^ Coline Marotta, studio view. Photo: OTP.

OTP studio visits: Coline Marotta


An interview in the artist's Copenhagen studio.

Funeral Playlists, Miscommunication and Double Bed Paintings.

Coline Marotta’s breakout show at V1 Gallery (May 2018) gave a clear signal of her work's authentic vitality, to anyone who had not yet seen a painting in person.


Radiating a sense of both cool serenity and anxious withdrawal, Marotta's figurative paintings have since been shown in solo exhibitions at The Tennis Elbow (NYC), Alice Folker Gallery (CPH), Public Gallery (LDN) and in the fifth volume of Jens-Peter Brask’s Studio Visits series.

It’s a bleak Friday afternoon in the middle of a murky Danish winter when I arrive at the studio in Frederiksberg. Across the walls, small pencil sketches and cropped iPhone print-outs are taped for reference. Coline has been listening to a friend’s “funeral playlist”. It was sent to her earlier in the day and she tells me that everyone should have one ...

OTP What would be included in your funeral playlist?

CM It would be very eclectic. I’m really into Sam Cooke, like a lot. And Patsy Cline you know this kind of old mood. 

I like to listen to a lot of French stuff. Like Barbara, Françoise Hardy and also Belgian rap (Damso). These days I’ve also been listening to some Fugazi and Death Grips. I need music when I paint, it's often stuff my friends send me.


With the new works, I find it interesting that they were done with some quite intense music in my ears and ended up being this bluish kind of transparent, almost vanished compositions. They are different - a little bit like transition works.

^ Coline Marotta, studio view. Photo: OTP.

OTP What do you see the transition as being between?

CM I felt maybe in 2018, it’s not that I had too many exhibitions, they were all nice opportunities, but sometimes I was in situations where I had a deadline and I was not always completely happy about what I had done.

It’s nice to step back sometimes. This year I've decided I want to work on fewer projects because really I'm still learning what my rhythm is. 

I said this winter I really want to just paint and sit and think about who I want to work with - what kind of project I want to be a part of. That is what I like about painting, I think it teaches me how to take the time. 

OTP What was your experience like working on the show at Public Gallery in London?

CM The whole process was very comfortable, not stressful, and it is not always like that. I think it really made a difference when I talked to Alex, who is one of the owners, on the phone for the first time. 


We had a very good conversation, it just felt like they were the right people and everything was in order.

When I was working in London I felt a new energy and a new routine. I didn’t have to go to the doctor or go to the bank, I had nothing to do but go to the studio. It offered me the distance to reflect on things here I hadn’t dealt with. 

Where I was staying, on Ridley Road in Dalston, it reminded me a lot of the area I used to live in in Marseilles. There were just a lot of people, a lot of noise and food. It was really great - I went a lot to Cafe OTO, which was really cosy.


^ Coline Marotta, Live a Little (2019) exhibition view, courtesy of the artist and Public Gallery.

OTP Were you born in Marseilles? Is that where life began?

CM No... life began - it was a very small village, Correns, one hour driving away from Marseilles. It's very close by. 

It’s a village with only 600 people and I lived there until I was 18. It was comfortable but I knew I was never going to spend my life there.

OTP And then you moved to attend Marseille-Mediterranean College of Art and Design?

CM Yes, first I had a year in some kind of 'pre school' I don’t know how you call it. Like one year where you are supposed to learn a bunch of things to apply to bigger schools to study like architecture and design. 

It was fine, but it was not my thing so I went to the art academy there.

I don’t know if you have experienced the French education system, but at the academy in Marseilles it was, I think, really difficult. Because you’re very young and art school is so strange!

There wasn't so much studio time. I couldn't really get into painting, but in Copenhagen it was the opposite. I had more time to experiment with paint as a material.

^ Coline Marotta, Fragments d'un Discours Amoureux, 2019, acrylic on canvas, courtesy of the artist and Public Gallery.

OTP How did your impression of Copenhagen compare with Marseilles when you first moved?

CM What’s really different I think is the way people interact with each other. I think Marseilles is … people think it’s rough, and it is a rough place, but it balances with a lot of people being very warm and friendly. The city has a lot of energy, there is a lot of life there.

Here [Copenhagen], I think people have a better understanding of what personal space is, which I love! But at the same time I think they can also be distant from each other. Sometimes it feels a little impersonal.

