“I am interested in women’s role in society and change over time, how we perceive that role and what feminism means today.”
Interview by: Isabel Sachs
I recently spoke to an artist who mentioned that it would be nice to start interviews in a more personal way. So I wanted to ask how are you feeling today, about being an artist in this world?
I feel challenged every day. There’s a lot going on in the art world nowadays and I keep finding so many good contemporary artists that sometimes the feeling is overwhelming. But I think its an exciting time, a great moment for painting, especially for women painters that have been underrepresented for so long. There’s still a long way to go regarding exhibitions for female artists but things are starting to happen. Just this year the Tate Britain announced its ‘Sixty Years’ exhibition dedicated to women artists working in the UK, Dorothea Tanning’s show at the Tate Modern and Lee Krasner at the Barbican to name a few. And now the Baltimore Museum of Art announced that they will be dedicating a year of exhibitions to women.
I feel being an artist in this world is not easy for different reasons. At the top of my mind there’s the financial aspect of it (its hard in London to live solely from painting) and then there’s the psychological part of it; going to the studio every day and keep motivated all the time, trying to create no matter what. Ultimately, I think it’s about finding enough freedom to do what I want, what is authentic to me, and find my own language without getting lost in what the outside world thinks. The most important thing for me is to try and do my own thing in the studio and be able to think and create as freely as possible.
Could you tell us a bit about yourself and your background? Where did you study?
I am originally from Buenos Aires, Argentina but left 8 years ago and been living in different cities until I relocated to London almost 5 years ago. I initially studied Economics but as soon as I finished the Degree I started working in film. I then moved to New York to do a Masters in Filmmaking. After working in the industry for a while and having moved to London I decided to pursue Painting. I recently graduated form the MFA in Painting Program at the Slade School of Art.
A lot of your work has mythological/fantastical and animal figures, creating a sort of Urban Folk tale. As you're originally from Argentina, my first instinct was to think about Jorge Luis' Borges fictional taxonomy of animals. Could you give us any insight into why you choose these forms and where does the inspiration come from?
Its funny you mention Borges. I think he’s one of the greatest writers of all time but I haven’t read his book on fictional taxonomy of animals. I am now adding it to my list of books to read. I guess my interest in mythology and fantastical figures started in London, out of an interest in Early Medieval drawings of animals I found in the Margins of the Illuminated Manuscripts in The British Museum. I found them ridiculous and hilarious and their symbolic/narrative quality was quite attractive to me. Back then they used images of animals to tell stories of morale. I did some research and discovered that these stories originated from myths and folk tales. Actually, so much of what surrounds us today (from music, to literature to painting) was initially inspired by these old tales. Take for example the mermaid figure that comes from Greek mythology who inspired Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid which later inspired Disney’s movie. Another example is Tachaikovsky’s Swan Lake where a princess is turned into a swan by an evil sorcerer’s curse. One of the inspirations of the story was a Russian folktale named The White Duck.
What I find interesting to do with painting is not only to explore the idea of storytelling with the medium but to re-use already known motifs in order to tell contemporary stories and concerns. I am interested in women’s role in society and change over time, how we perceive that role and what feminism means today. I think these myths/fairy tales are still relevant today because, while the stories keep transforming, they respond to social needs and values over time.
In that sense, how do you decide on a title for your paintings?
The titles usually come to me either in the middle of a painting or after I finish it. I always have a vague idea of what I want to do. They start around an emotion or a moment I want to project in the painting and as I keep working on them they transform into something else. Most of the times the titles are a combination of lyrics of music I am listening to and phrases of fiction books I’m reading while working on the painting.
You have a business background, moving on to film and then painting. How was this journey of discovering you wanted to be a painter and has any of your previous studies influenced the way you view your practice? And what is it about painting that drew you to it?
Since I can remember I always loved to paint but when I was younger I didn’t think I could become a painter. I guess that comes from the fact that I wasn’t raised in a family of artists (we didn’t even know an artist) neither I belonged to an artistic environment. So my brain wasn’t wired to think I could be one. In my twenties I was lucky enough to study painting with Juan Astica (a Chilean painter) and he was the one that opened my eyes for the first time to the fact that I could be an artist. I then left Argentina for New York thinking I would become a filmmaker but it was actually there that I felt deeply in love with painting. New York is an impossible city to escape art from. While there, I got the filmmaking side of me out of my system.
However, film still didn’t feel to me as creative as painting. The immediacy that the medium of painting has is nowhere to be compared to anything that I know. Its the directness, the impact, the raw instincts and emotions I feel either while working with the medium or while looking at a good painting. I don’t have that kind of connection with any other medium. I then moved to London where I spent a lot of time in galleries and museums while painting and it was then that I decided to formalize my painting studies.
You asked if my previous studies influence the way I view my practice. I think film influenced me a lot. I always loved the idea of storytelling. I started with film and I now continue with painting. My business background only makes me become incredibly aware of how hard it is to make money out of this. But I take that as a motivation. Its weird, sometimes I wish I could have known that I was going to end up being a painter from the beginning so I could have started before. But I guess that finding out what you want to be is as important as the way you get there.
Tell us a bit about how you spend your day / studio routine? What is your studio like?
Right now I’m ‘in-between’ studios. For the past two years my studio was at the Slade and having just graduated, I am subletting a studio for the summer in Brixton. I already found my next one, also in Brixton, at Almanac EU, which is quite exciting. So at the moment my studio is hot and crammed, filled with lots of very large scale paintings I did at the Slade. It’s a good moment for me to try smaller scale paintings since for the past year I’ve been focused on only large ones.
My routine is always the same. I travel from my flat to the studio either walking or cycling and I do admin at the beginning so once I start I only focus on painting and try not to get distracted by anything else. I usually work on one or two paintings at the same time. Not more. Sometimes when I get stuck in one I find it helpful to have another one on the go. But I don’t usually have more than that, I tend to get very fixated in the one I am working on.
What artwork have you seen recently that has resonated with you?
More than an artwork an exhibition. It was Dorothea Tanning’s one at the Tate Modern this year. It actually made me realize I was quite attracted to surrealism which I didn’t think about it before. I enjoyed the way she used her own personal biography as a way of escaping it and how she created her own individual mythology. I enjoyed her puppets/sculptures and the creation of different characters, specially the dog which is recurrent in a lot of her paintings, and subject-matter wise I like the way she questioned the concept of the bourgeois domestic space and the role and form of femininity.
Is there anything new and exciting in the pipeline you would like to tell us about?
There are two possible group exhibitions in London I am working on at the minute and one in Argentina but its too early to give the details at the minute.
All images are courtesy of the artist
Publish date: 21/08/19