Reflection - Interview #7 - Nathalie Cortada

In the lead up and during the Reflection: Contemporary Portrait Exhibition at Surface Gallery, Nathan T. Dean has been interviewing the artists about their practice and the wider artistic environment today. All our artists have been asked the same questions on portraiture, selfie culture, art, and more, to get an insight into how an international array of artists - all coming together under one set form of portraiture - can explore, tackle, and discuss the form in such varied ways.

And we continue, with Nathalie Cortada.


For people who are just discovering your pieces, can you tell us a bit about yourself, your artistic practice, and your work to date?

I was born and brought up in Lyon, France and have lived most of my adult life in Scotland. My work features themes of identity, origin, memory and change, be it people's or the land's and is heavily influenced by the recent political events in Scotland, the UK and the world.

My work is surreal, rarely representational, and almost always three-dimensional. I experiment with materials and techniques and need to create texture, letting the materials guide my work through an almost hypnotic state, constructing and deconstructing. This allows me the freedom to produce challenging but sculptural pieces.

Which artists inspire your work, and do you feel they too are portrait artists? Do you even regard yourself as a portrait artist?

Firm favourites of mine (in no particular order), who may be portrait artists, or not, include Joan Miro, Franquin, Gotlib, Hieronymus Bosch, Da Vinci, medieval icons, HR Giger, Louise Bourgeois, Eva Hesse, Charles Avery, John Byrne, Peter Howson and Michael Brennan-Wood.
Ken Currie's Three Oncologists is just mind-blowing when it comes to portraiture, I've been back to the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh just to see it again and again.
My own mum, who is not a portrait artist, has also been a great source of inspiration.

I am not a portrait artist, however my pieces are increasingly self-portraits, albeit not in the
traditional sense. I also have projects with a couple of people where I will be creating abstract
sculptural portraits of loved ones from their old textiles and other belongings. The Reflections exhibition has allowed me to look at my work from a different angle and discover new possibilities.

In our current turbulent world, how do you feel portraiture fits into the current artistic and
cultural climate?

I have no idea but I think that technology will foster many new ideas and developments. The current political climate is sadly a great source of powerful potential for portraits.

As a follow up? Facebook, selfie culture, the public and the private? As an artist, what are your
views on these elements, and does this change your artistic practice?

I feel sad seeing incessant streams of selfies and filters that turn everybody into clones. I
welcome the humorous takes on the selfie culture though and feel there is much potential there. I am not adverse to technology and particularly like the fact that image manipulation and video editing is now so easy and accessible. I have used both, much like doodling ideas down but not directly in my artwork. There is much opportunity for great digital art but it's not a path that I'm likely to follow myself.

Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest are a useful source of inspiration (with the associated danger of plagiarism…), and a great tool for keeping in touch with your supporters and other artists. Technology and connectivity will also hopefully bring more freedom and support to oppressed artists across the world.

How does it feel being a part of an exhibition with such a range of international artists?

I love the variety and breadth of experience. It is great to see how people from different cultures interpret the same themes. I enjoy the opportunity for discussion and learning from each other with maybe opportunities for future international collaborations.

Hardest question, and one I've asked everyone I've interviewed. What do you think the future of art is? What comes next? And if you had infinite resources and time, what would you add to that future art?

Human beings will continue creating art regardless of funding and cuts to the arts. Making art is a human need. Technological advances and wider interaction with supporters will mean more
competition but also more sharing, opportunities and support across networks.

Resources are rarely a problem for me (other than I have too many to choose from!) as I use a lot of recycled and donated materials. A big part of my work is sourcing those materials and stripping them back to bare basics. If I had infinite time I would make giant interactive installations, sculptures that people can touch and walk into and really feel part of. But I would also have more time to focus on minute works. I would also travel across the world to meet artists and collaborate.