Interview with Nadia Moss

Line Gallery:   Drawing is often thought of as something that occurs on a two-dimensional paper surface. You make works on paper, but your drawing practice also extends itself into the realm of installation. For The Original Split, for example, you brought a variety of drawings and items with you and during the installation you labour intensively pinned these drawings to the walls, created drawings on the walls by poking holes, pushed pearls and bead-like structures into the surface of the wall and used shadow to reveal drawings done on transparent plastic cut-outs which were also pinned.  Could you speak a little about how your practice developed in this way? How did you make the leap from the page?

Nadia Moss: I’ve always worked in 3D and mixed media, as well as drawing on paper, with an experimental approach to materials at the heart of everything I do. I’m not great at bringing a deliberate agenda or politic or emotion to a piece – I need to be messing around with something like a new adhesive or modeling compound and it’s through working it with my hands that I come to understand what I’m making.

In order to draw well I need to have blind faith in what my hand wants to do and let it do its thing. And often what it wants is to repeat a form over and over, like exercise or an empty prayer ritual. It could be catharsis, it could just be lack of a plan, but whatever the reason it’s often what my hand wants to do – But also (luckily) the multiplication and the echoing of forms are usually what I want to see. So for me the repetitive drawing instinct translates easily into the realm of the physical objects I make for the installations. For example, I need to cut out seventy five orange worms or find a whole pile of plastic red drops. I want to see multiple transparent arrows falling upwards through the air and a thousand pearls embedded in the wall.

In the context of a drawing on a page or a drawing in a whole room, these repetitions do the same thing – they cluster around some hidden action, describing it without rendering it. Like a hundred fingers all pointing at the same thing or a crowd of eyes fixated on something only they can see. Sort of like the harmonics that make up the note.


LG: So in contrast to the work that you do when you are installing a show, how do you approach making work in your studio? 

NM: I have a few different modes of studio work – one involves ink, a table, some paper and complete privacy.  That’s where the writing happens, where the quick emotive drawings happen – pretty much where I figure out what I am feeling and, if I’m lucky, where I’m going next.  I can sit and draw the same leg over and over all day, or the same washed out figures punching through each other, or I can draw twenty poems in thirty minutes or maybe just a page of a hundred blue circles. That studio can come with me anywhere, as long as I have the discipline to sit down at it, and as long as I have privacy.

The other studio work is more material. This is the work that happens in the studio that is my own, wherever that may be – This place has shelves with all my old supplies and junk, spray paint and random sculptural experiments, toys I’ve made and collected, drawings pinned everywhere, cigarette butts or carrot ends (depending on my health season) on the floor, bags of fur and horsehair, and the photocopied image of the little girl with the giant scar on her chest that I’ve been carrying around with me for almost twenty years. In this room I am really just farting around and making myself laugh – Trying to stick A to B with a new adhesive, perfecting my dirt-flocking technique, whatever. And I’m both heavily influenced and comforted my collection of things, by the music I’m listening to and by the people that visit me either in the flesh or in my imagination. It is where I feel the most at home in my life.

The other type of studio work is the ‘work’ work part, the result of Studio 1 plus Studio 2 and it is where I’m sitting with some internet tv show cutting out the hundred yellow eyes or whatever other busy work I’ve made for myself.

If I have the right balance of those three types of work going on, I’m feeling pretty good.

LG: A lot of your work has been figurative over the years, where do you draw inspiration from and what motivates the work?

NM: There’s this drawing trick a lot of people do – To hold your body in the position of the figure you’re drawing. I remember being taught it in a high school life drawing class and then looking down at myself and realizing I was already doing it instinctively. There is a technical reason – you hold the position in order to feel its tension; you want the strain of each joint, each muscle that you see because feeling it yourself helps you to represent it better on the page.

The involvement of my body gives me something like empathy for the figure – in as much as it’s possible to empathize with something from your own interior. It’s as if I want to rescue the figures that I’m drawing like a saint – to be like ‘hey give me that pain for a while I can hold it for you, or we can live in it together.”  Something like that.




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