Artist: Sausen Mustafova
Location: Frettecuisse, France
Sausen, how do you describe your work?
Although it has different themes or topics, my work finally talks about one and single thing: the human being. Whatsoever I paint figures, faces, trees, or houses, they are all different declensions of the same thing: here we are on earth, in our minds as well as in our houses; we are looking for being deep-rooted somewhere, just like trees. Sometimes, my work becomes more abstract, or let us say non-representational. In such a case, it’s only a detail of something: a detail from a bark of a tree, from the soil or from a skin. I give a great importance to matter. There is often a thickness of paint which creates relief and which, through being worked, scraped, grooved, and superimposed, also creates transparency effects.
What is your creative process like?
Starting to work is, first of all, finding the means to disconnect myself from the immediate and daily world. Music helps me for that. I’m working with music and generally I listen to the same track in a loop. It creates a rhythm, rather obsessional certainly, but which helps me to find concentration and to be able to listen to my emerging sensations. Just for that, thanks to the “Program” and “Repeat” functions available on to-day’s CD player! I walk around in the studio, I look around, I put things away or tidy, and when the moment comes, it turns to be very physical: I work on the ground, I turn around the canvas or the paper, I kneel, in postures which are always at the limit of unbalance; it’s a bit like a dance. I throw pigment on the canvas and I directly mix it with linen oil, using my fingers or sometimes a knife. I also use ready-made paint in tube. Everything goes quickly, instinctively, spontaneously, intensively. I cannot work hours long. After a one or two hour long working session, I feel sometimes empty, exhausted. This is true as far as painting is concerned, but when I’m using other techniques like engraving, or when I create artist books, things are slightly different, more thoughtful, and working sessions may then be much longer.
What kind of training did you have which helped you achieve your current level of artistry?
I studied philosophy which always prompted me to wonder about the meaning of the things I was undertaking, and about the mean to get to know what one expects from his own existence, the way one wants to live and how one can succeed in giving a meaning to our existence. After that, I started to teach philosophy and, two years later, I decided I would be a painter. I bought pastels, sheets of paper and that’s how things started, fifteen years ago.
This decision kept on being confirmed all the years long, and painting has become a necessity. I never considered it as leisure, nor a spare-time activity, but as something which forced itself upon me. I had to work and, above all, believe in it.
One always says that confidence or balance is something you must feel inside of you. Once, I had the opportunity to take part in a course of tightrope walking. When I was a child, I was always dreaming of being part of a circus. Then, I had an actual opportunity to understand what balance really meant. Walking on a one centimetre diameter rope has been an extraordinary experience. It transformed me at once, and at this time, I definitely felt the balance: I only had to look forward, far in front of me, to look at the horizon, and then, I could go forward. I think this experience has been very important for me, and, even though I do not walk on tight rope any more, I often think about it, particularly when things are not going well and I sometimes make these precise steps again, on the ground, looking straight in front of me to remind me this feeling.
Is there a tool or material that you can’t imagine living without?
It’s difficult to say. I tend to work with a minimum of materials and tools, and I deeply believe in the virtue of the constraint. I think that when things you are got used to, are missing, creativity may have a new impetus. The knife is the tool I use the most. Maybe I would be interested in it to disappear, to see what I’ll be able to invent to replace it.
What inspires you to create?
Light. Colours in nature.
What inspires you to keep going when the work gets frustrating or tough?
To tell myself that the object of painting is painting itself, that work feeds itself, that we must stop looking elsewhere for illusory life-buoys, that one must sometimes accept failure for something better to happen later on. Accepting this means that whatever happens, one can, one must set to work again and again, and just like for the first time, without respite, with the tenacity of life which resists to everything. Therefore, nothing inspires me in these difficult moments, but I think that these moments must be accepted as part of the work of a painter. And moreover, it’s not by not doing anything that these moments will not occur any longer.
What is your best piece of advice for those who would like to rise in their level of artistry?
If, for someone, the fact of painting is a necessity, he or she will then find in himself or herself the required resources. The most difficult is to learn how to resist to the outer world, to disturbing things which may often be used as an excuse not to resist and to give up. But, I think we never stop learning or experimenting all that.
What takes up the majority of your time besides your art?
I keep on giving some hours of course of philosophy to adolescents in a lycée. At home, I take time to make and bake bread and cakes for the pleasure of my family.
What’s your favorite comfort food?
I like all kind of cakes. At home, my activities are rather frantic: for a while, I will do a lot of cooking and make many cakes, and even sometimes several a day. And then it goes by, and I will start to sew and I will make five dresses in a row, And so on.