Mateo López is a highly skilled and imaginative artist who bases his work solidly on drawing, like his Mentor William Kentridge. López has already created several enigmatic works that show his aptitude and originality. Here he explains why his work, not his personal life, must come first in the mentoring year.
I’m a shy person, perhaps that’s why I’m drawing, because it’s an introspective process. Drawing transforms ideas onto paper. Being shy is not a problem for an artist. I prefer to be recognized for my work rather than my personality.
It is important to ask yourself all the time what you are doing. You don't need to be part of every exhibition that you're invited to, don’t overexpose your work.Sometimes drawing is like writing: you are using few elements – it is you and a piece of paper.
I aim for a narration in my work that describes the process of creation with a thread that connects one project with another. The view of a drawing recalls another drawing. It can include a drawing that is mistake. In this way it is biographical, but not in the sense of going back on your own story.
I try to involve the creative process in my work that describes the process of creation with a thread that connects one project with another. The view of a drawing recalls another drawing. It can include a drawing that is mistake. In this way it is biographical, but not in the sense of going back on your own story.
I keep a sketchbook in my pocket where I make notes. Drawings that I want to make. It’s like an image bank.
When I was invited to apply to the Rolex Arts Initiative, I started making the video I was required to submit with my application. I thought: “I don’t want to be in front of a camera, I prefer that my works talk about my artistic practice.” So my drawing became a kind of character in the video, with moods, mistakes, achievements. I decided not to appear in front of the camera, so when I did appear it was a drawing of me.
The first meeting with the mentor, William Kentridge, when he was deciding whom to choose as his Protégé, was really friendly. I was in a panic, in front of a big artist. But he is a really kind person and he made things go easily. He didn’t want to get into a deep conversation. He was more interested in doing things together, drawing at the same time, using the tools he works with. I was very happy as that’s the way I work. Talk is important, but the possibility of someone to work with is better. That made me calmer, more relaxed.
When I was at art school, Kentridge was one of the artists who appeared in many catalogues and magazines. I was interested in his work because his body of work is concentrated on drawings.
Another thing that interested me was the theme of his work – he is talking about his own context, apartheid and the recent history of South Africa.
The main thing I will get from the year of mentoring is to gain confidence and to see my work in different ways and open myself to possibilities. Not to do the same thing as my Mentor. He told me: “I’m not here to teach you how to draw, just to let you see your work from a new angle.”
I like this idea of a more traditional way of learning, as they did centuries ago – you are invited to work in an artist’s studio to help your mentor to work, learning different ways to approach the visual experience.
I hope that everything that happens in the mentorship is good for my work, not necessarily for me. My focus is meeting with William Kentridge rather than with getting attention for myself. I want to be concentrated on what is real. I don’t care about being in the mainstream.
I’m both happy and nervous about the mentoring year. I’m just an ordinary guy who organizes as he goes along. Now, as part of the mentorship, I will visit Documenta in Germany, where William Kentridge has an installation, The Refusal of Time, as well as see a performance of his latest work in Amsterdam, Refuse the Hour, in June. The performance is a collaboration with a choreographer and musician. There is also an exhibition of Kentridge’s work in Brazil and a visit to South Africa. Rolex will help organize the travel. It’s completely new to me.
It’s hard to say who is the greatest artist ever, as a lot of good artists do not get recognized. It depends who tells the story. Whether it’s from western or eastern culture or north or south. Marcel Duchamp is one of my favourites but here are a lot of good artists in Colombia and South America.
It’s difficult to know the future, so I can’t say what I’ll be doing in five years. I have an artist friend from Colombia, called Jose Antonio Suarez Londoño who repeatedly writes on his drawings: “Hacer siempre lo mismo y hacerlo siempre distinto.” This means: “Always do the same and do it differently always.” I think I will be drawing, but differently.