Interview with Susana Mulas Lastra

Updated: Jun 28

Susana Mulas’ visual art is inspired by the vulnerability of natural life, especially the nature we don’t get to see at first glance. She investigates the ways in which we look at our planet and relate to nature, believing that humans have to rethink our relationship with it. She translates these observations and reflections into detailed pastel drawings in vivid colours. Her recent exhibitions include her solo show Walking the (in)visible (2021) in Amsterdam and the group VR exhibition Art From Heart (2021) in the UK.



We had the opportunity to interview Susana and learn more about her inspirations, as well as her background as a biologist and how this influenced her artistic practice.


Why and how did you decide to become an artist? Could you tell us a little bit about your background as a biologist, and how this influences your art?


I always wanted to study Fine Art, but I did not have the support to be able to do so when I finished high school. So I decided to study biology, my other love. During my studies, I never

stopped drawing; my relationship with art became stronger as the years went by. Around 2000 I moved to The Netherlands, and here I decided once and for all to study Fine Art and become an artist full time.


'Getting out of the system’ and ‘looking at the world in a different way' is what scientists and

Artists both do. I haven't worked as an ecologist for a long time, but the way I look at the world and try to understand it has remained with me. It has become part of the process of

my drawings.



Through drawing I find an intimate way of connecting with the beauty and mystery of

nature hidden from our eyes. Using paper as if it were a microscope increases my

fantasy and curiosity about the drawing process. On paper I create life by drawing

organic shapes. They often seek connection with each other and with their environment, in a

way the drawing gradually grows. Somehow my drawings grow and behave like an

ecosystem in nature does.


You’re from Spain, but living in the Netherlands now- what’s your relationship with

European culture like? Do certain European traditions influence your

work?


Before moving to the Netherlands to live, I had traveled a lot, especially in Europe, but also

in North Africa and Cuba. Growing up in a certain culture shapes you as a person, but in my

view it doesn't have to determine neither who you are, nor your creative influences. I am Spanish and European, but more importantly, an inhabitant of planet Earth.


I believe that the climate crisis and the pandemic we are experiencing are events which

shape and change you as much as national or regional culture can. In my work, more important than cultural influence is the influence of these global events.


My move to the Netherlands has made me more flexible and has led me to value more the

importance of what unites different cultures, rather than what separates them.


From your drawings, we can see a strong connection between nature and the human body. Can you tell us more about women and female genitalia as a symbol in your art?


The fact that I am a woman, as well as my view of the planet as a vulnerable but powerful

Mother Earth, had led me to look into the astonishing similarities between female bodies and

both microorganisms and aquatic creatures.



Sea cucumbers, anemones with a thousand arms, vulnerable phytoplankton, sponges that

inhabit enormous depths, hidden fruits in the Amazon, sea urchins fossils... In my

observation I looked at them as individual entities. I let them speak to me and I combined

them to create new creatures. In these creatures I often discovered similarities, links to

female breasts, or mysterious openings reminiscent of vulvas. Part of this awakening definitely came from the intimate connection between my artworks and the earth.



The vital forces which create life in nature are also found in women. When I became more aware of this parallel, I decided to show through my drawings the unity between human beings, represented by women, and nature. I am convinced that we can repair our relationship with nature if we can recognise ourselves in it, thus becoming part of it again.


Your artworks are extremely detailed; can you tell us a little bit about your drawing process?


Drawing is for me a path of thought and imagination. My translation of a not always visible

reality that I want to shape and transmit to others.


Nature is my great source of inspiration. For me the hidden nature, the invisible inspires me

enormously, shapes, patterns... I like to zoom in, enlarging and playing with what my eyes

‘can or cannot’ see. Macro and microcosmos come together: being able to find beautiful

"aliens" in the deep sea and stars and black holes in a water droplet seen through the lens of

a microscope. I remain amazed at the complexity and importance to life on Earth of these

tiny invisible creatures that inspire me to create new worlds.



Each drawing begins in general with an investigation based on my collection of images that I

found in books, the internet or specialised scientific magazines, without sketches.


Drawing with pastel and charcoal leads me to use my hands intensely. Stroking the paper to add colour, soft or intense caresses. The sound of chalk on paper in the silence of my study,

brings me deeply closer to the being of my drawing and the attention it demands. There is a

intense collaboration between the drawing and me. "I speak" with my drawing, there are

exchanges, silences and listening spaces. We do it together, the drawing and me.


Speaking of this mindful connection which takes place in your artistic process, how do you use your art to generate discussion about sustainability and our connection with the world around us?


We live in times full of insecurity and uncertainty. Our planet is screaming at us loudly that

we have reached the limit. Climate change and the imbalance in our ecosystems are a

reflection of her cry for help. Today, more than ever, we need new 'eyes' to restore our

relationship with nature and to see and speak its truth. In my work I get closer to a nature

that is hidden from our eyes. My drawings are the 'language' with which I let this invisible

nature speak. An Earth full of secrets and beauty with whom we are connected.


Last year I made a series of drawings inspired by life in water. Seventy percent of the Earth's surface is covered with water, so in the series I investigate, reinvent, and recreate the microscopic creatures that live there, especially algae and plankton. My aim

was to show the beauty of these organisms in order to pay attention to their key

role in the ecosystem as a whole.


I want to address those themes with my drawings, because I believe that beauty can convey admiration and respect.



In my work I use the beauty of imagined life and the beauty of the real life that inspires me,

in response to the call that our blue planet sent to us at the present moment to protect it. That

call is no longer a silent cry.


If you don’t mind me asking, do you have any new collaborations or projects in the works?


My first solo exhibition in Amsterdam has just finished. During this summer I will

take a couple of weeks of holidays and the rest I will dedicate to work in my studio, preparing

a group exhibition that will take place at the end of September in the north of The

Netherlands.


At the end of this year I have another solo exhibition in a special gallery: a gallery 10 times

smaller than the real world, a 1:10 scale model of reality. A real challenge!


Could you tell us a little bit about the artworks that you’re sharing with Jaguar Arte?


These drawings are reflections on elements of what I might call 'natural micro-landscapes'.

They are inspired by water creatures, marine organisms such as micro-algae, phytoplankton

or sponges from the deep sea, that I have transformed and reinvented by playing and

combining shapes and colour. With these drawings I was happy again by a 'cooperation' full

of surprises between the drawings and me.



The more I delve into nature that we cannot see with the naked eye, the more it amazes me

how close we are to it. In these drawings, my interest in the (re)encounter between humans

and nature play again an important role, which is expressed in subtle organic openings or

round shapes, which can be reminiscent of female forms. It could almost be translated as a

reminder of how humans are more connected to nature than our eyes comprehend at

first glance.


Is there a big dream of yours that you’d like to accomplish in your career?


I don't know if that can be called a big dream, but I would be very happy if my drawings can

help make the world more beautiful and better and give people happiness and hope. For that

I must have the opportunity to keep exhibiting to bring my work to the world, hopefully not just in the Netherlands.


Susana, thank you so much for taking the time to speak to us. We can’t wait to see what you do next.


If you’d like to see more of Susana’s work, you can look at her drawings at www.jaguararte.com/artworks.


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(All images in this article are courtesy of Susana)