Contemporary Charcoals: Marijah Bac Cam

For contemporary artist Marijah Bac Cam, art is a window into the soul. Her works in charcoal brilliantly unveil portions of her personality that resonate on both an individual and universal level. Invoking in her compositions the visual choreography of line, form and colour, Marijah’s works speak to her mastery of the charcoal medium as well as her artful integration of other media into harmonious compositions. Marijah shared with us some insights into her pieces and approach, which is the focus of this week’s blog, part of our “Contemporary Charcoals” series. To see some of Marijah’s work, please visit her Saatchi profile.

Marijah Bac Cam

NITRAM CHARCOAL (NC): If you had only one word to describe your art, what would you choose?


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

MB: I hope my art can communicate the desire to return to basics, to observe nature and consider it from a different angle, that of an introspective outlook rather than that of a superior viewpoint. If my organic lines and abstract shapes can provide a moment of peace and humility before the grandeur that surrounds us, then I think the viewer will have accessed my vision. What moves me is the balance between opposites, contrasting forces, reflection and passion, surface and depth. (See Organic #1 above left)

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

MB: At first it can be a colour choice. The darkness of charcoal expresses the essence of life. To me, the many shades of gray symbolize the passage of time and the diversity of the world. Moving from light to dark, charcoal brings to my work this duality that inhabits me. Also, the matte quality of the material and its erasable character allows me to work smoky nuances. As long as the charcoal remains unfixed I can easily go back on my work. It is ideal for drawing! I mainly use it mixed with other media.

3- Organic Love I.XV.I.XV

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”?

MB: Creating for me is like communicating. It is a kind of meeting which brings together several actors who must succeed in coming to a harmonious agreement. These actors are: colors, materials, shapes, images, lines and so on. I put them on stage and I must arrange a composition within the space, but I also trust my intuition to guide me. These actors have their own words to say too. Each element reacts differently depending on the alchemy that is created in their interaction. Yet I remain master of the work. I orchestrate everyone. I decide whether to saturate or to leave a blank space.... it all depends on the story I want to tell.

4- Organic Love II.XV.I.XV

NC: What’s the best advice you’ve received about becoming an artist?

MB: As far as I can remember, the person who most encouraged my creative side was my father. According to him, even a mundane activity such as peeling a vegetable should be done with enthusiasm and creativity for it to be beautiful to look at and to eat. I have not learned to peel vegetables in a sculptural way but I have kept his message in my heart and try to infuse all my daily acts with creativity and fantasy. An artist is a person who gives a creative meaning to everything he does. Developing this artistic sense into a profession takes time. Only daily work pays off as well as patience, and especially desire. The best advice I received was to do what I had to do without comparing myself to others. I think this has further developed my own style and my own confidence. 

Marijah Bac Cam

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

MB: “The Call Of The Wild” (above) is one of my favorite creations (Oil, Charcoal and Marker on Canvas). It mixes many mediums as well as the figurative with the abstract. The two portraits were drawn with charcoal. I like to use this medium to give a sketch effect on my portraits. As models I chose my son and husband, firstly to symbolize humankind and virility but also to symbolize the passage of time from youth to adult. This painting talks about our primal animal instinct. The stag in the middle can be seen as the king of the forest. The animal is surrounded by graphic organic lines, suggesting nature. The background is in pastel colors, pink and blue representing the feminine and masculine energies in mankind. The instinctive interlacing graffiti, symbolizing the concrete jungle, shows man's own territory being invaded by the organic lines. Nature takes over again. The metaphor of this creation is that even in the heart of the city and modernity, man reacts according to his own self-preservation, like an animal, he is called back by his wild side.

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