In her vivid, sumptuous oil paintings, Chilean artist Alonsa Guevara wishes to celebrate the vast beauty of nature. She gives us the chance to slow down and dive into this world of the senses which she offers to us. In this recent collaboration with Her Clique, three paintings from her Fruit Portraits series have been released as prints, preserving the originals’ beautiful quality while available at an accessible price for a wider audience. We hear from Alonsa about her playful creative practice, the importance of finding joy in the present moment, and gain insight into her inspiration and motivation.
Your paintings are overflowing with life, fecundity, richness; they make you want to dive into them or reach out to touch them. You explore nature and desire in your work, and in turn, seeing your paintings inspires so much desire to look, to explore and to taste the fruit and mysteries you create. What are the themes that inspire you the most at the moment?
Many subjects inspire me. In general, I feel very inspired by the beauty of nature, our connection with it as humans, and the cycle of life that is both ephemeral and infinite at the same time. There is so much beauty around us, and sometimes we get too busy to appreciate or even notice it. Nature has perfect designs, shapes, colours, tastes, smells, textures, and sounds. It gives us many reasons to open our senses to enjoy it.
On the other hand, we as optimistic mortal beings sometimes forget how fragile we are and the fact that we will die one day. So, there are more reasons to enjoy every single day that is given to us. That's why I try to illuminate and focus the attention on those details and moments of mysterious connection with the earth with my work.
What does a day of painting look like for you? Do you have certain routines that you follow each day?
Oh, yes! Routine is the key to my practice. Although I have to say that I was pregnant for the last nine months, so my routine was a little different. And now that I have become a mother, it might change even more. But in general, this is what a painting day looks like.
I wake up between 8h and 9h and have breakfast and listen to the news. After that, I exercise for one hour – either running, weightlifting, or a CrossFit routine. When I’m done with that, I spend around two hours answering emails and Instagram messages, and then I prepare colours, brushes and I start my painting flow. From 12h to 14h, my husband and I make a healthy lunch (we love all kinds of vegetables) and spend those two hours together. I have dinner at 19h or 20h, and then do whatever I want until I go to bed around 22h or 23h – yes, I sleep a lot!
Sleep is one of the most important things that humans can do to keep their bodies and minds healthy, so I sleep as much as I can. And I’m glad that I did because now, with a baby, sleep is absolutely not the same.
Her Clique works to “promote women artists, to make fine art accessible to all, while supporting vital non-profit organizations.” What does it mean to you to be collaborating with them as an artist?
I am very excited to be working with Her Clique for this collaboration. I love their focus on promoting women artists, and I'm proud that they gave me the opportunity to be part of this group of outstanding female artists.
Also, I've wanted to make a series of prints for a long time, so I could have a body of work that could be more accessible. Because one of the things that makes me very sad about the art world is the fact that so few people can afford to purchase art from galleries. It makes sense that some artworks are priced high because some pieces take a long time to complete. In my case, some pieces take me around two months to create from beginning to end, so I have no option but to charge more. But with these limited edition prints that Her Clique and I are offering, we can open doors for more people to acquire a piece of my work that looks just like my paintings with all the brushstrokes and details. Plus, whoever decides to purchase these prints will be supporting low-income students to pursue their dreams of developing their art skills in New York City.
Your limited edition of prints with Her Clique feature a kiwi, a pomegranate, and a clementine. Why did you choose these for the collaboration? Can you tell us more about what these specific fruits mean to you?
I chose these three fruits mainly because they are very different from each other in colour, pattern, texture, taste, and smell. They are also very common worldwide. The kiwi is originally from China, then travelled to New Zealand. The pomegranate has grown in the Mediterranean regions since ancient times. And the clementine is a more contemporary fruit, a hybrid between a mandarin and an orange that is being exported to many countries around the world. Plus, it resembles an orange, and everyone knows oranges.
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At first glance, these prints appear tangible and ready to eat, they are so richly detailed. The initial hunger for the fruit allows the viewer to reflect on their associations and memories inspired by the painted form. Does this allow for a deeper exploration of desire?
Yes, the prints have all the details and juiciness that the original painting and the fruit itself have. My aim is that with these prints, the universality of our relationship to foods from the earth will connect with people everywhere in the world. Each fruit will bring memories of its smell, the places where it was seen or tasted for the first time, and all of the complex emotions that come attached to the feeling of enjoying a bite of nature. I’m hoping that when viewers see these works, all their senses get involved.
