The Barcelona based artist has just unveiled a new series of sculptures at the La Roca Village shopping centre. The collection represents a first for the artist who usually works on large-scale, public murals. We caught up with Mina Hamada at the unveiling of her work. Three colourful geometric sculptures, and a set of hanging wooden mobiles, can now be seen in La Roca Village’s entryway. One final, three metre high, sculpture will be installed later this summer. Mina talks to us about her work process, iconic style and approaching a new medium.
Congrats on your show opening. Could you introduce yourself to those who might not know your work? Although many residents of Barcelona will know your work without knowing you, because it seems to be everywhere.
I'm Mina Hamada. Normally, I paint murals on the street, paint canvases, or do exhibitions in galleries. But this time, for La Roca Village, I made four sculptures: one extremely large scale, at three metres in height, that will be installed later in the summer, three smaller pieces that were just unveiled, and some wooden hanging mobiles. My collaboration with them is very colourful and uses my usual shapes.
Can you tell me a bit about your colour palette and the shapes that you use generally?
I like to use a lot of colours generally. I can’t even begin to count them, my colour palette is already large, and if I mix them, there are truly no limits. For this summer project, I used many colours because I believe those colours have the power to make us happy. I always want to make something positive for the people. If you see my artwork, I hope that you can feel happier than before, and maybe the next day even more. So, I use a lot of colours.
Your shapes are also so distinctive!
Yes, I like finding shapes that are organic because I don't need perfect mathematical lines. Everything comes from my hand, and so could be organic or could be imperfect, far closer to the natural thing. You can find many shapes in nature, from flowers, to wood, to waves of the sea, or even lines from the sky. There you can always find a shape, or even imagine one yourself. Because the idea of my work is that you don't have to understand it one way, I don't have to explain a lot. You can find understanding from it using your imagination and make your own story with my artwork. So maybe this shape could be, I don't know, an ice cream cone, and this could be a cloud, or even your house. Any interpretation is fine for me so long people can enjoy everything.
Can you tell me a bit about how you prepare for a new project? How did you approach this new one with La Roca Village?
This project came about because I worked with Lab 36 gallery. My exhibition Transition in Barcelona just finished there. Lab 36 gallery worked with La Roca Village to make a bridge connecting them with me. So we worked together to envision a new use for their space. La Roca Village has some very beautiful spaces. So, that’s how the collaboration started.
Something that immediately struck me upon visiting Barcelona for the first time was the amount of public art there. How does it feel to contribute to that kind of creative environment, with so many public installations?
I think Barcelona is a city with a lot of imagination, and great creativity. That is why I have been living here since 2009. There are so many artists and possibilities to have an open mind. This helps me to make my artwork. Also, it’s not exclusive to Barcelona, but you can feel the ambience of Mediterranean culture here, which also inspires me as I approach my projects.
Barcelona is such an international city with so many people from different places. I'm curious how you decided to end up there.
I think that if you live here, you are surrounded by people from everywhere. In this way, it is like a meeting point. People come to stay and end up meeting others. People often leave, and this way, we always have good fresh minds. Fresh meat. I like living here a lot. Also, [it meant] I could find a new way to do my creative projects, which was great.
I'm curious to hear about your thoughts on street art versus graffiti, and if you see much of a distinction between the two. Or, is everything that artists put up in city spaces the same for you?
I wouldn't say that I'm doing graffiti, because I'm doing more mural paintings and urban art. I have been doing this kind of work primarily for the past five, six, seven years. I love to work in public spaces, because I love to communicate with people. I love to paint in my studio, but it's far more confined to my world. However, if I paint in the street, people always ask, “what are you doing?” Sometimes, people even want to paint together. There is always something surprising that happens. And this is what I love more than anything else, doing something on the street in this kind of collaborative manner.
I worked more at my studio or, more so in large, shared studio spaces, to make these large-scale sculptures. I needed other artists to help me in realising their forms. So even for this collection, made in a studio and not on the street, more than just my hand had a role in the creation process. For me, there is always a collaboration with other people, other artists. And now, what I love the most is that people can interact with the pieces of artworks that I made inside for La Roca Village. People can touch them; some can even go through one of the sculptures because there is a small tunnel. In this way, I hope people feel closer to the sculptures. I hope people enjoy this relationship with the artwork.
Esculturas Mina Hamada La Roca Village.jpg
Have you noticed any changes with respect to public art since you first moved to Spain?
