Meet the Artist // María León
María León (b. 1984, Mérida) is a Spanish multidisciplinary artist who lives and works in Berlin, and is currently taking part of the GlogauAir’s program as our Berlin Guest Artist.
María León uses objects and materials of different historical and cultural values to explore a new order of relationship between them, and to create new possible narratives. She creates installations of “expanded objects”, where objects are meticulously chosen based on an irresistible attraction, relying on one another for meaning and purpose. Through interventions, decontextualizations and deconstructions, these objects are liberated from their original functions, reborn as autonomous aesthetic entities.
Good evening María, thank you for having us in your studio today. We are surrounded by sculptures made of leather and bread, and various objects developed through your research and experimentations. How did your artistic journey begin?
I started drawing when I was a child. It was a way for me to relate to the world around me. I’ve always thought through images. When I was younger I wasn’t comfortable talking, but I could express myself through drawings, or other visual elements that I created.
Did you study art later?
In Spain you can do high-school specialising in art, so that’s what I did. Then, I went to the Fine Arts University in Madrid, where I did one year as an Erasmus student in Athens. I also did what is now called a Master of advanced studies in Art, and then I joined the Goldrausch program, which is a postgraduate professional training program for female artists. Lastly, I participated in another coaching program in a museum in Majorca, called “Las Clinicas”.
How would you describe your practice as an artist, and what are your inspirations?
I describe my practice as an artist as working with different mediums, but always following the same process. The process I follow always involves three dimensions, so it’s mainly installation art. I’ve been reflecting on my practice, and I can say now that I work on what I call “expanded objects”. This idea comes from an essay from Rosalind Krauss, who wrote about expanded fields in architecture, and from the old concept of expanded painting. What I mean by that, is that even if I work with video, or with photography, my work is always a reflection on how we deal with objects nowadays. Objects and materialities are very present in my work. I couldn’t find a proper term to describe this idea, I think I made the term “expanded objects” up, and I feel comfortable with it. If I were to say “I work with many different mediums”, it would be imprecise, while talking about “expanded objects” is already a statement about the physical things that belong to our world.
Can you elaborate on your process?
In my process I use interventions, I intervene on the object or material through different processes; decontextualisation, sometimes it’s just about changing the context; or deconstruction, removing the object from its original function to create a new possible meaning.
You’re talking about expanded objects, and I know that’s part of what you would like to present during your show at GlogauAIR for the open studios. What motivated you to apply to be the Guest Artist at GlogauAIR?
I applied to GlogauAIR because I felt that after the covid crises, and after having my daughter, that there was a moment of inactivity in my career. I wanted to feel like I was “doing something” again. I saw the opportunity and I thought it was exactly what I needed, and it was easy. I live in Berlin so I don’t have to move cities, I needed to reactivate my practice, and I can get to know the artists at GlogauAIR and make new connections. As a mother and a teacher in an art school, I don’t have a lot of flexibility these days. I think being a Guest Artist in GlogauAIR is a nice opportunity to work on an exhibition proposal, and to get new people like you, like Suzy Royal [GlogauAIR’s On-Site Curator], like other artists in Berlin…
Can you tell me a little more about what you would like to present at GlogauAIR?
When I think of an exhibition, I like to think of a feeling, of an experience. I want the viewer to have a full experience in the exhibition space. I want them to experience the feeling of “relief”. I want to present works that interpellate each other, and interpellate the spectators, and offer you alternatives and other ways of thinking about the concepts of resistance and support, applied to materials. Once I had a friend come to visit my studio and he didn’t understand the work. He asked me to explain it to him, and I answered with one sentence: “This work is about dramatical love relationships”. This is a love relationship between materials, and there is some drama there. I want to convey the feelings of loss, and recovering. The title is “Hold my hand”. When you ask someone to hold your hand, it’s either to ask or offer help. I want to convey this feeling too.