María Aparicio Puentes was born in 1981 in Santiago, Chile.
From early childhood she developed a particular sensibility towards visual arts. She loved scrutinising landscapes and the structure of buildings when she was travelling in cars with her parents. This is why studying architecture became something logical and natural for her to pursue.
During her studies, she understood that being an architect means seeing and understanding space according to forms, colours, aesthetics, history and in relation with its environment .
After graduating as an architect in Santiago in 2008, she decided to leave Chile to go to Spain, her father’s native country. In Barcelona she studied for a Masters in Urban Design where she followed classes of Public Art, Citizen Participation and Urban Regeneration.
It was in April 2011 when María embroidered her first pictures. This is her creative process: after selecting some of her favourite pictures on Flickr, she contacts their authors in order for permission to use and add to their pictures. Then she scans them in black and white and uses a needle to pierce them in key places. After that she selects the threads and starts to embroider, taking care to highlight implicit space relations.
María explains that her work is about working intuitively with elements while following a well-defined process. Indeed, she uses thread to draw and to bring out the invisible connections and relations that exist between objects, places and people.
Since returning to Santiago in 2012, María works in the Architecture department of the Chilean government’s National Council of Culture and the Arts.
She also works with her boyfriend and architect Claudio A. Troncoso Rojas on two projects: Time of the thieves (ttt) and Panamericana. They are two platforms (the first one is international whereas the second is national) on which they put together pictures and illustrations of artists they like. This allow them to get in touch with artists and interview them in order to discover their tastes, motivations and interests, and to get to know them better than just through their work.
Both architects are also working on launch of Pieces of the People we Love, which is the first editorial project of Thieves Editors which purpose is to explore a new presentation format of various artists, which gives a paper publication in addition to their website. This would generate a project linked to the photographic work of creators they like, and whose could be exhibited. The aim of this project is to strengthen possible connexions between pictures and content.
Since 2011 María has exhibited her work in Spain, the US, Canada and Chile. She has also received an invitation from the Spanish collective Arte Lateral to exhibit her work in Madrid in February 2014 and other invitations to participate in magazines. That’s what I call (and wish her) a first step to glory!
Picture credit: Violet Strays
You could draw a line on these pictures, but instead of using a pen, you chose thread. Why? What is your relationship with thread? Was thread a particularly important element of your childhood? Can you sew/embroider/cross stitch, etc?
I love the infinite possibilities that thread can offer. The work of relief for example: you can superimpose weft threads and create layering that way. Something else that I like about using thread is that I can do and undo my work as much as I want. For me, the idea of drawing a line suggests something permanent, and has nothing to do with a stitch that I can easily make disappear. The only mark that would stay would be the hole, but superimposing some threads, this hole is lost, even though it happens sometimes that the hole stays visible because it doesn’t always work to superimpose information (threads) without a good reason.
My relationship with thread wasn’t something that I’d been looking for, nor was it intentional. I didn’t grow up surrounded by sewing machines or seeing my mum embroidering. My exposure to the thread world happened to me just on the same way as it would in most of households I imagine. I remember that in my “practical course” (when I was 10), I was taught various stitching points and I didn’t particularly enjoy it. What’s more, I would finish my homework the night before and I would always ask my mum to help me finish it. I remember once, when I was about 12, I really enjoyed embroidering a work, point by point, selecting every colour and every form. I still have it and I admire the patience I had at that moment to embroider the landscape and to enjoy it that much.
Later on, when I was at university studying architecture, I had a second shot with thread when I was asked to do some academic exercises related to the scale using this material. It was a beautiful and memorable experiment.
I only know the basics in stitching: threading, chain-stitch and cross-stitch. I think I saw myself inventing some stitching points too.
In the interviews you did, the word “collaboration” is mentioned quite often. Do you consider that working with pictures that aren’t yours but on which you intervene is a way to create a link and to get closer to their artiststhe same way that weaving creates links between objects, landscapes and people in your pictures? Does this collaboration have its own importance in your work, or do you think that you could work on your pictures if you had more time? Do you think the fact of working on your own pictures would make things difficult because you wouldn’t be working on neutral ground?
Yes, definitely! Collaborating means to write the invitation to intervene on the picture and send the result to the other. It also means to make sure, when someone invites me to expose my work in a publication, that they don’t forget to give the credits for the author of the picture, this is very important for both of us.
I agree with your definition of “creating a link” in that the picture catches my attention, I examine not only its elements but also its strengths interacting and then I realise that these small things that are here are helping me to create ideas in my mind that can possibly be done with threads.
It is very different to collaborate with someone than to work on your own pictures. In the first case, most of the time, you’ll have to fight against the other person’s expectations. Sometimes it happens that the person you invite to collaborate has a pre-established idea of what the collaboration should produce (what colour to use or what emphases to make) and this makes the process of the work tricky. In some cases, I’ve been asked to keep the original tones of photograph in colour and this was very difficult for me. Imagine: receive the picture, print it, thread on it and scan it. This makes it very different from its original condition.
