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Sunna Wathen: Deia artist inspired by lifeAugust 21, 2015

Sunna Wathen’s show at the La Ruina Exhibition Space at the old bakery in Deia’s Clot which opens on Saturday 22 August at 7PM neatly embodies the connection between her life, work and the village.

Born in Greece in 1964, Sunna spent her childhood travelling with her mother, an artist, and her father, a bagpipe player, poet and mountain climber. From the time Sunna was two, Deia was the place to which the family returned. Today, Sunna calls the village home.

Sunna has a Masters from London’s Royal College of Art and has shown in Berlin, Paris, London and, of course, Mallorca. Her work is influenced by her unusual, diverse upbringing. It combines an eclectic array of materials, including bread shapes baked to form sculptures that look like dried fish, hide, skin, coral, autumn leaves, lace or bone. Sunna’s paintings combine different elements of her work to juxtapose past and present. She’s also used X-rays to make a sail for a boat (one of the most inspired ideas I’ve ever heard). I talked to Sunna about her work, the exhibition and her life in Deia.

Sunna 3

What will you be showing, Sunna?

Most of the work is recent. I’ll be showing 15 big paintings done in the last two months along with others made in Paris and Berlin. The work is mainly abstract with figurative elements. I’m very interested in working on different planes within a painting and using images of elemental beings inspired by my Icelandic heritage. There will be some installations as well as photos of the boat with X-ray sails.

The photos are by Dean Freeman, a great photographer and good friend of mine. We also made a film about the boat. Incidentally, Dean’s father Robert shot the first four Beatle albums including Abbey Road.

Also, my mother worked with felt and made portraits of the man and women who used to own the bakery. I’ll be showing these. So, the exhibition is very varied.

Sunna 1

And what about the exhibition space?

It’s completely Deia history and an incredible space – very unusual. Things like the original shovels for putting bread in the oven are still there. Bread and baking are an important part of my work. I made a complete installation out of bread for an exhibition in Berlin. So an old bakery is perfect for me. I’m the first person to show in the space. It feels great, like it was meant to be.

Jane is planning on ultimately making the place into a home so she’ll probably only have a couple of exhibitions. If people want to see the space in its raw state, they really should come on Saturday.

Where is the old bakery?

It’s down the Clot, just past the refuge Can Boi. The address is 17 Calle es Clot.

Does Deia inspire your work and, if so, how?

At the moment I’m a bit of a bubble, working in a little ivory tower at the top of three floors. It has two tiny windows from which I can see the countryside. I don’t have electricity, water or a clock. I tell the time by the church bells..

I would say that, more than anything else, my work is about life, about energy. I’m not really looking for subjects. I can be inspired by anything. A pile of rubbish in the corner will look like a group of people sitting around and I’ll paint that.

I’m inspired by my house. It was made by my father and is like no other house in the village. The exterior walls are smooth concrete with animals made out of broken tiles on them. My room has a big duck on the outside. The house is a kind of compound of lots of casetas built around the main house, which is one big room with very high ceilings and a balcony. It feels like being on a boat.

Sunna 2

What do you love most about living in Deia?

I love that I live in the house I grew up in and so do my children. It’s great that they feel free enough to safely run wild. All my old friends are here and their children are my children’s friends. We’re such a big family.

The people here are so important to me. When I lived and worked in Berlin it was wonderful but I once realised I’d gone a whole week without laughing. In Deia, I cry with laughter every day.

One of the things I really love is that age doesn’t really matter in Deia when it comes to friendship. It doesn’t matter if you’re six or ninety. Some of my closest friends are much older or younger than me. Also, friendship in Deia is for life, wherever we are in the world. It’s a big wide web.

And, of course, I need the sea, the trees and the mountains. They’re so powerful. I never for one minute get sick of the landscape. I don’t want to be anywhere other than here. It’s such a very high quality of life.

Anything else you’d like to add, Sunna?

Just to say that everyone’s welcome on Saturday at the Jane Winterbottom Gallery from 7PM onwards so I’d love to see you. The exhibition runs until the end of August and I’ll will be there every day.

Thanks for your time, Sunna. I like the work very much.


Dean Freeman’s site

SOS Kids – a film made by Sunna and Dean



Patrick Hill is co-founder, and co-owner, of Charles Marlow with his brother Charlie. He was the first to come from the UK to Deia to start the company. Today, Patrick continues to help set the strategic direction and splits his time between the UK and Mallorca

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