Natale Adgnot is fascinated with the certain ways the human brain gets things wrong.
Best known for her abstract wall sculptures made from thermoplastic adhered to painted panels, Featured Artist Natale Adgnot taps into the concept of 'pareidolia' (seeing patterns in random information) to illustrate the elusiveness of truth.
"I am fascinated with certain ways the human brain gets things wrong. Lured by the beauty of pattern and the promise of an explanation, we fall prey to cognitive biases such as pareidolia," Adgnot explains.
Using a combination of ink, acrylic, and enamel, this artist adds details to hand-shaped pieces of thermoplastic and affixes them to birch panels.
The resulting works alternate between organic shapes like those found in biological structures and geometric forms. Hovering between drawing and sculpture, these wall reliefs often seem like two-dimensional sketches when viewed frontally, but always reveal more dimensionality when considered from other perspectives.
Artwork Archive got the chance to chat with Natale Adgnot about her creative process, unique materials, and how she uses Artwork Archive to manage her career! You can see more of her work on Discovery and learn more about it below.
Natale Adgnot, The Ostrich Effect, 14 x 11 x 4 in
Has your work changed over time—do you find yourself understanding your art career through different periods of expression?
There is a clear throughline that runs through all of my work, but yes—it has changed quite a bit over the years.
From 2015 through 2018, I was focusing on a series of paintings that utilized acrylic transfer techniques to incorporate the faces of many recognizable personalities, each one embodying a stereotype.
In 2018, I began to experiment with the thermoplastic I use extensively now: a shrink plastic that is basically an artist-grade “Shrinky-Dink.” I started by converting some of my 600+ sketches into sculptures, calling them Drawings in Three Dimensions.
They often look flat from the front and only reveal their dimensionality as one changes perspective, challenging the viewer’s first impressions.
Since then, I’ve used the same medium (thermoplastic with acrylic paint) to create several other series of wall sculptures—each one tackling the theme of human fallibility from a different angle. Right now, I’m making a series called Bird Brains. This series centers on birds that represent human irrationality by way of expressions or stories in the English language. Think Chicken Little, who thinks the sky is falling, the proverbial wild goose chase, or the ostrich burying its head in the sand.
What’s funny is that it took several years for me to understand what that throughline was. My paintings about stereotyping, and my sculptures about how perspective shapes perception, definitely look different from each other. But, both series are ultimately about challenging dogma in all its forms.
Do you have a favorite or most satisfying part of your process?
I enjoy every part of the process of creating the work, but the best parts are the ones in which I’m able to get into a state of flow—like when I’m gilding the edges of dozens of thermoplastic details.
When my hands are moving across the pieces, they know what to do without me thinking about it, so my mind is free to wander. I use those moments to imagine and free associate.
Some of my best ideas for other work come to me when I’m lost in a repetitive task.
Can you elaborate a bit more about the phenomenon of pareidolia and how it is connected to your work?
Pareidolia is what causes us to see animals in clouds or the Man in the Moon. I’m really amused by the way we see things that aren’t really there!
My sketchbook series, which I began in 2013, is an experiment in pareidolia because none of the drawings intentionally look like anything. For every sketch, I start with a random mark that could be inspired by anything I see, feel, or hear. Then I repeat that mark in accordance with some sort of rule (for example, all at right angles or never perfectly straight).
The resulting compositions are surprises to me in the same way that a connect-the-dots drawing is a surprise. Sometimes they look a lot like something recognizable, just like that one cloud that resembles an elephant.
The reason I love the concept of pareidolia is that it’s a universal experience. It can help every one of us appreciate how our brains are meaning-making machines, even when no objective meaning is there. Hopefully, that humbles us a bit.
We understand that you’ve spent a few years living and practicing in Tokyo, Japan. Has living there affected/inspired your creative practice? If so, how?
I am sure Japan had an impact on my work that I’m still discovering. I’ve always had a designer’s eye (I did, after all, spend years in graphic design and fashion design) and I am partial to hard edges and graphic compositions.
The understated elegance of Japanese minimalism was front and center in my mind when I turned to my black and white sketchbook for inspiration.
But, beyond the visual input, was the cultural impact that Japan had on me. I had already been an ex-pat before (living for a decade in France and traveling to many other places), but actually living in Asia added another dimension to my conviction that most beliefs people hold are cultural, not objective truth.
Natale Adgnot, 'Secretary Bird Round', 20 x 20 x 4 in
As it is Spooky Season, do you have any art business horror stories that you have personally experienced? If so, how did you deal with them?
I once sold a large wall sculpture at an art fair in Miami. It was the first time I’d worked at a scale that was over four feet, which meant that the piece had to be shipped in a crate via a standard shipping company. I had been using super glue to adhere all those details to my birch panels and it had worked brilliantly for artworks that were packed up in cardboard boxes with lots of soft padding inside.
As you can imagine, the shippers didn’t handle the crate with care—dropping and banging it along the way—so many of the details popped off of the panel in transit. That’s how I discovered that super glue is too brittle for my work.
After that debacle, I tested a dozen different adhesives by throwing a test panel across the parking lot repeatedly. The ones that held up were the final contenders and I eventually found just the right technique for keeping everything in one piece!
Why did you decide to use Artwork Archive to inventory/manage your artwork?
I had been trying to keep track of my sales and my artworks' whereabouts using a spreadsheet for about two years when I realized that I really needed a database.
Once I decided to use my sketchbook as a starting point for new work, I knew it would be impossible to keep track of hundreds of images without one. I compared several art inventory software solutions and I quickly knew I wanted one that was web-based, not a desktop application. I need to be able to access my information on the fly—sometimes while standing with a collector in the middle of an art fair. I also feel safer knowing that my precious data is in the cloud, not just on my computer.
What I didn’t realize at the time was how many other problems Artwork Archive would be solving for me.
I remember what a pain it was to make price lists and print labels before I switched over to Artwork Archive. Those are a breeze now. There are also moments when I am given hours, not days, to respond to an opportunity and I would never be able to turn around those requests for available artwork in time if I couldn’t simply export a PDF from Artwork Archive.
Natale Adgnot, The Duck Test 2, 11 x 14 x 1.75 in
How do you use Artwork Archive on a daily basis?
Artwork Archive is indispensable for me at this point.
I use it for so many things that I’m logged into my account all day long. I use it to update inventory locations, catalog new work, keep track of sales, invoice clients, and manage commissions.
On my website, I embed the Public Pieces section of my profile to display my available work directly within my site. That way, I don’t have to recreate or update that information on my website separately from my archive.
What advice would you give an emerging artist right now?
Build your network all the time and make sure you have a professional presence on the web so you can take advantage of those connections when the opportunity arises.
Even if you only have a handful of pieces you are currently proud of, get them photographed professionally and present them as well as you can on your website or your Instagram.
Post images of your work or your process regularly. That could be once a day, once a week, or once a month, as long as it’s consistent. You never know when the opportunity will knock and you want to be ready!
Natale Adgnot uses Artwork Archive to inventory her artwork, stay on top of customer inquiries, and present her work professionally.
You can make an online portfolio, catalog your artwork, and generate reports like inventory reports, tear sheets, and invoices in seconds with Artwork Archive. Take a look at Artwork Archive's free trial and start growing your art business