I like to work on my own and have full autonomy. But on the other hand, I like to get to know people from different places, to have to communicate in another language and to keep in touch with them after the collaboration. When this happens, it’s really heart-warming.
I don’t think there is any extra difficulty in working on my own pictures. I think there are some points that make the process easier (deadlines, personal expectations, copyrights and selling without having to get an authorisation from the photograph for example).
Picture credit: Maria Aparicio Puentes and Claudio A. Troncoso Rojas
How did the idea of stitching above the pictures come to you? Your first embroidered pictures date back to 2011, do you see an evolution in your work and/or person? Have you got any new ideas?
That’s something that came to me quite spontaneously. Without thinking, I was planning a project at Claudio’s and while he was developing an idea on the computer, I was laying down reading a magazine. On the bedside table there were a lot of threads and needles that we had bought recently with the idea of doing something with trees and threads (this never happened in the end). I chose a picture, one of a girl looking at the camera in black and white tones, and without thinking too much, while I was talking to Claudio, I started stitching the picture, making her a kind of necklace. I loved the result, the idea of relief and of collage that I was working on way before. But what I loved above all, was the possibility to do and undo stitch points according to the generated result. Since that moment, I have kept working on this.
Picture credit: Unknown
Of course I can see an evolution in my work. I’ve got new ideas that come to my mind according to the kind of pictures I’m working with, but also depending on what people are looking for. Working on clothing, for example, gave me the idea to follow a Jewellery Textile course with Andean techniques that I’m starting next Saturday. I think there’s so much to do with thread; from the creation of a necklace to interventions on pictures and on façades 1:1 scale, just to give you some examples.
What it is that you like the most: the creative process or the final result? Do you consider your work as a way to relax or to soothe (or neither)?
Most of the time I enjoy more the creative process, even though there are some pieces that make me really happy and satisfied with the result once they were done. This happens when every thread has its own significance, shows the spatial relations that lie beneath and contributes to how it is perceived and understood. When I remove threads, it’s very easy for me to forget about it, it relaxes me. But I really like the process.
Could you describe us what a day in Maria Aparicio Puentes’ life looks like?
I wake up at about 8 a.m., have breakfast and take a shower. Then I go to work to the office until 6 p.m. After that, I attend a workshop; go to a movie or see my friends. Afterwards I come home, rest with Claudio, pamper our cats, work on our personal projects and go to sleep. I love the possibilities that the weekends offer, we can get more work done on our websites, work on my embroidered pictures or, for example, calmly answer your questions! I have the feeling that time is flying this year, I’m always busy, doing one thing after another, without having proper breaks. That’s why I try to make the most of productive capacity in order to enjoy my free time with my family and friends to the max.
When do you feel proud of yourself?
When I finish something that I’ve started, when I surprise someone that I love with a simple gesture, when I face my fears and work on it, when I take up a new challenge, when I want to learn something new, when I see that one of my plants is growing… there are many requests.
What is your source of inspiration? What artists do you like?
It might be a movie, an exhibition, a presentation, a trip, or a conversation. I like it when something beautiful stops me in my tracks (a gesture, the movement of a cat, a path full of green, a vase with multicoloured flowers, a song). Everything that surrounds me can be a source of inspiration at some point. It depends on my state of mind and on my capacity to be aware of being there, here and now, connected to the reality, to life.
There’s a lot of artists that I like: Annie Albers, Gordon Matta Clark, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Henri Matisse, Claude Monet, Matilde Pérez, Karen Schifano, Sarah Morris, John Cage, Noam Rappaport, Rachel Whiteread, Sol LeWitt, Dan Flavin and Christo y Jeanne-Claude among many many others.
Picture credit: Claudio A. Troncoso Rojas
Maybe I’m wrong, but I have the impression that the Latin-American artistic scene has been growing these last years. Do you have the same impression? Since you live in Chile, would you say there are a lot of opportunities for the artistic scene in Latin America?
From our Chilean perspective, Latin American art has known a slow but constant development, opening new places of diffusion, but this was only concerning a certain elite who had the means to consume and access to cultural shows. On the other hand, we cannot really say there has always been good artistic quality here, because unfortunately in Chile we’ve always rejected our roots in favour of external influence, especially from the US and Europe.
Of course, in the history of my county, there have been some exceptional cases of renowned artists, rooted in Latin American history and culture (Violeta Parra, Gabriela Mistral and Víctor Jara among others) but even now, I have the feeling that Latin American artists are lack the capacity to look at the interior of Latin America and at their specific contexts in order to reach, find a voice and develop a representative exhibition that would show the relevant themes and issues of our culture.
In the case of Chile, this year a bill was created by the Ministry of Culture, a fundamental factor in the development, protection and showcasing of different artistic expressions, such as cultural expression (architecture, design, visual arts, scenic arts, craftwork, circus arts, tangible and intangible heritage, new media, etc.) with the intention of gathering the main governmental institutions linked to culture in one state body (The National Council of Culture and the Arts, The Council of National Monuments and the Direction of Libraries, Archives and Museums).
