Marina Anaya “It is important to commit yourself to the bright side of life”

Marina Anaya is the artist selected by “Impars” to design UIC Barcelona’s Christmas card for 2019. The artwork is entitled “Nativity”. It depicts the traditional image of the holy family enveloped in an embrace, and is a collage made from fragments of engravings.
Since she was little, Marina Anaya (47) felt her calling for the visual arts. Following her dad’s advice to work in something she really loved; she decided to study Fine Arts. In the last year of her degree, she received a scholarship to go to Florianópolis, Brazil, where she taught textile printing. From there, she moved to Havana (Cuba), where she took her doctorate. The city influenced her work with a passion for vivid characters and colours. The multi-faceted artist has now been living and working in Madrid for 25 years, and her work embraces oil painting, printmaking, sculpture and, occasionally, ceramics and jewellery. She combines her day-to-day work in the studio with a large number of national and international exhibitions, where you will often see her accompanied by her family, including her sister, the actress Elena Anaya.

Interview

Text: Marcos Doespiritusanto

Do you remember how your passion for art arose?

Even when I was tiny, I loved making things. I made clothes for my dolls, little baskets with eggs made of clay, I painted T-shirts… I’ve been involved with the visual arts in one way or another my whole life.

You decided to undertake a degree in Fine Arts. At that stage did you know what you wanted work in, or were you thinking that going to university would help you decide?

I had my father’s advice: “Find a job you really love. In life, you spend many hours working.”

In the last year of your degree, you received a scholarship from the Spanish Agency for International Cooperation to go to Florianopolis in Brazil. Tell us about your experience there.

I did my degree in Cuenca, where both the city and the university are very small, and this scholarship in my final year made me see that there were other ways of doing things. And that helped me to put things in perspective, which I think is one of the most important things in the world. Florianopolis is virtually an island; it is very lush, with wonderful vegetation and beautiful beaches. Academically it was interesting, but even more at the human level.

And from Brazil you went to Cuba, to take your doctorate in La Havana. In what way did Cuba mark your career?

I was coming back and forth to Havana over a three-year period in the late 90s. The work in graphic arts on the island was very interesting, in both its forms and conceptually. I was beginning to feel sure that engraving would form an important part of my work, and the time and place were ideal for immersing myself in techniques and ways that I’d never experienced. The way of life and of looking at things in Cuba, its values, its rhythm, colour, joy, music… all that has stayed with me and my work.

In 1998, you returned to Madrid and you began to develop your work, with a special focus on engraving. Why did you choose engraving in particular?

My mother, my grandfather and boyfriend at the time gave me an etching press – the press you use to make engravings – and that was the beginning of my working life. I set up my workshop in one rooms of the house I shared in Madrid and I started my first engravings. I have always liked techniques that require processes and in which you do a part and the work process another. That is what happens with engravings.

At that time, I began exhibiting in many bars in Madrid. From there, one step at a time, I made the leap to everything I do now.

Your creative universe covers practically all the areas of the visual arts, including painting, sculpture, illustration and even jewellery. Where does this creative hyperactivity come from?

There are many disciplines that attract me and when you are lucky enough to be able to devote all of your working hours to creation and plastic arts, it is easy to gravitate toward other disciplines.

Engraving has been my great ally during all these years as an artist, but I also love the immediacy of paint and metalwork, especially brass, both in jewellery and sculptures. Working with wax for casting, ceramics, building with clay… Even if they are very different disciplines, I think I develop the same creative universe in all of them.

I don’t only design the parts, but I learn to make them and I deal with the whole process myself. It is not the same to buy a cup and paint than to make the porcelain, create the cup, and make the engobe and the glaze to decorate it with.

You’ve done a great number of exhibitions, both individual and collective, and taken part in art fairs around the world. If you had to choose one aspect of your career, which makes you feel especially proud, what would it be?

I’d highlight the fact that I can get up in my workshop every morning and continue working. That is, in fact, what lets me do all those exhibitions and fairs that I take part in all over the world.

In some of your interviews, you define your art as a commitment to the positive side of life and to happiness….

I am an optimist by nature and by vocation. Life always has two sides. It’s up to you how you deal with the things that arise in your life. What I do, my nature, is to focus on the positive, beautiful, happy side. I believe that it is important to commit – in my case, both with my work and with my life – to the bright side of life.

Your painting stands out for its vivid colours, for the constant presence of nature, both animals and plants, and an aesthetic bursting with vitality. Is this an appeal to look after the planet? Does this relate to your political decision to always opt for non-toxic and environmentally friendly products?

Naturally it does. I believe we need to recover our place in nature, which we left behind far too long ago, for humans to be once again a component of that big picture. We look at nature from the outside, we destroy it and then we campaign to try to fix it. It’s a disaster. I read a lot about trees, forests and plants. It’s incredible how we have so close at hand examples of plant societies living in a much more harmonious and logical way than us, yet we take so little interest in them.

How do you see the current context for new artists starting out in Spain? Do you think things are harder or easier for them than for your generation?

I honestly don’t know. I’d never recommend anyone who doesn’t have a defined sense of vocation to do Fine Arts, but for someone who does, I’d wholeheartedly recommend it. Making a living from art isn’t easy – nor is making a living in full stop – but it can be achieved and you can end up having a very satisfying professional life.

How did you come up with your design for the UIC Barcelona Christmas card, and what does it mean to you to have this chance to work with the university?

The commission had a clear premise, there had to be a clear reference to a Christian Christmas while at the same time, it gave me the freedom to take the design to my field. Therefore, I based it on a classic Nativity, with Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus depicted in a circular embrace, a family who love each other and are enjoying that special moment. They are surrounded by a cosmos that accompanies them and guides them with the star of Bethlehem. It is a collage made with pieces of my copperplate engravings.

I also sometimes work on projects with students at the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid. It is very rewarding to work with young people, they are so enthusiastic. I very much admire the teaching and research role of universities. And it has been a pleasure working with you.

If you had to describe yourself as an artist, what five words would you use?

Sketcher, engraver, painter, sculptor and ceramist. As for the adjectives, I’d prefer others to suggest them from viewing my work.