Spain Week: Nieves Mingueza: The malady of Suzanne
Nieves Mingueza is a natural-born visual story teller who follows her instinct and intuition. She combines different media to create her stories such as photography, collages and text, from old photographs, magazines and encyclopedias that she finds in street markets and vintage stores, and it could not be otherwise. She lives in London.
Her work tells us about human existence, life and death, family, emotions and conflicts from a passion and a feeling that speaks in the feminine. The experience of being a woman is central to her work.
“The Malady of Suzanne” a treasure found, is a poetic documentary project made of black and white images coming from the past from a lost time combined with her own documentary photography that remind us about our own existence. They bring us memories of a past of generations of indoctrination, the homogenization of uniformed youth, classification, broken dreams and freedoms and the silence of a woman who changed her name so that others could name her.
Nieves Mingueza is a lens-based, mixed media artist working with experimental photography, collage and text. Born in Spain, based in London. The often-cinematic themes in her projects have in common her fascination with old books, film stills, vintage cameras, poetry and minimal drawings. Ultimately, Nieves’ work is about the foggy relationship between fiction and reality. In addition, she is currently exploring about memory, mental health and human conflicts.
Nieves’ work has been exhibited widely, including Tate Modern, Les rencontres de la photographie Arles, Fondazione Giorgio Cini, Retina Scottish International Photography Festival, The Royal Academy of Arts, PhotoEspaña, Saatchi Gallery and Tate Britain. Publications that have featured her work include Metal Magazine, Editorial 8mm, Fisheye magazine, Der Greif magazine, Low Light Magazine, Shots magazine, Eyemazing, Sarmad Magazine, YET Magazine and L’oeil de la photographie, among others. Lens Culture also featured a selection of her works. Recently, her first monograph book was released.
The malady of Suzanne
A few months ago, I moved to my new flat in South London. Once settled in my new home, I realised that the building had previously been a mental health hospital, where people with mental health issues were treated and helped to reintegrate into society.
One night, I was relaxing, reading in my living room. There was a sepulchral silence, and suddenly I heard a noise coming from the ceiling. I was scared and I noticed that there was a small loft. The next day, a neighbour helped me open the loft. Unexpectedly, we found a suitcase that contained photos, letters and documents that had belonged to a woman named Suzanne.
Reading her letters, I learned that she was a Vietnamese woman who had been a teacher in her home country. There, she fell in love with an Englishman, and finally they decided to move to London together. This happened in 70s. Apparently she began to experience signs of a rare disease: loss of speech and isolation behaviour.
I also found out from her documents that she had changed her name in London, because her real name was very difficult to pronounce for English people. She called herself Suzanne in honour of Leonard Cohen’s song.
By combining these found archives with my own documentary photography work, I am exploring the story of a Vietnamese female with mental issues in 70’s London. This is an on-going project about the complex relationship between memory, immigration, mental health and human conflicts.
Additionally, is there any reciprocation between Suzanne and myself? We have both lived in the same space. I am an immigrant in London, I work in a school, and I have modified my name because it was difficult for my pupils to pronounce. I also love silence.
As a multidisciplinary artist, photography is an important part of my practice as well as photo-collage and text. For me they are key means that allow me to tell stories visually and experiment with narratives.
Regarding photography, my option is to work on analog format. I love the texture and aesthetics that I get with some old cameras, the grain, the magic of the process and the result, the cadence and the pause, and above all to pursue an idea rather than take hundreds of photos. In addition, there is something related to that pleasant feeling of having an old camera hanging around my neck and inside a
brown leather case from the 50s.
On the other hand, I love the aesthetics that analog collages give off. It fascinates me to visit second-hand markets, shops and bookstores where I find photos, magazines and old books that I then crumble and incorporate into my series. In addition, I really enjoy the physical and tactile development of a collage piece, the unexpected but sought after result and the final meaning of the image. Finally, I would tell you that I am excited to start from an initial idea and, based on experiments, see how it evolves and transforms.
When did you discover the path of being a photography author?
It really is not a decision that I made consciously. Rather, I consider that the path of author photography is a natural process or evolution within my artistic practice.
Do you think about pictures every day?
Not intentionally. But I am a visual person, so I always have images in my mind.
What are your challenges as an artist?
The experience of being a woman is a central theme in my work, and the stories I want to tell are always developed from a female perspective. Therefore, my challenge as an artist is to materialize my ideas through my visual narrative practice.
How do you overcome the artistic block?
So far I have not felt the need to overcome the artistic block. On the contrary, many ideas continually hover around my mind. In my case, the difficulty lies in not having the necessary time to develop all those possible projects.
Is there anything that you would like to tell us that nobody has ever ask you in an interview?
I would like to finish the interview by thanking you for this opportunity to share my work on Lenscratch.
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