Opportunities exist (grants, financial help, internships, etc) and they are as important for artistic and creative development as it is to create strategies within associations with different actors from the public and the private sectors, to create new innovative undertaking in order to make the practice, and to develop the Arts in a more long-term, sustainable manner.
You’ve already exhibited your work in several countries, what memory do you have of these experiences? Is there a country in which you would like to exhibit or to visit?
What do I take from these experiences? I have very good memories. I think that one of the best things in the world is to travel, to get to know other realities, to surprise yourself, listen to new languages, try new food, discover traditions and lifestyles. There are so many countries that I’d love to go. Cities like Tokyo, New York, Mexico City or Helsinki. That would be wonderful. I hope I’ll go to those cities in my life!
Do you have a piece of advice you want to share with the people who are going to read this interview?
Be constant, finish anything you start and work with passion.
Thank you María!
More of Maria’s amazing embroided pictures to see on her website!
Hailing from Santiago, Chile, Maria Aparicio Puentes has turned the idea of embroidery all topsy-turvy. With no hint of a flower or wooden hoop in sight, she instead uses black and white photography as a backdrop, adding to the imagery with striking geometric stitching.
We had a few questions for Maria about her art.
Where were you born and where do you live now? I was born in Santiago, Chile and live there right now, specifically in the Providencia's neighbourhood. I live on the fifth floor with my boyfriend Claudio and our cat Montjüic. In our apartment there is much music, plants, objects, memories, quiet and light. We are very happy here.
How does where you grew up and where you live now affect your art? I grew up in Santiago's centre and for many years I lived in a modern residential complex called Matta-Viel, created in 1954 for an architect's office. I admire this project for its design, clear passageways connecting buildings through common areas full of trees, and the use of materials such as ceramics or stone walls. No doubt, all elements stimulated my imagination and my perception of the architecture. I liked to hide in the spaces where they kept the trash or gas, climb trees, imagine a spaceship inside a bush, among many other things. Today, I live in a building of along similar lines, with solid construction, generous spaces and lots of greenery. I think these elements are very important to feel comfortable in a place to live, work and create new projects. The architecture is essential in this regard.
Please describe the space where you do most of your creating – whether it's your art studio or kitchen bench! It's my living space! An area of 20m2. Wooden floor, white walls, height of nearly three metres, wooden furniture with many objects and books, a coffee wool carpet, plants, pictures... It is my favorite place in the house.
Who first taught you how to use a needle and thread? I don't remember ... Maybe it could have been my mum or my technical crafts teacher, about 8 or 10 years ago, I guess. I have no clear memories.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of using this medium (aside from blood loss)? I think the benefits are being able to do and undo. If I'm not convinced by something I've done, I can quickly turn back. Another advantage is that I can overlap the threads on the paper and keep trying to find the proper position for them. I also like the idea of collage, working the thread density, different intensities.
As disadvantages, having to undo the work, when I've invested many hours because I'm not convinced or the image is not a true reflection of reality. I think these issues can be shared by any other technique. As you say, pricking pain can be something annoying.
You also studied architecture – how does this knowledge help your art? So much! I feel like it helped develop some sensitivity to the environment, in relation to the material and immaterial that surrounds us. It helped me be more attentive to the relationships of the elements in space. For example, what happens if a tree located in the middle of a park moves, or I imagine if it disappeared.
Where do you source all of your photographs from? Or do you take them yourself? The first images I worked from were among my favourites from flickr. Then came collaborations, where a person who invited me to do something with them showed me their personal image. On the other hand, I have worked in conjunction with my boyfriend Claudio, who takes great photographs. For the last show I did here in Santiago (at the Acuadrado Gallery), I worked on his images, and for the first time, on my own photographs. It was a great experience.
How do you decide what to sew onto a picture? First I look for a long time, taking in each of the picture's elements. Predominantly geometries, rhythms, tensions... everything. When I have a first idea, I add threads to the image to see if that design is possible. When I am convinced, I do the holes and start making clear what I created in my mind. It is sometimes surprising, sometimes disappointing, but always a learning experience.
Is there a running theme to the work you create? People and their relationship with the environment. Also working on the microscale of an object or clothing.
What kinds of ideas and things are you working on at the moment? Imagining furniture for my plants, working on the design of an editorial publication with Claudio, and thinking of starting a new project with threads that changes the scale of an image, among other ideas.
What is the strangest thing or thought that has inspired a piece of work? The strangest thing... ruining a big job, after weeks of work, by knocking a bottle of water on it. It was a strange feeling, of loss and of infinite sadness.
Which era of art do you appreciate the most? Bauhaus!
What other artists do you love? Monet, Toulousse Lautrec, Matta-Clark, Matilde Pérez, Christo and Jeanne Claude, Sarah Morris, Anni Albers, László Moholy-Nagy, Fluxus Movement, plus so many other talented people.
What do you enjoy doing when not creating art? Riding, spending time with the people I love, taking care of my plants, my cat, my home, discovering new places, dancing, travelling, etc.
Where can we see more of your work? On my website or flickr.