Written by Kat de Meeûs. Published on 1 December 2022.
Nature vs human: an appeased (ink)ounter
Magali Cazo is a French artist based between Ardèche, in the countryside, and Paris. Her artistic approach converges between painting and illustration, and her educational experience amid being self-taught and in an art program at the Beaux-Arts. A characterized ‘in-between’, fueled by a curiosity for art that manifested itself early on, and continued to grow as she was exposed to different artistic training opportunities throughout her career. These experiences have helped her art evolve, and have brought her to concentrate on her current focus and specific material: ink.
Ink, a medium Magali Cazo masters wonderfully. A mastery that she would rather call “collaboration”. In fact, this liquid form that comes to life when applied is at the core of the artist’s creative process. By allowing the medium to evolve, Magali Cazo forgets about creative will and abandons herself to the happy ‘incidents’ that the ink traces on the paper. The works thus created become the result of both the artist’s movements and those of the tool itself. This transforms Magali into a spectator to her own work, “I have a completely different relationship with the creative process. I am in wonder about what can occur on paper. I do not have ultimate control, which allows me to be interested in what I do. It’s like a natural phenomenon, the material expresses itself.”
To allow the ink freedom, to not ultimately own the creative technique… Could this be viewed as a lack of confidence in her own work? On the contrary, “It allowed me to stop personally identifying with my work and paradoxically, gave me more confidence. It’s not just me. I disconnect from my ego, I’m not defending myself as a person, it’s larger than me.”
Photo: Magali Cazo.
Her artworks exude a force larger than us, like Mother Nature. Through meditative landscapes and half-human, half-plant beings, we are immersed in an organic, almost dreamlike world. A mystical and magical nature is revealed by the accidental traces of ink on paper. These musings came about, inspired by a lifestyle she slowly discovered since moving to the countryside. Being a city girl with an idealized vision of natural landscapes, the artist describes herself as taming and being tamed by her surroundings. As her sense of identity is affected, her artistic practice is transformed and ink is the perfect medium to document this process. “(When) I started working with ink, things just occurred naturally.”
This spontaneous quality in her work reveals an artistic process that seeks to emanate sincerity, simplicity, and ease. An artistic practice that makes room for more instinctive movements: that is the type of intuitive approach Magali strives for. It is a means for her to be closer to nature, nurturing a close and private relationship with it. The way she describes it, her artistic voice has been transformed by her proximity to the Ardèche River, located in the South of France. The intimate relationship she is developing with her surroundings is reflected in her artworks: “In fact, I am trying to translate this feeling of belonging that arises when I visit certain parts of the river that I am particularly fond of. That feeling of being absorbed by the landscape, of dissolving into the landscape.” A strong relationship that soothes and calms the soul, just like in her blurred and ethereal landscapes, in which the viewer can get lost, finding a new sense of peace, far from the outcries of an agonizing planet.
Photo: Magali Cazo.
“We shouldn’t feel like we are sacrificing our well-being; I don’t feel like I’m making a sacrifice by taking care of nature. On the contrary, this is enriching. And it is infinitely reassuring to know that all this is accessible and ‘free’, this kind of joy. We can lose everything from one day to the next, and many of us are afraid of that, but to know that there is something that exists here, and that cannot be taken away from us – this approach to loving living beings, to watching flowers grow – this is essential. It’s a hierarchical shift in our values.”
Because Magali is very well aware of the state of the world, her ecological concerns are real. Pragmatically, however, she is aware of the limited capacity of human beings to question their ways and bring change to a catastrophic trajectory, one they have been aware of since the 70s. So, what can she do, as an artist, to face this? “I think we need to let emotions play a role in this. When we are moved by artwork, at an emotional level rather than an intellectual one, it can also deeply transform us.” Would creating emotion, rather than addressing our cerebral intelligence, be the antidote to elicit real change in humans? “I know that the feedback I usually get for my ink landscapes gives me the impression that these artworks allow people to see the beauty that’s there all along. Art sometimes allows people to see the beauty where it is. If you’ve seen an artwork that you like and then find it in nature, it can help you appreciate it. It can motivate you to work towards preserving it.”
However, so many facets of art already address or represent nature. That hasn’t yet brought on a tangible change in society… So what sustainable future can we really imagine? Can a more environmentally conscious practice be one of the solutions?
According to Magali, establishing a connection between artworks and artistic approaches is not an easy feat, but there is a deeper issue to consider: the key would be a willingness to let go; to let oneself be in harmony with nature, where human and non-human merge, in a way her inkings invite the audience to. It’s to accept to put our ego aside, “(…) this global, human need for the recognition we all suffer from and (that) leads to catastrophes. I have the impression that this is what needs to be addressed, this needs to exist ‘more’ than others. If we could feel that we exist other than through people’s judgment of us, the intensity of this race (to consumption) could be curbed.”
Photo: Magali Cazo.
Magali Cazo’s work is an invitation to meditate and rediscover what already is within our reach. A sunset. A stone that reveals a face. A woman-flower. So many novel stories that invite us to imagine what a peaceful relationship with our environment could mean. An environment often polluted by violent stories, and by egocentric speeches and ideas to save it, that go unheard or disregarded. “The solutions will not be found in thoughts and ideas, another notion needs to be considered. I have been interested, fascinated, and intrigued by the way narratives construct our society as it is. (…) As an artist, I feel like I have the chance to have some influence (on the public narrative), I can offer other ways of seeing.”
Magali Cazo’s light and intangible illustrations are a real invitation to other imaginary worlds in which new connections with nature seem possible. They are a call to reconsider our processes and reassess our modes of functioning. The goal would be to rewrite “(…) what makes us dream and fantasize, (…) and invent other stories.”