Meet Marisa Takal

Marisa Takal’s (b. 1991) paintings have a liberating quality to them. Her canvases oscillate casually between abstraction, landscape, figuration, and text. They are made in an imaginative manner that brings order to chaos; painting colliding worlds with unusual yet intuitive colour choices. Takal illustrates each subject in its right place in blatantly unorthodox categories.

Interview by Paulina Sokolow


How would you describe your paintings?

I make work that is very open-ended. I start my paintings without a set composition and see where they end up, so there’s a layered and improvisational feel to them. They usually turn into some kind of a landscape, oscillating between exterior and interior spaces. Many different environments clash together in one plane in my work. I think about psychology a lot, disassociation illustrated through colliding worlds. I like to create spaces that interfere and are off-kilter, so all of the environments I depict are isolated but together at the same time. I try to create a feeling similar to zoning out of a conversation, having your thoughts run off... being in many different places in your mind at once. The spaces I create can be indefinite, they can be many things – I often describe my work as confusing.

How did you develop your idiom?

I spent a lot of time in rural Pennsylvania when I was growing up. It’s a place that’s very closely connected to my artistic identity. My dad’s parents were artists. My grandmother was a textile and costume designer and my grandfather was a painter and printmaker. They left Europe and settled in this small farm town in Pennsylvania during World War II, after they fled the nazis. I never met them, but their work and stories were around my house constantly. My grandmother made insane illustrations of the most inventive costumes. And really graphic patterns for textiles. My grandfather focused more on realistic landscapes of his rural environment, he barely used colour, and his line quality was so thin. Now that I really think about it my work fits somewhere in between.

Colour is a huge part of my language. I want to create a world of my own and try different things, and colour helps with that. I try out different combinations, and I often use colours that might not be particularly likeable together to communicate this clash of concepts. I always relate making a painting to putting on an outfit. It has to have all the components. The perfect ratio of put together and fucked up. Organized, but slightly off. It’s an unbalanced balance.


And then, you sometimes include text in the works...

Text plays a large role in my work. Writing is my way of sketching. I’m constantly jotting things down on scraps of paper in my studio. Words, phrases, misunderstood song lyrics... I put a lot of emphasis on the titles of my work as well, and usually have a running list that I put together from the text I jot down. I use text to help open up both general and specific reads on my work.

How did you end up in LA?

I moved to New York right after I graduated from art school in San Francisco. I was really unhappy living there. It was hard to make friends and even harder to make work. It was a really cold, snowy, lonely winter. I lived with my sister and her husband for a while. They’re filmmakers and were going to premiere their movie in Austin, Texas that spring and asked me to go. Then they asked me if I wanted to take a road trip from Texas to LA and live with them for a month in a sublet. I missed California so much. I was working these shitty restaurant jobs and thought it would be nice to get out of town. My plan was to just make some work and maybe have a show in my friends living room and head back home to New York after a month. That was five years ago, I never went back. I feel so lucky things worked out.

What motivates you in your artistic work?

Creating disparate scenarios and trying to bring them together in a cohesive way. I like a challenge, a self-induced puzzle. I’m interested in learning and growing, both technically and emotionally. I’m motivated by communicating with the viewer, starting new conversations. I think about my own psychology and how it relates to others; how humans relate. I like to question and relay questions to others simultaneously. How to think about tired ideas in a new way. Exploring and experimenting keep me working, but I never want to get to a point where I know too much. Discovery excites me.