Whether we are more or less moviegoers, the filmic imprint has been storing in our subconscious. Maybe if we close our eyes and grope in our psychic archive, we will find an endless list of open files where childhood obsessions and footage from films that marked our lives seem to have been emulsified in the same bobbin.
Although it would be absurd to pretend that we can discern between what we really lived and what has been infiltrated by the dream factory, because part of what we are we owe to our ability to inhibit, as far as possible, the prosaic reality.
Marta Beltrán connects us in some way with the film subconscious. Her drawings are incisive and her language is naturalistic but imbued with a disturbing vision, revealing the unusual acting in everyday life.
I would say that you tend to explore the same tragic model that feminine characters often embody in cinema, socially condemned women who have decided not to be victims. Amoral, vindictive and subversives: the housemaid of Chabrol’s “La Cérémonie”, Iris in Kaurismäki’s “The match factory girl”…
Concerning what you proposed in the introduction, in my case, the inverse happened: I have approached the cinema to see if there was a psychic trace of mine there, that could speak to me of something personal and connect me with broader themes. It is a kind of difficulty to reach a memory and an unconscious of my own, and the wish to find them has led me to the images, first of any kind, and to movie frames afterwards.
I’ve hooked up with the cinema as an adult, as a means of knowledge, as a mental drive because of this feeling of empty imagery and forgetfulness.
I do not usually know what images or drawings mean on an intellectual level for some time, and maybe I will never know. But, in hindsight, you see that there is a continuum, for example, you realize that questions of power that concern masculine and feminine identities have involved you a lot on an unconscious and vital level.
In the imaginary and utopian world of art and dreams we can allow ourselves to challenge values and the morality and rearrange things putting them in the place we believe. So, victims become executioners; minorities or the oppressed reach power. The ability to rebel remains intact.
But all that is there, inside us and in the stories that writers and directors tell us … I mean, it’s our problem if we live with our backs turned to it.
You get inside the children mind in the company of Fassbinder (Chinese Roulette) or Carlos Saura (Cría cuervos) with the aim of capturing that willingness to find for themselves a sense of justice, maybe insane but with its internal logic, and without remorse.
I am interested, on the one hand, in the lucidity of childhood, that ability to understand reality with great clarity, and on the other, that absolute faith, a potential to act and to express in comparison with adults. And, of course, I want to be in touch with that as an adult. Although, as you say, you can fall into a certain alienation, you have a great freedom to get to the bottom. It seems to me a praised attitude.
We live in an imaginary reality, where lived experiences interweave with many fictions. And these in turn can come from within or outside of ourselves. This seems to overwhelm us a bit. One remembers Madame Bovary and Don Quixote. Literature has been a very important part of my childhood and my early family life. I suppose the need is there since then, and it is something that would be important to maintain in adulthood.
Sometimes you look at these symbols that the cinema has used to talk about traumas and family dysfunction: the bathtub in Repulsion (Polanski) or the glass of milk (Cría cuervos) … But even when parts of films support home values, you introduce discordant elements, so that even “Little Women” transforms through the prism of your sense in a thriller.
An important issue both at a formal and thematic level is to make it possible the uncertainty and the disequilibrium have their place, also everything that is outside our social limits. For me, it is an important source of authenticity and wealth, which is not always easy to conquer. I draw without erasing, starting from a fragment; it makes the figures being distorted and, of course, it also makes drawing a discharge of psychic energy.
Little Women was a classic of female’s literature. In my house, we had the book and the author was a referent in my mother’s childhood. I find it fun to contrast the sweetness with terror, the pink with the black. In the case of women, with the education we have had, it is not unusual to experience these polarities. For me, it has been a vehicle to put in question, but also to show in my own terms, with my own meaning, the role of women within the family, family relationships and even relationships between women. For example, I was struck by this image in which two women hold a piece of cloth. A kind of Anglo-Saxon Bernarda Alba. The literature of the 19th Century written by women interests me in particular.
You mix frames of different films, like emulating the way memory operates, where there is no unity of place, time and action. Or, where filmic excerpts mix with folk tales, like the character of Iris and the Little match girl of Andersen: kind souls that souls that the illusion (of love, of a home) keeps warm, but after a rude awakening from their dream they extinguish like matches.
As an ideal game, I like a process where images can blend into each other, it does not matter its origin, its moment. Because they are at the service of other things that provide an underlying unity. And thinking about memory and time I do like this fantasy in which any time and place can coexist with the present. Literature allows it, but also cinema and painting, and, of course, Internet.
I tend to read the cinema in a way in which the characters and situations could have a more schematic interpretation of human behavior, with a meaning in a psychic level. The case of Iris, the match factory girl, was literal since the author had raised a translation of Andersen tale. I have taken advantage of this to do a specific project in which we were asked had to do with popular narrative.
We talked a lot about these themes during the exhibition in MUVIM of Valencia, in a roundtable with members of Makma’s magazine and with the public who came to see the movie. It was very inspiring for everyone.
From my point of view, Iris rebels against her situation, and this is already worth it. Seen as a tale, the princess kills the prince and also her “beloved” parents. As if it was an adult tale, the princess has to go to jail, but psychic transgression has happened, and this is the real thing. I believe that Iris manages to assume a power for herself, a power that had been denied her, and this also means to assume also the consequences of her actions. So, there has been a growth, she has ceased to believe in illusions socially and culturally created that don’t work for a girl of her social status, and has also ceased being oppressed, but so far has not found alternative other than to be outside the law and society.
The Iris of tomorrow will do things differently, I hope. The illusion is valuable, but you also learn to develop a knowledge of reality. It is an ongoing learning process, especially for women, who have been driven to be naive. It is not enough or even necessary to be just kind and have the ability to delude ourselves. The reality, or life if you want, has many facets. So, in this particular case, this story and this movie, it does not seem so terrible to me the loss of the illusion, it seems to me that it is okay, that it must be like that. And I also think we should go back to reading fairy tales in general. Jajaja..
You also isolate characters, so that without props their value of archetypes is underlined: the black widow (La mariee etait en noir, Truffaut) or the image of a Pietà (the mother with the “little girl” in Camus’ Los santos inocentes)…
Yes. I have a tendency to draw figures or body fragments inside an empty space that moves me a lot and that I am looking for to transfer to physical space, through bodies or sculpture… I am interested in the relationship between several bodies, how and who holds the weight, how a body is held alone in space, in addition to all the emotional load it entails, courage or compassion … For me, they are, at the moment, a form of imagined sculpture. And maybe yes, this type of images are the ones that bring me closer to a collective imaginaire.
Interviewed by Anna Adell
Marta Beltrán has participated in JustMAD fair, last edition, with gallery 13ESPACIOarte, Feb-2018
Winner of Drawing Contest Gregorio Prieto XXIV.
“La vendedora de fósforos” has been exhibited in MuVIM, Museu Valencià de la Il.lustració i de la Modernitat, Winner projecto of DKV-MAKMA 2017, Drawing Contest.