Updated: Dec 21, 2021
Today we are talking to visual artist Mau Samayoa, who works primarily with paper where he applies surgical-like techniques used in art restoration to develop intricate abstract sculptures on the surface of the paper. In this artist spotlight Mau discusses his process and inspiration behind his paper sculpture 'Y.III', which is currently being exhibited in our A4 group exhibition.
Image description: a landscape poster showing a detail of textured yellow paper containing a grid of scored and peeled strips. Bold white text in the centre reads Mau Samayoa, underneath in a smaller font reads @mr.samayoa.
Can you introduce yourself and give a short description of the work you make?
My name is Mau, I was born and raised in El Salvador, a very small country in Central America. At the age of 19 I moved to Buenos Aires, Argentina and studied Visual Arts and Conservation at the National University of Arts.
My work is basically an endless performance of obsessive repetition. Your paper sculpture Y.III is currently showing in our A4 group exhibition. How has your artwork changed from sculpture into a printed format and how do you feel about the work being pasted in an outdoor setting? The main difference between the original piece and the print is that the latter shows you only one single point of view and that, at the end, what you are looking at is a completely new artwork. In this case a photo. Photographing my work has become an art form by itself. Given the limited resources and the lack of spaces for me to show my work, it is important to be able to communicate to the viewer the way I want my work to be perceived. Thanks to the A4 exhibition, I realised that having my work printed is a more accessible and easier way for me to show it. I am now thinking about my practice in terms of creating sculptures to be photographed and displayed as prints in public spaces.
Mau Samayoa, Y.III, paper sculpture, 2021
Image description: an portrait oriented A4 textured yellow paper containing a grid of scored and peeled strips forming a rectangular in the centre of the piece.
Your paper sculptures are highly technical and precise. Can you explain the way in which you create these pieces? The first thing I need to know when trying a new type of paper in the studio is how it was made. I do my research and carry a few tests, the goal is to know how the fibres separate and the direction they are going. Once the paper is sorted, I measure the distance between each line, usually between 1 and 2 millimetres, then I score the surface of the paper applying different levels of pressure to the blade (this will give different structural outcomes later on). Once I have prepared the "grid", I use a smaller blade to cut very small sections across, being extra careful not to cut all the way through. Finally, I gently peel these sections to various lengths and I brush them with some movement. Although it may seem extremely precise and rigid, it is only with the intention to achieve maximum expression.
Mau Samayoa, The grazing land, 338 x 84 x 1cm, sculpture with paper, 2021
Image description: a thin rectangular sheet of white paper in landscape orientation against a black backdrop. Covering the surface are small precise scored and peeled pieces of paper creating a shadowed and textured surface.
How do you approach scale within your work. Does this greatly impact the pieces you make? Scale comes hand to hand with time. Since my practice is basically based on repetition at a very singular level, the scale is determined by how much time (or the perception of) I want to visually represent. While your A4 submission was in a bold yellow, many of your works remain very monochrome. How important is colour within your work? In general, I do consider colour to be very important to my work, it is most noticeable in my old photographic work. However, in the case of the paper sculptures the lack of colour is intentional for two reasons: First, I want the viewer to experience my visual work mainly with light and shadow. Ideally, I wouldn't do anything to the paper and present you with a 'blank' piece of paper, but that would be too much so I have to carve something out of it to make my message clearer. On the other hand, I do feel that we are overly stimulated with too many bright and shiny things, and it is causing me a little bit of decision fatigue. I try to minimise the number of decisions I have to make in my personal life as much as possible: I wear the same looking clothes everyday and eat the same food; in the studio, trying to colourize the work is maybe too much. Yellow is basically white.
Mau Samayoa, Essay B, 25 x 28cm, sculpture with paper, 2020
Image description: a square sheet of white paper covered in repetitive scores all in an upwards direction. Spotlight shining from the top of the image creates a dramatic downwards casting shadow.
Where do you get inspiration from to inform your work? Visually speaking, I always think my inspiration comes from big names like Agnes Martin or, earlier, Fontana. But now I am just trying to do my thing. Conceptually, my work is mainly informed by my own mental health journey. I have been sectioned twice and I feel like I have been tripping every since. Your work appears to take on a very methodical approach. Do you ever find this to be frustrating or wanting to break out of the routine? All. The. Time.
Mau Samayoa, One by one to one million, 140 x 90 x 1cm, sculpture with paper, 2021
Image description: a large rectangular sheet of white paper in landscape orientation against a black backdrop held up at three points on the top by large clips. Covering the surface are small precise scored sections pointing in multiple directions creating a textured surface.
Is there one thing that would you like to change about the art industry today? I wish it would be easier for artists to have places to show their work. Do you know what you will be making next? Bigger pieces.
Mau's work alongside others can still be viewed in our A4 group exhibition on our website as well as physical locations around Digbeth.