Colombian born artist Alejandra Hernández has a very interesting, intimate and creative way of painting, which makes her works very particular. Having completed her Bachelor in visual arts at Javeriana University in Bogotá, she then moved to Belgium to complete MFA in painting at KASK School of Arts. Painting and drawing have been the main mediums for the artist, followed by external inspirational sources like daily life, music, art history, cinema and mythology. Her way of live portrait painting and a deep connection with her subjects is something many artists still aspire to achieve. By using flashy colors and lots of symbols, Alejandra tries to draw a line between fantasy and reality.
Where did you start from?
Back in Colombia when I was in an art school, I had a very open minded teacher at oil painting class. He gave us lots of freedom and always told us to follow our gut and do our thing. Everything was natural and I was feeling really comfortable while working. My first painting was a self-portrait and from that time on, I guessed that drawing was all I wanted to do. Then, I did my Bachelor in Colombia and for the Masters Course I came to Belgium, where I started working in the broader field of art. I had only small, local exhibitions back in Bogotá but moving to Belgium assisted me to broaden my horizon, meet new people and accomplish my goals. I didn't find a way to continue working and making a living as an artist at that moment, so I decided to move abroad, it happened to be to Belgium.
What are the sources of inspiration for you?
The sources come in different forms. Art is a great inspiration for me and so is pop culture, books, travelling, movies, weather and of course people. But there does not exist any hierarchy, getting inspired is a very intuitive process, I have to filter all the information surrounding me, then something special comes out and I start to paint. Sometimes I even have a weird feeling that art is always one step forward and I have to catch it somehow. Generally I work in different ways, I don’t have any set rules, I love sketching and later adding things up but if I am working on portraits, it’s a totally different case because I have to deal with people, comfort them, take care of them, observe them, communicate with them and, in between all that, paint them. So I have to think and do multiple things together.
Which are your favorite colors?
I like all the colors but mostly I appreciate using palette of yellow and pink. I use lots of red, hues of blue and I also like using shades of green. Sometimes I incorporate black and gold as well, depending on the season and the mood I am in.
Your art is full of symbols, what do they mean?
Lots of them have universal meanings but some have no meaning at all. Some symbols might have different meanings depending on the person’s background, culture, religion, etc. I am letting the observers of my art to think of the meanings by themselves and to create their own stories. I am not teaching anyone anything and am not trying to impose my ideas on them, I am just giving some clues and hints.
What role do women play in your art and what’s your relation to them?
Women have always been central characters in my art, first of all because I have experienced my life as a woman and then I consider them strong and inspiring. Everything I do is very intuitive. I started telling stories of other women through art and at the same time tried to reflect myself. Their experience, their way of thinking and the stories they were telling me while I was painting their portraits, filled me with amazing feelings and positive excitement. All of the women I painted, came from different countries, cultures and backgrounds so the backstage talks were what I appreciated the most. Especially the conversation between us got deeper and more intimate when I started painting them nude. Nudity, collides all the barriers and is very empowering.
What about the men?
The first male person I painted nude was my partner but that of course is different. There still exist many taboos, and men are timid to pose nude, the male characters I have painted already are mostly my gay friends, they were totally open, chill and comfortable, so painting them was a great pleasure. But generally men feel insecure and intimidated about nudity.
You concentrate much on everyday life activities in your art. How does your day look like?
It depends what period I’m in. For example, if you had asked me this question six months ago, I would have told you about my everyday routine as it was then. Specifically, I was working at the studio, I was watching documentaries, doing lots of research, painting until very late, reading books, etc. But now I am in a very different situation and it’s quite complicated. I was married a month ago and my partner and I are traveling all the time. It’s a crazy moment and we have lots of things going on, so at this stage I don’t have that much time to totally throw myself in painting, but at some point we will settle somewhere and I will definitely return to the discipline I used to have (laughs).
How is art industry developing in Colombia?
The art industry in Colombia is going pretty well. There are numerous new art spaces and lots of new artists. There are also many new areas with galleries, exhibitions, workshops and artistic hubs in Bogotá and several other cities. The art scene has had different processes and development than in Europe for many historical, economic, cultural and political reasons.
If you had a chance to change something in art industry, what would it be?
Sometimes art business gets really commercial and trendy. I prefer when people stay sincere and true to themselves. It is very hard to avoid the industry pressure but in the end art is not about the money, even though nowadays there is a market for everything. I consider that having a niche and staying real as an artist and a person is very important.
Do you have any plans for the near future?
I might be having an exhibition this year in Brussels, but it is not sure yet. Other than that, I am going to travel to India and stay there for three months. It is quite a thing for me and hopefully a source of inspiration for my future works.