Paris-based artist, Tiziana Jill Beck is fascinated by the role masks play in society. Her practice blends contemporary concerns with the kind of energy that emanated from the kind of drawings that sat on the wall of prehistoric caves, only to be found millenia on. Tiziana’s work draws from daily observations as well as folk art, art history and literature which she transforms intuitively into new compositions to bring about unexpected surprises and new meanings.
Tiziana tells It’s Nice That about a new series of work, Passport de Voyage, inspired by two masks she came across in a Parisian banlieue. On further research she discovers they are so-called “passport masks” originating from Senegal and Mali intended to ward away evil spirits and act as guardians. Tiziana explains that, “one function was to protect the person carrying it and the other was to serve as a passport to identify the tribes or countries of origin when traveling”.
Although the artist knew nothing about who owned the masks, she liked how “these two strangers traveled all the way to France and are now guests in the apartment. I like the idea that masks live longer than their owner”, says Tiziana.
“I have always been fascinated by how masks expose emotional, irrational forces. How they transform oneself into another’s identity or, in the case of the passport mask, how they represent one’s own origin with symbols and colours”, Tiziana says. “Masks play an important role in our society, but today they become invisible due to the anonymous internet. Anyone can put on an imaginary mask and become whoever they want”. These ideas spill through Passport de Voyage as each mask is filled with unique personality communicated through energetic oil stick and pencil marks. The drawings resemble various objects and symbols that inform our subjective understanding of what these masks represent or what they’re attempting to conceal about the wearer.
The series is about “anonymous travellers who are merged with their own masks. No name, no age, no time. Just shapes and colours”. The artist spontaneously experimented with monotype techniques while developing the characters and the series is to be published in an risograph-printed artist booklet. The risograph edition pays particular attention to the painterly textures made through the artist’s hand and layers of rich colour blend together to create one-off textures. Passport de Voyage is a fresh injection to the artist’s lively body of work demonstrating an innate sense of colour and form while inspecting the concept of masked identities that we use to protect ourselves.
About the Author
Jyni joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in August 2018 after graduating from The Glasgow School of Art’s Communication Design degree. In March 2019 she became a staff writer and in June 2021, she was made associate editor. Feel free to drop Jyni a note if you have an exciting story for the site.