Mercedes Vicente is a Spanish artist specialized in craft and textiles. In her series of sculptures, she explores fabrics behavior and skeleton volumes that expand to originate different designs. The final objects emphasize a sense of simplicity and neutrality that integrates an experience of time and space.
Mercedes Vicente: The idea behind my work is to construct a fiction: a hand that behaves like a creature that builds its shell, a small architect that needs glue to grow strip by strip. I have relied on books to nurture this idea; for me, the most inspiring one in many ways has been On Growth and Form by D’Aray Wenworth Thompson (1917), which says, for example, that the origin of the spiral in the shell begins in a perfect rectangular formation – imagine, something like my cloth strips – and the form evolves through the pushing of muscles that press against the tissue. At the same time, this growth develops vertically and length-wise, and the pull of gravity and increments of volume and weight also impact the piece.
My intention is to create the widest possible collection of different spiral developments.
Mercedes Vicente: This line in my work began in 2008 after I created a series of three-dimensional paintings using textile materials. It was a fortuitous discovery. I remember the simple child’s game of making a spiral with a metric tape, for example, and then stretching that spiral to its limit. Then I thought about twisting that spiral in order to arrive at different forms. The material had to have a fundamental quality of elasticity. In order to work, that material also had to possess constructive properties that I imbued into it.
Mercedes Vicente: One of my challenges is preparing the material: according to the size of the figure, I need cloth of a certain thickness. It can be a single-layered cloth for small figures, two layers for medium-sized works, or even three or four layers for large scale figures. Between these layers, the gluing technique has to be very scrupulous, perfect.
Another difficulty is cutting the strips perfectly and then gluing them to each other at the same distance and at the same angle to shape the curve. The piece has to be formed by continually reviewing all of its angles and perspectives. Even so, for me, it is very difficult to reach
perfection. Another challenge is wanting to reproduce the same figure exactly when I try to do that, another distinct form always emerges instead.
Mercedes Vicente: The fact that the spiral follows a pattern of perfect proportion doesn’t keep you from being far from perfection during the process. That’s why I could divide my work into two groups, according to the results. Some obsessively follow forms that are present in nature and that are the result of prototypes at a small scale. But there’s also a factor that we can’t ignore, which is that the “creature” grows and the measure of the round can take you on different paths. And here would be the second group. With time, I have stopped thinking of them as failures, framing them instead as free form works.
Notion of simplicity and experience of time and space
Mercedes Vicente: When I speak of complex simplicity, I’m referring to the fact that behind that impression we easily recognize a natural pattern, found widely in the most rudimentary human creations as symbolic forms. Of course, we also find them in our natural environment but that additionally entail a hidden order with mathematical and physical explanations.
The neutral can embrace both that symbolic character since it is divested of descriptive intention. It’s also an abstraction, and the use of monochrome color helps to center the work and explore only the form.
The temporal experience is a coincidence of time, of slow time: each round that forms the figure behaves as a unit of time, registers the activity of its growth, the twenty minutes that it to adhere to the previous round.
Space is where the spiral arranges itself and where it’s subject to effects that impact it as if it were an architectural work: it’s exciting and moving how light acts upon the figure and how you can imagine yourself for a moment inside the spiral. This is part of the experience of space, volume, dimensions and volumes. It’s also the material with its finish and configuration and moreover, it’s the empty space around it where emotion lives.
Interview with Mercedes Vicente | Photography Mercedes Vicente.