Processing Memory – Christie MacDonald Interview

Painting between the Digital and the Material

from: 25.04.2019   to: 08.05.2019

Christie MacDonald is a French painter and print-maker, living and working in Berlin. SomoS interviewed the artist about the influences on her most recent work presented at her current solo exhibition at SomoS, Encoded, Stored and Retrieved.

MacDonald’s first solo exhibition in Berlin channels the ornamental language and color palette she sourced from Asian pop culture and street-life during her travels and subsequently processed into painting by way of a collage-like, party manual, partly digital process.

In the following interview, MacDonald elaborates on her work process, influences, inspirations, and the experience of being an Artist-in-Residence at SomoS Art House.

Young female artist ChristieMacDonald sitting at a table in her atelier at SomoS in Berlin.
Christie MacDonald at work in her SomoS atelier, 2019.

Hi Christie. Could you tell us a bit about what you do as an artist?

As a painter working with sourced images, I accumulate imagery that is key to my visual imagination. My paintings are the result of the absorption of images that I have been collecting on my trips or in my everyday life. Through the process of dreams and memories, I reinterpret them in a new composition. My practice is shared between digital and actual painting process. The pictures are stored on my computer in order to digitally transform them. Like a collage, I mix images together allowing me to build a new narrative and paint this new image onto the canvas. Driven by emotion and intuition, and using a rough aesthetic and bold palette, I am looking for the right balance between colors and forms.

You’ve recently returned from a trip throughout Asia. Can you talk a bit about where you traveled? What were some of the strongest memories or influences you took away from this trip?

I traveled around Vietnam and Thailand, mainly in cities and the countryside. What really stuck in my mind and inspired me was the energy of those cites. The more time I spend in Thailand and Vietnam, the more I became accustomed to the random, and unexpected situations. These cities are full of unique scenery that bounced between chaos, rawness and the omnipresence of colors and patterns.

How did you document these influences?

Like a visual diary, I used my iPhone and camera, to capture and remember colors, composition or random details that spoke to me at the time.

How did you find the adjustment from Asia to Berlin? Was there anything you noticed more about Berlin because of the contrast, or perhaps unexpected similarities?

Exploring Southeast Asia and moving to Berlin, the cultural and climatic environment couldn’t have been more different. Having to move in, I had to go through flea markets, there I somehow found the same kind of atmosphere in the dynamic flux of people, the gathering of colorful fabric, faded decorations, and plastic furniture put together without hierarchy and creating its own interesting composition.

Are you aware of any other artists who work in a similar way to you? Would you see your work as part of an emerging style/current trend in painting?

In a similar process, Jamian Juliano-Villani is also working with sourced images. She uses digital images that she had been collecting since high school. The images are merged and transformed together to build her new narrative. Most of my references are from artists American female artists working in the last 30 years.

How do you view the relation between screen and canvas?

My practice is shared between my use of Photoshop, Illustrator, and painting. Each project follows a consistent methodology, always leaving room to eventual mistakes and unexpected marks or thoughts. In the same way that I accept and leave room for some mistakes while painting. I am interested in revealing some digital traces of the computer, but the goal is not to recreate perfectly the digital reference.

Do you have any particular favorite artists or designers, creative inspirations?

Matisse is one main influence on my work. Like him, my paintings are very much influenced by fabrics. Either looking at fashion designers, going to markets during my trip or in my surroundings. “My working library”- is how Matisse used to describe his collection of fabric that was key to his visual imagination.

I am inspired by post-pop, abstract artists like Laure Ownes, Charline von Heyl, and the work of Albert Oehlen, who are experimenting with mixed-media techniques, technology and blurring the limits between abstract and figurative as well as digital and analog.

Did working in Berlin as an Artist in Residence at SomoS reveal anything new about yourself or your practice?

After studying in the United States for the last 4 years, Berlin has been a huge influence in my conceptual and creating process, where I was able to create freely in my own space. Coming out of school, SomoS enabled the perfect transition to my professional practice. It allowed me to create in a setting exclusively dedicated to art. Sharing with other residents that had different practices and different conceptual visions, gave me the confidence to try to express my creativity through different media and push my limits.

For more information about Christie MacDonald and her work, please see her artist page .

The Encoded, Stored and Retrieved exhibition is on view at SomoS from 26th April – 8th May 2019, Tuesday-Saturday, 2-7pm. Entry is free.