I'm from Japan, and it works a bit differently there because public art is not as common for the people of Japan. For example, it's difficult to get permission to paint a mural in Japan because of the restrictions in place. In Barcelona it's far more freestyle. For me it's far easier to do artwork on the street. People do say that it's changing a lot in Barcelona, because before it was even more free. If you wanted to paint something, you could just take your paint and make something. Now the control measures are a bit more restrictive, of course it wasn’t perfect, and totally liberated before. But still, even now there are still spots that you can find to paint. Maybe I’ll find a lost corner, a place no one cares about, and we can do something creative with it. Play on the streets. And then, the work is for everyone, because the streets belong to everyone. So maybe through art, we can use it more. This kind of change is what I like about doing public art.
I saw in a documentation of your work that you sometimes invite children to help paint your mural. Do you often work in this way, inviting the community to come help with your pieces?
Yes, this is something I like a lot, because I don't think I can be too possessive over my murals, like, it's my artwork, just put it here. People keep living there, the neighbours have to  live together with my artwork. So I have to do work for them. The art is not for me, it's for them. So, I like it if the neighbours can come and feel that the artwork is also part of their lives. If they can participate in the process of realising a piece, they feel, it's their’s. It is also for kids. I love working with children, because they are the best, they are the future. All kids are geniuses. They have this huge imagination, it's almost infinite. They are the best at this. So I always enjoy painting with them and I often ask them to think of  some idea, or for some inspiration as I envision a mural. And then I adapt it to my way of painting, so it's a collaboration between us. I like it a lot.
A lot of artists get so serious about their work, and you seem to really value this playful, almost childlike, intuitive form of making. I'm curious, how do you connect with that form of creativity and not get too caught up in the final product?
They are the key to genius! I can't paint as readily as they can. So I always respect their minds, and  their free form of making. It's always a pleasure to collaborate with them whenever I have the chance.
Your work is so multidisciplinary, yet really focussed around some aesthetic themes. Can you tell me a bit about working across mediums? Particularly with this piece, stepping into sculpture for the first time, how did you approach a new medium?
This was my first time working sculpturally,  because I normally paint in 2D, as in my murals or smaller scale canvas work. It was a challenge to do big sculptures! It was difficult for me, I always enjoy improvising. But this time, to make a real form,  I needed to create something before I began painting. Even if I had the shape in my mind, the way to realise it is different than in painting. So it was difficult, but I enjoyed the challenge. I needed to ask a technically proficient professional sculptor to help me create these pieces. Although I might have had the idea in my mind, the sculpture has properties like mass distribution that I  needed help in approaching. I think it was a great experience for me.
After the initial form was realised, I painted on the sculpture. But it was quite fun, because normally I paint flat walls! And this time there is a shape, and a curve and then a hole. The pieces look like characters from dreams, the characters of my mind, have come out in real life. It was a more friendly process, because I can touch and interact with them. Not like a ghost, but more so a character. Some characters from my world got to come out and say hello to me. And now they are here, in La Roca Village.
You've talked about working improvisation into your mural work. And I know you said that this project required more pre-planning with a sculptor, but was there still any room for improvisation with this project for La Rocca village?
This project was very improvised! When we first had the idea to collaborate together, I began to brainstorm all the things we could do. On my walks through La Roca Village, I had some initial ideas of how to use the space, or a building on the street. I sketched up some of my initial ideas, and we finally found a way to make some large-scale sculptural installations. But I have more ideas for projects to do! And maybe one day we can realise them. So there's this mix of half improvisation and half planning, and because I can't plan everything perfectly it's a more fluid process of creation. For example, nobody knew how I would paint the pieces, which colour, which shape, because I didn't know either! I start to paint, and then I decide the colour. So until I finished painting the sculptures, nobody knew how it would eventually look. So that's why I think it's more interesting, by being a surprise for everyone, even for me.
How did you develop your iconic style and colour palette? Did it happen over time or have you always painted like this? And also, do you see yourself breaking from that at any point?
This time, I did break from my usual colour palette, I wanted to do something vivid, strong. Because I often work with very pastel colours. If I paint a house for somebody, or the inside of a room, I prefer using pastels. Because sometimes, colours that are too vivid can be too much. But for this project, people needed to enjoy the summer, and being outside. So, since my sculptures are installed in an outdoors area, I used strong colours to make it feel more like a party, a party in La Roca Village. But always, you can see many colours with my artwork.
What's next for Mina? Do you have any dream projects or sites on which you'd like to work?
My next project is actually next Saturday! This weekend, I have another exhibition in Barcelona. If you are in Barcelona you can come to Nau Bostik for another collaborative project that just came out. We are making the experimental room, with an installation and music. For summertime, since I was working very hard on this project and also my forthcoming exhibition and recent Lab 36 gallery show, I'm thinking that I should pause a bit. This can be the time of making something with no rush. And that will be great for the summer. But next autumn, I have several projects!
Esculturas Móviles Mina Hamada La Roca Village.jpg