The look of the fruits turn on the memory of their smell, then taste gets activated, and even the feeling of their textures, creating a multi-sensorial experience. We are all drawn to fruits, and especially an open one! Also, I hope after having one of these prints hanging on your wall, you will never see a pomegranate, kiwi, or clementine in the same way.
With a portion of the sales from your series with Her Clique going to a non-profit of your choice, could you tell us more about the personal significance of being able to give back to low-income international students at the New York Academy of Art?
I want to support new artists to pursue their dreams of coming to New York to develop their passion for art. And I want to focus on low-income international students because I would love to help to make this world a little more diverse and mixed, where people can learn from other cultures, and at the same time, support someone that needs help. If I hadn’t received the economic help, scholarships, and awards that I got to do my Master of Fine Arts, I would not be here answering this interview.
Also, the New York Academy of Art is a great school. I would say that it's the school with the best graduate program in all of NYC. The NYAA community is just like a family. The teachers are amazing artists that show their work all over the world, so you can get to learn not only technique but also how the art world works. And last but not least, the NYAA gives their students many opportunities to showcase their art and sell it during the two-year program, which is incredibly helpful when you need some income to survive the city.
The vibrant, lush influence of your childhood in the Ecuadorian rainforest and your connection to the earth shines through in all of your work. Did you begin painting while living there or later in your life? How much do your memories of this time influence your work?
I lived in Ecuador from 5 to 11 years old, and then my family and I moved back to Chile, where I am originally from. Since I was very little, I was pretty creative and artistic, making drawings, sewing, playing music, and painting. It was one of the ways that I entertained myself back in the jungle.
But when I was 12 years old in Chile, my grandmother introduced me to oil painting, and since then, I have never stopped. My grandma taught me everything from cutting the wood to make frames, stretching and preparing the canvas, to colour mixing and brush use. The memories of my childhood in that jungle and in all the other places that I've lived, which have always been surrounded by nature, have stayed with me until now.
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Currently based in upstate New York, I wonder how much your physical surroundings influence your paintings or whether you draw more from an imaginative internal landscape and memories?
Being up here in the Catskills has been a gift for me, especially during Covid-19. It has been a relief, and definitely, it has helped to calm the anxiety of this crisis. Before moving upstate, I went to Chile for six months, where I made a body of work of nocturnal jungle scenes inspired mainly by imaginary landscapes and memories.
What is your favourite medium to work with? Are there techniques or materials you would like to explore in future?
My favourite medium to work with is oil paint by far. It gives me the flexibility and texture that I need for my work, the freshness of colour, and because it dries very slowly, it gives me the time to keep painting wet on wet. There are many other materials that I like to explore, and I do it all the time.
I wanted to try watercolour, and I did. I wanted to make mixed media sculptures, and I made a whole body of work with clay, wood, fabric, and organic materials. I wanted to make a quick drawing with colour pencil and markers, and I filled up a couple of sketchbooks with them. I don’t limit myself to anything because, for me, trying new things is playtime!
It seems as if the choice of fruit and flowers conjure their own secret stories through their arrangement on the canvas. Is this something you plan or does it naturally emerge?
I do plan a lot of them. I get fruits, vegetables, and flowers from different places, and then I create the setups on the floor to take pictures that I then use as a reference for my paintings. Sometimes with models that I decorate surrounding them with these natural objects, and sometimes I design mandalas only with the fruits, veggies, and flowers.
What comes naturally is the fact that depending on where I do the photoshoot, there are only some fruits, veggies, and flowers available in each season. Also, I've done these setups and photoshoots in Chile, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, and here in New York, so the produce is always different.
As you often create a series of art, exploring a certain style, theme or subject matter, is there any future series you are especially excited to begin?
Yes! I have been working on a new body of work that is going to be shown at Anna Zorina Gallery in January 2021. It involves similar ideas from my other pieces but has a different aesthetic. There will be a lot of symmetry and a lot of patterns inspired by visions from meditation and plant medicine. Also, now that I have become a mother, I'm already planning to make some self-portraits and develop a strong theme about Goddesses, myths, and fertility.
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