Sla navigatie over en ga naar de inhoud
mando marie, take me down, straat gallery, stencil art, twinning, straat museum

Interview: Mando Marie

To celebrate the opening of Take Me Down, Mando Marie’s solo exhibition in our STRAAT Gallery, we sat down with the star of the show to get her thoughts on twinning, vintage comics, hand-cut stencils, Portugal, and more. Take Me Down is on show in our STRAAT Gallery until Sunday, June 23rd, and can be attended with a regular STRAAT entry ticket.

Hi Mando! Nice to have you here with us. Let’s get straight to it. A big factor in your work in general is ‘twinning’. It's once again also very present in this exhibition. But what is the significance of twinning in your work?

MM: I think when I began it was just the fascination with repetition and symmetry. Over time it has evolved into being able to create movement with the stencils, my weapon of choice. It isn’t just about twinning anymore, even though I still like that. But if you can create a circle where it looks like the girls are swirling or forming a pattern, that's where there's some sort of comic book movement effect. Take for instance the girls falling off the horses - you can create whole stories by using the stencil multiple times. And it makes the stencils even more interesting to me. 

The same thing kind of goes for the mirrored images…

MM: I mean, it's kind of the same. You can create movement, when two girls are looking up to the center - what are they looking at? If a girl's falling down - where is she falling towards? So, for me, it's just about using the stencil in a way to create something more than a single image. I do like my paintings when they're just one simple thing. But I really love those next to a pattern or something with a visual overload where you get a million ideas at once. 

In the end, it's all about feeling for me. I don't really know what I'm doing when I start. And then you just get into the process and I just get pulled in and it kind of leads me through it. I don't always know. They're all puzzles. I’ll start with one idea, but the painting sometimes tells me to put it down. I'm like, it's not finished yet. I won't know what it needs and I can easily stare at it for like a week and still not know what it needs.

mando marie, take me down, straat gallery

What about vintage comics? I know they're a big inspiration for you…

MM: I definitely love vintage comics. I'd say just any kind of visual paperwork, like children's books or comics - I just love pictures and drawings and seeing the different ways people can be, for instance, deliberately sloppy. Really, graphic images are so powerful. I still don't know how somebody can take an image and have it communicate something so clearly - in a way that would be impossible with words. That’s why I’m so drawn to basically everything visual.

Your work definitely has a certain nostalgic feel to it…

MM: I’m definitely nostalgic for American Style. Any picture book. I keep finding new stories or new uses of colors. I don’t really have any personal favorites per se - usually they’ll start out as random finds at markets and grow on me. I do really like those that are a little bit more graphic, like adult style or old style.

And do you know where this hunger for nostalgia originated? Can you trace it back to something specific?

MM: I can't really trace it back. I think it started in my college years when I started making stencils. I was thrifting a lot and just trying different things. I think I made a little girl that to me was, I don’t know, kind of cheesy. But other people really liked it. It was super new at that time and I got a little bit of mixed success. Over time, I really became able to work with my little girls and build the story in my own way and make my own colors. I feel like I've really honed in on my colors and what my girls look like. 

And how much value do you put on hand-drawing and hand-cutting the stencils?

MM: You know, I just had this conversation about how much I would love to get to the point where I could use a machine to cut my stencils. But I suck at computers - big time [laughs]. I just have to use my hands to do everything. Also, the cutting becomes part of the drawing process because there's lots of scribbles and crossing stuff out, so I don't cut directly on my drawing lines. I kind of naturally have an instinct in my head when I'm cutting, like this is how it should be. So both the drawing and the cutting are part of the process. 

mando marie, take me down, straat gallery

Let's talk about Take Me Down. We have the quote here that says: “Take Me Down, like many of my titles, like much of my work in general, is all about multiple meanings and feelings.” Why is this so important to you?

MM: I like it when people feel something when they see my work. If you get a feeling from it, it doesn't seem dumb anymore, it becomes real. But I like it even better when you can take it two ways. See you through it [Mando’s Insta handle is seeyouthoughit], you can take that a couple of ways. Take me down, it could be a negative thing, but it can also be a great thing. I like it when you're just observing the balance that we all go through every day, that’s what I’m trying to communicate. Like One Trick Pony, which I approached more as a comic where she's on it and gets thrown off, and gets back on and bucked off again - I just like this continuation of the story in there.

You split time between Amsterdam and Portugal. How has Portugal influenced your work?

MM: Well, for starters, I've found some tools that are really nice. The stencil paper that I use now, I found in Portugal. It’s a PVC that you can get one meter of in a roll as long as you want. It has been the best stencil material I've ever had. And our studio there is just amazing. I feel like I have so much space and time. It's very, very quiet, because we live out in the country. Yeah, just play with the dog, go in the garden, do some work in the studio, go for a walk, go to the beach. It's hard to believe this is my life sometimes [laughs]... 

I think this description you just gave has a similar feel to the work in the gallery. Do you share that sentiment? It’s not the work of a busy concrete jungle, full of modern-day digital stuff, but it has more of a nostalgic and mellow kind of feel…

MM: Yeah, I would say so. Definitely the Ghost series I've been doing for a while now, which is all about quietly coming to terms with your past and making peace, something I have been able to do in Portugal…

mando marie, take me down, straat gallery

Mando Marie

Take Me Down

On show in the STRAAT Gallery until Sunday June 23rd, 2024

Download the exhibition catalog here

All pics by Rodney Niezen for STRAAT

Tickets Tickets