Margarita Dittborn’s striking work has been exhibited around the world: from Spain to Shanghai, Basel to Dubai, Paris to Guanajuato. In 2008, she won the Critics Circle Award for her first solo show, Sick of Love, in her native Chile. Dittborn was also chosen as one of Phaidon’s top young artists in their Younger than Jesus series.
It was on one of her annual visits to Chile that Vancouver’s Monica Reyes –past Vice President of the Contemporary Art Society of Vancouver and founder of the Back Gallery Project – discovered Dittborn and invited her on as one of her artists. Right now, Reyes has three of Dittborn’s pieces in the gallery and an exhibition in the making.
“I was immediately drawn to it,” says Reyes. “I like the historic reference to Flemish art, particularly in the series titled Enfermas de Amor, but also to other historic art. In her most recent works, I like how the magic realism so relevant to South America – mostly in literature – shows in her work in a surreal manner.”
“Monica as a gallerist is one in a million,” says Margarita Dittborn. “The curators do not have much time for their artists. It’s very nice to meet someone committed to your work. She is interested not only in sales, but also in my creative process.”
“My work consists of basically digital photomontages,” says Dittborn, “but lately I’ve been experimenting with collage, clay and video. Regardless of the device, my work always revolves around personal issues. In it, I talk about the void, hysteria, distance, idealization or deformation of love, romanticism, longing, hunger as an important and powerful search engine.”
Dittborn started experimenting with art from an early age. “My parents gave me freedom. My mother gave me the tools to understand how my mind works, to find out which are my gifts and my limits. I have a creative brain more than a rational one. My father taught me how to make it through with not so many things. He gives me aesthetic advice over my works too.”
As it turns out, Margarita’s father is the renowned artist Eugenio Dittborn. “He coined the ‘mail art’ form,” says Monica Reyes, “at a time when, for political reasons, his work was not allowed to exit the country in the conventional way. He used the regular mail to ship his work to the most prestigious galleries and museums around the world. They would gather the works, follow his instructions and hang the works for the public to view.”
Though her father was a strong artistic presence, Dittborn was determined not to use his contacts to further her own career. “I was not overprotected. My father never ever made any moves or cheats for me to contact people, and that is the most important thing to me.”
Dittborn’s work has been strongly influenced by her own life experiences and her home country. “Santiago is the only place where I have ever lived. I think our country is very isolated geographically. We still have visions that are too romantic of all that is far away. This is a phenomenon that I really like. We Chileans like to keep our first impressions of things. We only read the headlines and take it as the whole view of the full story. We keep what a friend tells us about an event, and that is our truth, so that’s how we conceive the world. My job flirts a little with that, with my own ignorance, with distance and longing.”
Dittborn works from a home studio. “I don’t have expensive equipment to work with. I don’t even use a flashlight. In the digital field, there are a thousand ways to reach the same results.”
She will take her pictures in daylight then return home to create and compile. “The magic happens in the computer. It is also the part I enjoy the most.” Dittborn likes to follow her artwork through printing, framing and beyond. “It’s very important in order to reach the final results I want to see. A bad impression, or a bad framing, can really interrupt the results of what I want to express. It is the visual arts, after all.”
Dittborn’s work features intriguing characters who demand a back story. It is no wonder that she is so appealing to writers. Just recently, the Chilean writer and theatre critic Federico Zurita Hecht asked Dittborn if he could use her All the love in the world I for the cover of his book entitled unfathomable.
todo el amor del mundo I. 2013
“I did not know his work before that,” Dittborn says about Zurita Hecht. Now, she’s a fan. “I like his stories that tell about family identity, uterus and distant fathers. These issues touch my heartstrings.”
Lately, Dittborn has also been doing more work in video. The following link – “it is about distance” – was in her August 2015 Distance, lights and monsters exhibition at Undefine M50 in Shanghai.
These pieces were from the same exhibition:
Dittborn is clearly at home in her artistic world. “I think life itself drives you towards what you are.” What advice would she offer to others serious about a career in art?
“I remember when I was pregnant with my son Amador, I saw a video with a very strong image of a baby over his mother’s womb. The baby, with very little strength and muscles, crawled restless for twenty minutes towards his mother’s breasts, by instinct. That, in my opinion, is a metaphor of what an artist should be. An artist has to be hungry.”
Written by Elizabeth Newton
* Photos courtesy of Margarita Dittborn