One big difference is there is not as much hierarchy in Denmark. When I arrived at the Royal Danish Academy I feel like I started working in a completely different way, because I felt much more freedom.


I was just encouraged in general to undertake whatever I felt like.

OTP I know you have mentioned Anette Abrahamsson from the academy as being particularly influential - what was it about your time with her that had such a big impact on you?

CM She always talked to us as equals, which I think is really good to get used to. She was just like ‘we are all artists, we are all trying, we are all evolving.’ 

What I also really liked was that she invited artists all the time to come do studio talks. I had a studio visit with Allison Katz when I was really in a crisis and was struggling a lot with finishing paintings.

I was reading a lot about anthropology and language and I told her how frustrated I was that I  could not find that connection between my research and the moment of painting. We spoke a lot about translation, approximation and gathering informations - to build some kind of cosmos.

^ Coline Marotta, Sleep Baby Sleep, 2019, acrylic on canvas, courtesy of the artist. Photo: OTP.

OTP Do you feel comfortable with finishing paintings now?

CM Yes kind of. Often I’ll feel this is fine now and then sleep on it. Then usually the next day it’s done. But that doesn’t mean they’re good, just that they are finished. I have some finished paintings that I don’t want to show for instance.

I throw out a lot of paintings as well but I also like to keep old works to help me solve new ones. I often feel that I was fresher before - last week, last year, two years ago.

But when I feel stuck sometimes I just need to waste a lot of paint, to be really angry, to really fuck it up and get the badness out. 

OTP What’s the oldest work in the studio right now?

CM This one for the graduation show actually in 2017. It’s one of my favourite sizes, like a double bed.


One day I had to measure my bed for some reason, I don’t know, I needed to buy sheets and I realised this canvas is the same size as my bed. I think it’s two hundred times one hundred and forty. 

I thought maybe that’s the reason I feel comfortable in that size. Because also it envelopes the body - if I stretch my arms and stretch them up I reach the borders. I like to have it around.

^ Coline Marotta, What If I Stop Speaking Will I Forget The Words?, 2017, acrylic on canvas, courtesy of the artist. Photo: OTP.

OTP What do you think the biggest differences are between these older works and the paintings you’re producing now?

CM It's always hard for me to get back to work after a show, so I give myself exercises somehow. Maybe I need to start with something playful.

Here I really wanted to work with that blue. I think it's a lot because of this blue hour that we have now in the winter. It started unconsciously I guess.

I feel they are more intimate, the contrasts are softer, the characters emerge from the background almost, and there are no strong lines.


Even I am not on a self-portrait trip I do feel very connected with the works, and they all carry something from my everyday life. They accompany me in my moods.

And often I have positioned the figure in a domestic setting or garden - this intimate environment where the body can behave differently and you don’t have the pressure of social conventions.

Here maybe these paintings are closer to portraits? Yeah, I think, the newer figures are a bit different because they don't really belong. They don't really have an environment.


They're quite void-ish - maybe they refer to a mental space.

^ Coline Marotta, studio view. Photo: OTP.

OTP Could I ask you maybe to speak about the branch motif that appears in some of the newer paintings?

CM I'm a big fan of all kinds of myths and I’ve been trying to use more symbolism to build my images. In Southern France where I’m from, before Easter we give branches of olive trees to each other. It's called 'les Rameaux' [Palm Sunday].

It used to be to protect the family, especially against curses, and you would normally put the branch on top of your bed where the crucifix is.

I read about why it was an olive branch and it’s because this tree keeps its leaves for a very long time, like three years.

It became something you do culturally and not so much for holy protection. I also find that interesting. How meanings and habits evolve through time - how we still do certain things even though the intention moves away from the original one.


Now you offer them to wish that they have a good year, it's lost a bit of its spiritual meaning.

OTP Are the human figures in your work symbolic at all?

CM Maybe, I like to involve all kinds of people in my works. Not directly because I don’t think I ever paint specific individuals.


I really like that they are characters and quite random or generic in a way. But also they are important. They are how the painting starts and what the painting is very much about.

I am not sure about gender, or sexuality. It often comes up when I talk about my work, but my focus is somewhere else.

I'd rather reflect on relationships, intimacy, moments of miscommunication that demand a situation be redefined. Mistakes are so nice.

^ Coline Marotta, studio view. Photo: OTP.

Coline Marotta and Kinga Bartis will open a duo show at Ok Corral (CPH) in April 2020.

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