For Tatiana, paper has been both a source of frustration and an instrument of healing. As a child in São Paulo, Brazil, reading was difficult, something she now attributes to her adult diagnosis of dyslexia.
“I absolutely hated school. I could not read. When I have a thought of something, it’s more a feeling, an image that I have. I don’t know how to put into words, even in Portuguese… Because I don’t think with words, I think with images. They come like photos of things in my head.”
From the time she was very young, Tatiana remembers herself as always making art.
“When I was in school, I was a terrible student. And my bedroom had all the books from my father in the bedroom. And I hated it. I just wanted to have like fluffy toys or something like that. And so I remember when I was like teenager kind of age, I started to get so angry with the books, so I start to tear the books, like the pages inside so he didn’t see much. And I start to make my art.”
“I think my frustration with the books and the letters and all those things, somehow unconscious I put it in the art.”
Tatiana started formally studying visual art as a teenager and later graduated with an internationally recognised Fine Arts degree from a Brazilian University. Her interest in making art with paper saw her spend a period of time working independently, specialising in papier-mâché creations. In her twenties, a trip to Australia with her two best friends lead to Tatiana uprooting her life to a country whose language she did not speak. Learning English whilst working as a cleaner, she met an Australian and stayed. Over the following decade, she got married, lived in China and then returned to Australia and started a family. Throughout this period, she stopped making art, being busy with travel and feeling that she was not yet “at home”.
When her marriage ended, she went back to her art to find herself, but after so much time away from creating, she found she was blank. “I didn’t have more ideas. I lost everything. It was hidden.”
She decided to try painting with watercolours as it was a medium that could be put away when she was finished and would not create a mess whilst looking after her two young boys.
“I was so frustrated because it wasn’t happening, my ideas, wasn’t happening…and then I throw in the bin. But I tear all the paper because I was frustrated. And then when I look at the little papers…and then I start to put one together, as I do in my work…and then it all started. It was like, aha, that’s what it is.”
Layering the torn pieces of paper, a process reminiscent of Tatiana’s childhood artworks made from her father’s books, was the start of the artwork that Tatiana continues to create. In time, she found that tearing the paper was not enough to get the organic image she had in her mind and thus turned to another process.
“I started to burn…to get that edge more organic but it is (also) about burning the change in my life.”
“My work is a lot like about nature, but it is a lot about my feelings. Every time I am doing something, in the moment I am feeling something, like with the kids, my emotions, learning something. It is always very present for me when I’m doing.”
Tatiana’s artwork is driven by her emotional need to create, but the layers and colours in her work are inspired by her observations of the natural world with its intricate patterns, shapes, textures and tones.
“When I go in nature, I see all the landscape, but my eyes go for the little things. So like when I walk in the bush, I see all the colours of the tree, the texture. Sometimes it’s all black and then a little lime green.”
“To me, I come from Brazil which to me is a very green colour, the country. I have the memory of Brazil being a very dark green country. And then when I went to China to live there, for me it was all grey. Grey and a bit red. You see some buildings red but it is always foggy and grey. And to me, Perth to me is blue. Because the skies are blue, the water, everything is so blue. So those colours come all the time.”
On a bench in her garage studio sits one of the works Tatiana currently has in progress. Unlike the blues and greens to which she is so often drawn, this work reflects the colours of the mines in Kalgoorlie. She has used long layers rather than the “petals” with which she usually works, in order to reflect the layers of earth in the mine site and dyed the paper with a natural ochre pigment.
Using paper as a medium is natural for Tatiana. She sees it as a kind of painting with petals of paper rather than paint. Her joy comes from turning plain cotton paper into work that is textured and organic, layered with colour and shape.
Coming from a family of engineers and doctors, Tatiana reflects that her choice of work may be less financially stable but she would not be happy doing anything else. And, although she misses her family and the culture of Brazil, Tatiana acknowledges, with both her words and her work, “Australia is a beautiful country.”
Tatiana Amaral’s layered paper artworks can be seen at the Fine Art@Hale 2023 exhibition over the weekend of 21-23 July.