Leia Mocan | Issue Seven Interview

Leia Mocan | Dublin, Ireland

Tell us a bit about yourself, your background and your work

Originally from Romania, I am a Dublin based multimedia artist working in the mediums of Photography, Sculpture, Art Installation, Art Performance and Painting. My work focuses on themes related to the environment. I studied Fine Art, oil painting for four years before transferring my studies to Business Administration and a Master’s Degree in Banking and Capital Markets. After working in the banking sector and in the corporate environment for the past nine years, I have decided to return to the Arts. I am a recent graduate (2019) of Griffith College where I’ve earned a BA in Visual Arts, Photography. I am working exclusively with materials sourced from illegal dumping sites around the city or collected from my own waste, paired with natural elements in the attempt of creating a 100% environmentally friendly practice.

Tell us about your photographic project REstART

REstART was created over a period of three years as a Conceptual Advertisement Campaign for three natural elements: AIR, WATER and SOIL. The premises of my project are built on the hypothesis that if we keep polluting the natural environment, these elements will be soon transformed in widely commercialized goods, sold with a long label and a corresponding price. By choosing to present humanity’s life support system as commodities, simply allocating a price tag to the respective elements, the viewer is presented with a different perspective of the future of humanity.

What set you off as an artist?

I was always an environmentally aware person, volunteering my free time to serval environmental organizations, always trying to influence my friends to follow my footsteps and become more environmentally conscious. Maybe I was a little too pushy, as my friends started to call me ‘environmentally guru’ and tease me for being too intense. Then I realized that my approach was wrong. The turning point was approximately 5 years ago when I decided to reduce my waste as much as possible, when I started what today is called #zeroPlastic initiative. Realizing that it was impossible to have a zero plastic waste lifestyle, I started to collect and transform these materials, hoping that through art my message could reach a wider audience. I cannot pinpoint an exact moment that set of my practice, it was an organic journey, it just evolved from an environmentally focus mindset to an environmentally focused art practice.

Tell us about the themes you pursue in your work

My work is a social critique of our consumerism-based society, an effort to engage the viewer into a reflection exercise and ultimately determine a change into the art consumer’s behavior. The aim of this body of work, is to challenge our mindset and determine us to reflect at the difference between need and desire. In today’s society, the consumerism culture and capitalist myth distorted our perception of need, compelling us to buy in ever-greater amount, generating waste which we are not capable to recycle. The only question left is: What I am doing to prevent our planet being buried under a pile of waste?

What art do you most identify with? any specific influences?

Conceptual art is the art I mostly identify with and Marcel Duchamp is the artist who “rocked my world”, the artist who proved that everything I know about art is superficial. His practice determined me to step out of my comfort zone and employ nontraditional art materials in my practice. Since I could not find a practical guide on how to work with waste, I had to continuously experiment and start all over when I was not satisfied with the result. Operating outside of the traditional cannons of art shaped me as an artist and determined me to constantly chalange my own definition of art.

Sol LeWitt in his book "Paragraphs on Conceptual Art’ explained’: In conceptual art the idea or concept is the most important aspect of the work. When an artist uses a conceptual form of art, it means that all of the planning and decisions are made beforehand and the execution is a perfunctory affair. The idea becomes a machine that makes the art. Building further on this definition I would like to explain why my project, REstART is a conceptual piece, even if at first glance it might seem aesthetically driven. Here, the idea links all the stages of the productions cycle like an invisible thread which when read as a whole, the viewer will access a new element, the conceptual dimension.

By choosing to work with real women instead of professional models, by choosing to make the costumes myself from upcycled materials sourced exclusively out of my own waste and natural elements, by refusing to use commercially available make-up, using instead only the homemade makeup I created out from clay, beetroot, berries and other natural elements, by refusing to manipulate my images in post-production, by choosing to recycle the frames and cover them in fashion magazine cutups from more than 160 magazines to mask the fact that they are made from different materials and have different sizes, by integrating 2 geographical maps in the background and cover them with a thin layer of used motor oil to symbolize the pollution which is spreading like a cancer in our natural environment, by creating tentacles-like patterns out of the single use black plastic bags initially used for shipping goods bought online, by adding a golden text advertising reading ‘’SHOP ONLINE’’ from a Massimo Dutti shopping bag to the central frame, I make a conceptual statement.

Tell us how you organize, plan, and prioritize your work.

Phase I

The first phase of any project is the research. During this time, I start researching similar art works from a form or concept perspective. After I have a strong idea of how the same subject was approached by other visual artists I start the second part of this phase, researching the environmental dimension of my theme. Before I start working on the project, I must understand the environmental impact of the environmental context presented in my artwork.

Phase II

The second phase of the production process starts when I sketch the project design. In this phase, the art objects concept is translated into a concrete visual idea where forms/dimensions are penciled out to outline a clear visual representation of my initial idea.

Phase III

The third phase of my production process is related to the materials I need to create the artwork I previously planned. If the art object is not large scale I prefer to gather the materials out of my own waste. If I plan to work at a large-scale object I must contact my partners (environmental organizations and charities) well in advance of the planned execution time to sources the materials. Another option is to personally collect it from illegal dumping sites around the city, feeling that my arts in shaping the city landscape in a very small scale.

Phase IV

This phase represents the actual creation process of the art object, which might take up to 6 months for one piece. Usually, I work at two or three projects at the same time, prioritizing the ones I have the available materials to work with. Planning process is crucial, as due to work commitments I am in the studio only in the weekends.

Phase V

After the art object is finalized I try to see where I can “fit” my artwork. I research for contests and open calls from different institutions and see if my work answers the brief and if so I submit my work. In this phase, I also use the final images of my work to post new feeds on my social media accounts and my website, however there is an opportunity for growth and development in this area.

Are there any upcoming exhibitions or project in works?

There is a genuine interest in my practice as the environmental agenda is one of the “hot topics” nowadays. Even if I graduated College just a few months ago, the feedback received has been amazing!

I am very proud to be included in Ireland’s largest Art and Culture Festival, Culture Night, as part of the ‘New Voices of Ireland’ program series 7, sponsored by the Arts Council and Participatory Art in September 2019.As part of this event, I will exhibit my first large scale installation ‘Plastic Pillar’ which represents the next step in my practice.

I was accepted in Stand Collective Ideas program, a collaborative and creative initiative funded by Irish Aid with a focus on global issues based on the SDG (Sustainable Development Goals) framework. As part of this initiative of Suas Educational Development I am developing an art performance and art installation protesting the fast fashion industry entitled “#Stopwearingdeadskin” scheduled to take place in October 2019. I was also selected to participate at the "Water for Life International Art Exhibition" in Cancun, in November 2019, exhibition focusing on the global effects of climate change.

Overall, I am looking forward to what the future might bring, eager to learn and continuously develop my practice.

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