Artist Interview: Danna Margo – Stuck On Art, Or Being Glue To Yourself

March 1, 2023

 

By BRUCE DENNILL

 

Danna Margo was featured as part of the 2022 Turbine Art Fair Unearthed mentorship programme.

 

What sort of training have you received and how important do you think it is to seek training (in terms of learning first principles and refining techniques)?

I’ve been in some sort of art class since I was very young, which naturally progressed to my choosing to study Fine Art, graduating in 2017 from the University of Pretoria. While it is vital for budding artists to be exposed to as many disciplines as possible in their formative years, I think the most important takeaway from this type of training is being around professional
artists with first-hand experience in the cutthroat art world. Starting out is intimidating and it helps to have a few friendly faces around once your studying is complete. Besides this, it’s a truly great environment for failure, those thousands of “bad” drawings have to get out somehow, better it be at the risk of a bad mark instead of a default rent payment.

 

What is your principal medium, and why did you choose it?

Originally, I would have said glue and ink, but as of late I’ve been diving much deeper into the material characteristics of wood glue, with a trickle of ink here and there when it’s appropriate. Coming across my medium by accident during my studies makes me believe it was more like an act of fate rather than an active choice, but that sounds a tad fantastical. I continue to work with it because of the endless possibilities that are inherent within the material, most of which are constantly emerging despite my almost clinical approach to the viscous white substance. Like a form of genetic material, the glue inherits its spatial surroundings, becoming pregnant with traces of dust, lint, and hair. This element of surprise lends itself to the medium’s playful
attributes that at times either contrast or reinforce artworks that operate within the macabre.

 

Describe the techniques you use most? How complicated are your methods, and why is each step necessary?

My methods change with the seasons. The ink depends on the glue and the glue depends on the atmosphere. Glue is incredibly reactive, temperamental, and ruthless. The heat soothes the material, making it soft and supple once dry. These conditions allow it to imitate the objects it’s placed over, performing like buttery satin with pleats and folds that caress
surfaces. The cold, on the other hand, brings about intolerance and rigidity. Like a petulant child, it is unmoving and stubborn. My whole approach shifts quite dramatically. Pushed beyond its limit, the glue will crack and shatter, easily slicing through my fingers. Violence is the name of the game in winter. Yet once the material is in this state, it will, though unwillingly, drape over objects with applied heat. Once hardened by the cold, it can be removed and will stand alone without support, a perfect hollow copy of the object it once shrouded.

 

What technological tools do you use in your work?

I consider the hairdryer to be the absolute peak of human brilliance and innovation. I simply wouldn’t be able to work without one. It aids in easing my relationship with the medium, making it possible to work in the colder months. As for mark-making, it’s a draw between a glue gun and a kebab stick. Both are equally instrumental to the entire process and I would be hopelessly lost without them.

 

Who is the single other artist whose style you most admire, and why?

Definitely Nandipha Mntambo. I’m an advocate for the abject, anything slightly disturbing and I’m hooked. The way she uses animal skins, a material that is so heavy with significance, is deceivingly straightforward. This is something I strive for. Works of art don’t require everything but the kitchen sink. Manipulating a single material, the way she has is pure mastery and is not something any artist can do.

 

Galleries and other traditional means are only one way of marketing art. What do you believe are the most important other routes, and what is the most important insight you have gained in that area in your career?

First and foremost is having a decent enough website. Having an online portfolio that you can control and that industry professionals can access allows your presence to amplify on a global scale. It’s beautifully independent and curated to your preferences. Treat the site like an ongoing process-based work that requires constant nurturing and attention, this will translate
and draw viewers in.

 

Why do you create? What are your stated goals in producing art?

This is a tricky one. At times I feel like it’s something I desperately need to do and at other times it feels as if it’s something I begrudgingly have to do. It’s very strange since I drew before I stood and never wanted to be anything else. Creating is an ongoing process that is in no way linear or predictable, which can bring so much angst and uncertainty. Yet no matter what,
making art is the singular pillar in my life that I can always rely on. Once an artwork is complete, you don’t feel so isolated within your own thought process anymore. You know now that something exists outside of yourself that can transcend, saying that which you couldn’t and touching those you’ll never meet. And whilst I do create in order to shed light on anything from
pressing socio-political issues to the unnoticed potential within common household materials, at the end of the day, it’s my curiosity of the unknown that always wins and propels me forward.

 

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