When walking along Barcelona’s most famous designer shopping street, you can’t help but being amazed by the well-created window displays that draw you into the world where fashion and art meet. So there’s no need to say that when French boutique store Hermès opened its new window display in Barcelona on the 15th of September, many people stopped by to take a photograph. We were there as well, and talked to the artist Luna Paiva about the inspiration and thoughts behind her amazing work.
Hermès is known for its creative window displays. You already collaborated with them back in 2013 for the Buenos Aires store – what is working together with this high-end retailer like?
Working together with Hermès is a great opportunity, because they always help you push your ideas to perfection. They have a clear vision and a lot of experience as well, so it’s something that enhances the whole working process and pushes you to do better.
Do you start off with an idea and then they help you find a way?
No, they ask you to come up with an idea for a project, in this case the window, and it has to make sense to the artist and the store – so there’s a balance in the collaboration. That’s the balance you always need to focus on, which is what makes it a successful partnership. There’s always a good balance between the art project and the products of Hermès.
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This year’s theme of the Hermès’ window displays is Nature at Full Gallop and your biggest inspiration is nature, which is visible in a lot of your dioramas. How do you find inspiration in nature?
I’ve always been very attracted to nature. I was born in France and also spent a lot of time in Spain. Right now I live in Argentina, Buenos Aires, where there is a great variety in vegetation – we have a tropical climate in the north and icebergs in the south. So I’ve always been very curious about nature and I think that for the window display of the Hermès store in Barcelona I matched Spain and South America, some sort of togetherness between those two natures.
Could you tell us a bit more about the name This is a italicDesierto en el jardín behind this shopping window?
I like the name because it’s a contradiction, a desert in the garden. I made two opposite natures match –the South American and the Spanish–, so the name is a contradiction and also a parallelism with the concept of the plant display. 
What techniques do you use to make your work seem so realistic?
I have been a photographer since I was 20 years old. It was also at this point in my life that I started sculpturing. When Hermès asked many artists to show a project in order to choose a person for the final window display, I wanted to do something different. I wanted to show photography, but in a different, more theatrical way. My first Hermès display in Buenos Aires had a jungle photograph in the back and layers of hand-cut paper plants in the front to make it look like a diorama. Thanks to Hermès I started this experience of dioramas, this 3D photography kind of sculpture made me realize there was something going on – like a dialogue between the different elements.
You are a photographer, sculpture maker/artist. Is there anything you enjoy doing the most or is it the combination of these things?
I think photography is something that inspires me a lot – it’s my natural way of looking at things. So when I do sculpture, I’m very realistic, I try to make it look like a photograph. It is something I can’t avoid. I’m actually trying to break that now, which is a really interesting challenge as well. It would be the next step, trying to make shapes that are not realistic.
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Is there a signature element, material and/or technique that is visible in all your work?
That’s a good question! I ask myself if I have a signature as well. I have lots of interests and I have done a lot of things: film, set design for opera, sculpture, photography… So I guess and I hope there is something in common between all of them. But looking back at everything I do, you realize there’s always nature and it’s always about trying to find some kind of crack or imperfection in it.
Most of your artwork has a story. Even simple everyday living forms that are often overlooked are put in a new light by your hands (e.g. Luck Plant). Is that one of the reasons why you became an artist – to communicate stories?
Yes, you were asking me before how I ended up doing these kinds of shapes and I can remember now. I started doing a series of photographs of plants in lobbies of apartments and in streets, and I like this mix between architecture and nature and how they try to embellish offices, dark lobbies, or ugly spaces. I really like this contrast between the beauty of a plant and small spaces like I just mentioned. And that’s how I started to look at plants, through photography. In Argentina you find all these lobbies with bronze details, so I think that all those things started to merge and form a story together.
You have spent your youth in both France and Argentina. What is the difference between being creative in these countries?
I studied art history and archeology in Argentina, but my father used to live in France and also here in Barcelona. After my studies I started working in theater and film in Paris, but even though I was born in France, I always felt that Argentina was “coming back” instead of “going to.” I’m very much inspired by South America: the nature, the way people live… I think people are very open-minded there. Buenos Aires –where I live– is a chaotic city, but also very inspiring. I find it hard to imagine myself living somewhere else. However, Barcelona is also a city I really love – for some reason I feel like I belong here as well. I’m 36 now and there hasn’t been one July in my life that I haven’t spent in Spain (Barcelona area). This is the only other place I could think of working at, so it’s been great to work on the shopping window for the Barcelona store of Hermès.
So in France you couldn’t find that many inspiring places?
Living in France was part of another phase of my life. I was very young and I was studying. It was that moment in life where I was not so sure about what I was going to become. And then, when I came back to Argentina it was like a revelation, I knew that I had to be a photographer at that time. One thing led to another and now I ended up doing sculpture, combined with photography. I think Hermès is also very inspired by Argentina; their concepts are very natural and real.
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Your husband (Leandro Elrich) is also an artist. In what way does creativity have an influence in your daily family life?
For some reason I think that there’s no other way to live, because my father was an artist, and then I met Leandro, who is an artist, so I have no idea what it’s like to be with someone who is not into art. I wonder what it would be like being with someone that talks about something else. It’s not that we always talk about art, but we help each other a lot in different stages of the creative process. I think it’s easy to be with someone that is creative as well.
Children are the freest creative spirits. Do your children inspire you? How?
Yes, of course! I am very interested in the way they look at things, I show them what I’m doing and, if they like it, it means it’s good. Children look at things with no prejudices or any information, and it’s also great being to work together with them. They’re actually doing the same thing – they can draw with me. So we’re often working together, or playing together, it depends on how you look at it.
Are there any special collaborations or dreams of projects that you would like to do in the future?
Dreams… a lot! When I did the window for the store in Buenos Aires, they asked me to do the set design for the Opera, which was in Teatro Colón, the most important theatre in Buenos Aires. So my window display led to the set design and then the opera (plus set design) got invited to New York. This proves that you never know –one day you’re doing an artist window, and then it ends up bringing you to an opera in New York. So I think I go with the flow, I feel like when you are trying to do your best, things start to happen and go in the right direction. Answering your question: I don’t really know. I loved the experience of the opera and I’m planning on doing another set design next year. It was a really great step for me to tell a story, so I think that would be some kind of path I would like to walk.
One final question, is there one story you want to tell in all of your artworks, something you want to bring across with everything you do?
I am very inspired by all the restrictions you get — in the case of this Hermès window display they say, “the window measurements are this”, “the subject is nature at full gallop”, and “it needs to be done in this amount of time”. This inspires me, because when there is a lot of freedom you get lost easily, at the end it would work against you.
Every project has its own obstacles and each obstacle inspires you to do something else. Maybe at the end of the day you are telling the same story but in a totally different way. I guess I will find out a returning story in my work in some years, I don’t know it yet.
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