Mauricio Contreras-Paredes

 Photography by Manny Rionda

Photography by Manny Rionda

Shanghai, China 

When did you begin making Art?

I do have one of those stereotypical stories... that I started thinking about art when I was a kid. My mother would hustle around painting, drawing, clay classes for my siblings and me. I believe that sparked an early interest in the 'visual' aspect of our world and the many possibilities around it. However, it wasn't until I arrived in Toronto, under the false pretense that I was going to study Political Science, that I decided to study Visual Arts. After that, there was no coming back.

How would you describe your artistic style?

If the work of George Condo is described as artificial realism (“the realistic representation of that which is artificial”), I feel like my work could be described as “artificial irrealism”.

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Where do you draw artistic inspiration?

I am mostly inspired by the future, be it the future of our thoughts or the future of the spaces we inhabit. I look at my work as that of an archaeologist in reverse -documenting the possibilities of tomorrow through the lenses of today. While in the past my work revolved around the concept of memory, I have come to realize that it was never the case. My work has always pursued the unknown force of what is coming after, not what came before.

What has been the most memorable response to your work?

George Hawken was a prolific, amazing printmaker based in Toronto. He passed away a few years ago after battling cancer. Thanks to his determination I ended up going to the University of Toronto. Throughout my bachelor at the university, I always saw George as this larger than life, always serious, always inquisitive figure. In my eyes, he was never satisfied with what I was doing; it seemed that the others were presenting work of similar quality and getting better marks than I was. I finally graduated in 2013, and by that time George had become my mentor. We met every time I was in Toronto; we messaged each other regularly on Facebook. One of the last messages I received from him stated how happy he was for me that my practice was 'healthy and positive,' in his own words. I regularly read his messages, especially when I feel lost. He was the first adult to believe that I could be a real artist. Only years after being his student I realized that he kept on pushing me harder because he believed in me, he believed I could make it since the beginning.

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What are some risks or sacrifices you have made in pursuit of your craft?

Art hasn't forced me to sacrifice anything so far, quite the opposite I would say. Art has opened me the possibility to see places, to meet people, to do things that I would haven't done so far if I was sitting in a corner office. I guess that is why I am both humbled and excited about the future.

Who is your favorite artist? Why?

I would be lying if I told you a single artist is or has been 'the' influence in my short career. Olafur Eliasson is the closest to a constant favorite I've had. I have always admired the scientific rigor of his work, his masterful use of color and his concern towards contemporary issues (e.g., little sun project).  

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What's next?

I am currently in Asia working on several projects simultaneously. I was invited to become part of the Swatch Art Residence in Shanghai, where I will be developing an immersive installation with my partner Leo Bianchi. At the same time, Leo and I are working towards creating the biggest collaborative mural in the world. Schools, friends or individuals around the world join us in coloring sections of the mural, which will then be digitally assembled. This is one of the various collaborative projects that we are producing as we found minusplus, a collaborative studio that imagines multisensory and multispatial projects around the world. Finally, I am working on a new body of work, that has been on my mind for years, and bears no superficial aesthetic resemblance to the work I have produced so far.

What would be your dream project?

I would love to create a space within a space within a space within a space ad infinitum at the Tate's Turbine Hall. If that is not possible, I would love to do something with Olafur Eliasson, regardless of its scope.

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What quote or motto do you live your life by?

Everything is a work in progress including time.

For more on this artist, please follow on social media at @mau.cp

antonio rainey