Contemporary Charcoals:
The Work of Marion Costentin

Continuing our new “Contemporary Charcoals” blog series, up this week is the showcase of the remarkable work of artist Marion Costentin. A native of France who is currently working in Berlin, Germany, Costentin’s emotionally evocative charcoal compositions bear reference both to nature and the self, resulting in striking pieces with universal appeal. In this installment, Costentin was kind enough to share some insights into both her artistic approach and her passion for charcoal. For more of Costentin’s works, please visit her Saatchi Art profile page here.

New Day - 2014 copy

Nitram Charcoal (NC):If you had only one word to describe your work,
what would it be?

Marion Constantin (MC): Dark. But for me, darkness does not have a negative overtone. It is simply the part of ourselves that is made of all our fears, bad memories, and the painful emotions attached to them. Acknowledging, accepting, and learning to love my shadow side is the nerve of everything I create whether it be a drawing, a poem, or a photograph.

NC: What drew you to working with charcoal? What advantages do you think it has over other media?

MC: I was given charcoal for the first time in an art class; I must have been 8 years old. I remember feeling confused by that little piece of burnt wood capable of tracing such dark lines I was having so much trouble erasing. I didn’t understand I was supposed to draw the shadows to make an image appear. Today charcoal retains a magical quality for me. Its occult symbolism seduces me the most: it is the powerful union of Earth and Fire, a symbol of purification and transformation, two themes that are very dear to me.

NC: The artist has to choose when a work is “done”. How do you know when
a work is complete? How do you know when to stop “editing”?

MC: It is a strange sensation. It’s almost as though invisible hands grab me by my shoulders to stop me from going back to the paper. My inner self knows when to stop; I’ve learned to trust it.

NC: What is your most unusual quirk or ritual when working on your art?

MC: I meditate or say a little prayer before I start, sometimes I’ll even light a candle or smudge my workspace with palo santo. I am prone to self-doubt and I need to feel safe so I can create in peace.

Past-Lives---2012

NC: What’s the first piece of art you’ve ever created? What did you learn from it?

MC: One piece made all the difference. It’s called Past Lives. I made it 3 years ago after an experience that changed my life and the way I saw myself. After drawing it I knew that making art was my true calling, and I never looked back.

NC: Can you tell us more about one of your favorite creations? Where did you create it? Does it have a story attached?

MC: Mis manos son tus manos. I created this piece recently in Berlin, where I live. I love it very much. It is a self-portrait with a surrealist feeling to it. It’s about the anguish and heartache that come with finding your identical soul mate, and the lingering fear of losing them. I torture myself with thoughts of love and death; I must be a romantic.

Mis-manos-son-tus-manos-2015

NC: What do you hope your works communicate to the viewer?

MC: I hope they trigger an emotion, it doesn’t matter which kind as long as they feel something. I hope some of them find the courage to follow that feeling and dive deeper within themselves. I’m only here to guide, not to bring answers 




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Alexis Culotta

Alexis Culotta

Alexis Culotta holds a PhD in Art History and lives in Chicago with her husband and two children.