I like to work with the theme of in-between spaces: being physically present in one space but mentally elsewhere.
Inspired by philosopher Michel Foucault’s notion of ‘Heterotopia’, Sonia Bensouda playfully explores our relationship with real and virtual spaces. In her carefully balanced collages, the artist investigates how we occupy space, physically and mentally, through a combination of striking architectural surroundings and dream-like aesthetics.
Growing up in the vibrant surroundings of Morocco has had a profound influence on Bensouda's refined feeling for color combinations, while her background as an interior architect has shaped her passion for abstract geometry and composition. In her work, the artist aims to combine these elements to formulate a visual language that is universally understandable.
INTERVIEW WITH THE ARTIST
Q. You stated that you draw inspiration from philosopher Michel Foucault’s notion of Heterotopia, could you elaborate on that?
A. I discovered Michel Foucault’s essay "Of Other spaces" five years ago, while working on my thesis. In his essay, he develops a concept called Heterotopia: "Spaces of otherness, which are neither here nor there, that are simultaneously physical and mental.”
Being in a space physically and not being aware of your surroundings as the mind drifts elsewhere is something that we’ve all experienced. I was strongly drawn to this theory and started to develop a series of collages to try to materialize that feeling. Collage is the perfect medium to express this, as it involves combining and juxtaposing images that aren’t necessarily supposed to be together aesthetically.
Q. You are also an interior architect; how does this relate to your work as an artist?
A. On the one hand, I think it has definitely influenced my love of composition and space as the main subject of my collages and color research. On the other hand, I do tend to think of my artwork as being separate from my work as an interior architect. I would say only about 20% of my work as an interior architect is truly creative (surprisingly!), and usually replies to a brief from the client. The rest of the work is very admin-heavy and technically involved. Doing art and collage is a raw outlet that I can use to fully express myself and my creative preferences.
Q. You do most of your work on the computer, do you have a favorite space to work or can it be anywhere anytime?
A. I usually start with photography, so being outside with the camera comes before the computer. Traveling and wandering are a big part of my process. When I’m creating on my computer, I usually work in the morning as I find myself very focused and fresh with ideas (probably thanks to coffee!). I usually don’t like to work in a fixed space. I prefer to move around and work in as many different environments as possible as I find it more stimulating.
Q. You have said that your goal is to create a graphic visual language that is universally understandable - what would you like your work to evoke in the viewer?
A. By universally understandable I mean I don’t try or want to make my work highly intellectual. I prefer to work on visuals that convey emotions; this is the area I feel the most comfortable in. Emotions and geometry are two elements that anyone anywhere can recognize.
I like to work with the theme of in-between spaces: being physically present in one space but mentally elsewhere. This surreal state of day-dreaming is recurrent in my collages. I hope people can find a sense of escapism by looking at it.
Q. You have relocated quite a bit, do you think this has influenced the development of your artistic work?
A. Definitely. Growing up as a mixed kid and belonging to two cultures has been a rich source of inspiration. Me and my brother were also lucky enough to travel a lot with my parents, which probably helped to nurture my creative side.
Q. Are there any other creatives, books, music or movies that inspire you?
A. I always find myself looking at the 20th-century painters’ ways of using different color combinations or geometrical compositions. Some of my favorites are Magritte, De Chirico, and Lazar Lissitzky. On the more contemporary side, I find inspiration in the work of architecture photographers such a Minh T or Sebastian Weiss.
Q. Could you describe your work in three words?
A. Architectural - Hyperreal - Geometric