“I want to explore and express ideas and feelings through a non-verbal way and surprise myself with the outcome”
AT: Where are you from and how/why did you start engaging with art?
INdB: I’m from Mexico City and as a child of two architects I grew up in an environment where art and creation where very much valued and encouraged. It was a very natural thing for me to engage with art, since it was already part of my everyday life.
AT: When did it become serious?
INdB: I think it first became serious when I started studying art in university in Mexico City, but the decisive moment was when I moved to Germany to continue and finish my studies. Being there by myself and away from my family and culture allowed me to engage in a deeper way with my work. I studied in Braunschweig, which is a very small town, so everything interesting happened in the studio.
AT: Are there any person who has been significant in your breakthrough as an artist?
INdB: Every chance to show my work and engage in dialogue with fellow artists, curators, etc. deepens my understanding of my work. In art school, Bogomir Ecker, who was my professor at the Hochschule für Bildende Kunst in Braunschweig, encouraged me to develop a personal language independent of art market trends and defended the idea that the market should adapt itself to the work and not the other way around. My time in his class was a very strong formative experience. Also, Chris Sharp, who has supported my work from the very beginning.
AT: What is your first approach to the work? How would you describe your practice?
INdB: I work with drawing and sculpture, exploring the tensions between them. My practice is very instinctive and process based so spending a lot of time in the studio every day and having materials around for me to play with is the most important thing for me. My work develops through dialogue with materials so I start by making drawings, dyeing fabrics, making small ceramic elements and little by little in an additive process the work begins to take shape. I need the right amount of productive chaos in the studio to feel comfortable and ready to work. An empty studio is like an empty page- it can be very difficult to start working. When I’m developing a new body of work I try my first approach to be free from any purpose or will other than being present and enjoy whatever it is that I am doing. The intention or potential will become more and more clear later in the process.
untitled (red tapestry), 2021, fabric, hand dyed fabric, charcoal drawings on transparent paper and gauze, ca. 350 x 400cm | Exhibition view, Sprengel Museum Hannover | Photo: Andre Germar | Courtesy of the artist
AT: What do you aim to reach with your work?
INdB: Mostly I wish to connect with myself and be able to think in a different and much more free way than I do when I’m not doing art. I want to explore and express ideas and feelings through a non-verbal way and surprise myself with the outcome.
AT: What are your favourite tools and materials for working?
INdB: I like to work with very simple materials that I can manipulate myself without any kind of big safety gear or complicated production. It is very important for me to make things with my hands, to get messy and to work very directly with the materials. Learning and developing my own techniques is a basic part of my process so I often work with charcoal drawing on transparent paper and gauze, paper maché, plaster, wire, ceramics and recently hand dyed fabrics and textiles. I do a lot of welding too and my pieces are usually very fragile because my technique is far away from perfect. I like when things have traces of the making process, I’m not interested in a strict kind of perfection.
AT: What do you feel while you work? Do you usually think about the final outcome beforehand?
INdB: I feel everything, from the greatest joy to the darkest doubts and insecurities, these go hand in hand for me. It is an intense emotional roller coaster and I feel like there is nothing else I would rather be doing. Once you feel this type of connection you want more and more of it. I have a vision for the work but I try to keep this in the back of my head and never think too much about the final outcome beforehand. I trust the process and don’t want to control it to fit my pre-established will. I’m interested in a dialogue with the work that will take me somewhere I didn’t expect.
AT: How do you understand that a work is finished?
INdB: It’s a feeling that tells me the work is finished. Often it’s just that it finally has the right density to it and the materials I used are no longer only materials but have transformed themselves into something that feels very much alive and intriguing. Deadlines sometimes help to get things done. But in my case finished is not always really a thing… many times I recycle works or continue working on something after it was exhibited transforming it into something new.
In another time and space, 2021 | Exhibition view, Lulu Mexico City | Photo: Ramiro Chaves | Courtesy of the artist and Lulu Mexico City
AT: Where does the inspiration for the work come from?
INdB: It comes mainly from the work itself, which is nourished by literature, the observation of nature, places and architecture as well as my personal experiences and memories.
AT: Are there any artists who influenced your works? Why?
INdB: There are many artists who I admire and influence the way I relate to art and art making. For example, I love reading and watching interviews with Phyllida Barlow. The way she so generously speaks about her process is incredibly inspiring for me.
AT: How important is the role of social media for you?
INdB: I’m not very active on social media and actually didn’t have any until a bit over a year ago when I joined Instagram. I think social media can be a valuable tool to connect with other people and know what’s going on, but I also think it can be a huge distraction so I avoid dedicating too much time to it.
AT: What is your opinion about NFTs and their impact on the art world?
INdB: I don’t really have an informed opinion, if anything a visceral one. My work is very much related to the physical world and the material experience of making things, so I feel very distanced from the whole NFT thing.
Codex 18 (butterfly – time capsule), 2021, Paper maché, wire, glazed ceramic, yarn, handmade cords, musslin, paper, graphite, charcoal, watercolor, 86x50cm | Photo: Andre Germar | Courtesy of the artist and Chris Sharp Gallery
Codex 15 (message to future self), 2021, Paper maché, wire, glazed ceramic, yarn, handmade cords, musslin, paper, graphite, charcoal, watercolor, 60 x 41cm | Photo: Andre Germar | Courtesy of the artist and Chris Sharp Gallery
AT: As an artist, what is your point of view about the contemporary art system?
INdB: I feel there is a lot of pressure for artists to succeed at a very young age and this is a trap because time and experience are crucial while making art. Overall I think it is important to foster honest relationships and healthy work dynamics to navigate the system in your own terms.
AT: What do you find to be the most challenging or daunting thing about pursuing art? What is the most rewarding part of working as an artist?
INdB: The most challenging thing is living in permanent uncertainty and financial precarity, having to work other jobs to sustain your practice and don’t lose motivation because of it. The most rewarding is dedicating your life to your passion and feeling so deeply alive through it.
AT: What do you do besides art?
INdB: I teach and collaborate in several editorial projects.
AT: What are your goals and expectations for the future?
INdB: I want to continue working very intensively and for my work to go deeper and become more meaningful, honest and powerful for myself and for the people who encounter it. Also, I would love to have a beautiful studio designed by my sister Ana, who is an amazing architect.
in fugue, 2020 | Exhibition view, Kunstverein Hannover | Photo: Volker Crone | Courtesy of the artist and Kunstverein Hannover
Isabel Nuño de Buen (b. 1985 in Mexico City) is a Mexican artist currently living and working in Hanover, Germany. Incorporating sculpture, drawing and installation, Isabel Nuño de Buen makes allegorical portraits of both the self and human civilization as an ongoing, multifarious and incompletable project. As such, hers is an essentially fragmented practice, which is characterized by a sense of fluctuating open-endedness, and which always gestures toward a much larger, ever-evolving, and unknowable whole.