the color palettes we use are completely different. I guess we have different things to say, in a different time and with a different purpose maybe. Two different people expressing themselves in an abstract way. I give him, side by side with other great artists, my biggest applause.
How would you define the art scene in Montevideo?
Mmm… somewhat limited. That would be the clearest way to define it. There are many great (but really great) Uruguayan artists and there is so little space to making a living of it, to show your art this and to take other places.
Overall, I think that the country as a whole, not just Montevideo the city, lacks awareness of art in all its manifestations, and needs to value it more. I think it’s very rich in talent and a bit poorer in recognitions.
Influence of local artists?
Unfortunately, I don’t have big influences from my country. Just recently I began getting closer to other Uruguayan artists, my influences are mainly foreign. And by this I don’t mean just painting or photograph, also the music, film, dance, etc… Since my childhood I have always been more attracted to views that are foreign from my place of residence. The biggest influences I have for painting have always been more from the musical than the visual level, but no one from here I think.
What role has Montevideo played as a city in your formation and development? How has it strengthened you and made you crippled?
Regarding my formation, the most beautiful place in Montevideo has been by far the Fine Arts Academy, before then –besides some specific courses- I was always very self-taught in all areas. In body art, for example, I have to admit that the city is limiting, there is much to develop, so much materials missing, so much culture to revoke. In the other arts I work in, I have a bit more freedom. I am truly in love with my city, but conscious and very aware of its shortcomings in many respects. Perhaps this is an engine to go further and that doesn’t allow me to invalidate what I love. I cannot complain: she treats me well and so do I.