Artist Nuria González Alcaide shares how she has awoken and unleashed her inner artist after years of “following the line”. Nuria draws on society for inspiration; her project ‘When you pretend…’ explores themes of compliancy, pretence and solitude, when we feel the need to hide or mask our emotions to conform. Art is a tool for self-exploration; she goes beyond her perfectionist tendencies and allows her emotions to pour onto the canvas. In our chat she shares her studio rituals, creative process and her dreams as an artist.
Society has taught us to pretend that everything is perfect, with this collection I want to show that visible perfection is only an imperfection of society.
Talk to us about your art journey, have you always known you wanted to create art?
I have always painted and drawn, but only as a hobby. At school, it was my best subject, but no one guided me to make the best of it, so I did not give it importance. What they really highlighted was my “not good enough” marks in maths or chemistry. I never considered the possibility of studying Fine Arts at University, because it was instilled in my mind that it was something I could never achieve. I kept drawing when I had some time, but never with that professional view.
It wasn’t until the pandemic exploded in March 2020 that I started to think about whether what I was doing was really what I wanted. I started to feel uncomfortable at work (I have been cooking for five years in Michelin star restaurants) and it’s not been until February 2021 that I decided to leave my last profession and focus on what I really wanted to do: to become an artist as a painter.
My inner artist knew I always wanted to create art, but society and education led me astray; I found myself swept away by the tide of society.
How does society influence your art? Where else do you draw inspiration from?
After this challenging journey of becoming an artist, I realised I could use all those hidden emotions to create and express myself. No one had ever told me to follow my heart and, with consistency and perseverance, achieve anything I wanted. Instead, I felt that I had to follow a line and if I didn’t, I would be no one. Automatically my brain decided to say “no” to art, and now that I’m finally awake, I’m starting to realise that there are a lot of people out there trying to follow the line. How do those people feel? What do they feel every day? Why can’t they wake up like I did? So, while I create, I think about those people and the emotions they face every day. I’m working on a project where I want to ask different people about this and express that with my paintings.
Other inspirations come from my relationships; my friends and family telling me about their lives. Also, my background working in restaurants; by cooking at a high level of cuisine, “perfection” is a subject that is always on the table, so you become obsessed with that.
I am also inspired by artist Joan Miró, who was a little anti-society’s rules, and Vincent Van Gogh. The use of colour is very important to me and right now I only create with the three primary colours (yellow, magenta and cyan) plus white and black; I feel you can create every colour and emotion with only those combinations. I take inspiration from concepts that I feel curious about: light, darkness, the meaning of a line or a dot, the vacuum… I’m still exploring myself and abstract painting has given me the possibility to express everything I want.
Tell us about your project ‘When you pretend’ that explores society’s hidden emotions
How many times have you conformed with a situation? How many times have you said “no” or “yes” and you wanted the contrary? I take this to an extreme in saying: this is the meaning of your life. Every life is worth it and if you have a dream, why can’t you get it? A lot of people have given up because society is not telling us to “DO IT!”, instead it’s telling us to “work and produce for me”. So, when a person says “no” to their dream, you don’t know how it may affect their future. Then, different emotions occur; anxiety, depression, failure, frustration or happiness, feeling calm – to follow your dream can evoke emotions that, depending on the whole situation, can not be seen well by others.
I compare it to a zebra crossing in the middle of Tokyo; all the billboards, the noise of car horns, people walking fast and pushing to get to the other side of the crossing, and then, in the middle of that, there is one person that feels anxiety, and they have to hide it because it’s not important in comparison to society’s noise. In my project “When you pretend…” I express that noise and solitude in the middle of a city; the background is the person, and the squares are the lights going on and off.
The stories I hear from friends and family confirms to me that there are a lot of people conforming with their life.
Creation is part of our lives; in the creation is the beginning of everything.
What are some of the challenges you face or have faced with your art? How do you overcome these?
Well, my first and biggest challenge is perfection; I’m am a perfectionist and that causes frustration. I think frustration is an emotion that every artist has to face at some point. Before starting my project on society’s hidden emotions, I was doing animal portraits. That was good, but perfection kept cropping up in my work; frustration was something I had to face every day and then I stopped creating for weeks because of it.
However, I realised I could use perfection as a tool to create; so now, when I’m in front of a blank canvas, I feel the perfection, I go beyond it and then I’m free to create because I have no limit. It’s like meditating, it feels so good.
Walk us through your creative process, what are the different stages of your work?
When I start new artwork, I always clean the studio: I sweep, disinfect, air the sheets and clean the tools. Once everything is in the right place, I can focus on what I want to express. If I‘m working on a specific project, I already know what I want to express so I’m very intuitive and spontaneous (like our feelings and emotions). I just flow with the music and I freely move with the help of the colours and tools. Normally my works are made of layers, so I simultaneously work on different artworks, whilst waiting for those layers to dry.
I’ve realised that I cannot afford to keep buying canvas’ so I’ve started to create sketches so I can explore my abstract paintings without the obligation to make it an original artwork. I like to work on big surfaces, sometimes I feel paper is small, but at least I can create new ideas and experiment with new techniques.
Where and how do you like to work? And do you have any art rituals?
Right now I have the opportunity to use one of my rooms as a studio; it’s like a temple for me. The perfect time to create is in the morning, from 9am to 12pm and after eating from 2pm to 5pm. When I start my journey, I always light one candle, an incense and I play my acoustic playlist to create ambience. If it’s sunny, I open the window because I like to hear the birds; feeling the light on my face and body is an energy that gives me power and creativity. I have the walls and the floor covered with sheets because when I paint it flies all over the place, including me, so I have “painting clothes” that I wear when I work. Also, cleaning and order is part of my creative process, sometimes everything is a mess, and other times I cannot create until I clean and tidy my studio. The most important thing when I work is that I paint on the floor, where I feel connected with what I do.
How does art and creativity affect your overall well-being? And how do you feel when you create?
Creation is part of our lives; in the creation is the beginning of everything. Even when you don’t know, you are creating; when you are cooking your dinner, when you are choosing your outfit, when you think to use a pen or pencil to attend a meeting… creation is in every small detail of life.
I am creativity, I am meant to create; I feel so calm and in equilibrium with myself that I cannot escape that, my day to day has completely changed since I have begun developing my artistic career. I could not be more happy and peaceful with what I am meant to be.
Now that I’m finally awake, I’m starting to realise that there are a lot of people out there trying to follow the line.
What are your hopes and dreams as an artist?
First of all, to be financially independent from my art. When I reach that, I will feel I have succeeded. In the midst of that is reaching clients, collectors and curators, being represented by a gallery and having my art at international art fairs, to participate in collective exhibitions and have my first solo exhibition. To connect with my inner artist and be able to express what I want with my art is the most important, is to show that art is not impossible, art is a way of living and if you want to be an artist it can be possible.
When I become a consolidated artist, I would like to help emerging and self taught artists develop their careers.
What are you working on at the moment?
Right now I’m working on two projects; “When you pretend…” and “Climate change”. The first one talks about what is behind people’s faces. What is behind the city lights. People pretend everyday they are ok, but what happens when the lights go off? Then you cannot pretend to be someone you are not. You have to face your deepest truth. Society has taught us to pretend that everything is perfect, with this collection I want to show that visible perfection is only an imperfection of society.
For my second collection ‘Climate change’ I am working with plastic waste and recycling products to make textures to raise awareness of climate change where forests are on fire, land is burning and leaves are disintegrating.
And lastly, what does art mean for you?
Art is a way of expression. When I paint, I empty myself onto the canvas. It’s a daily practise that I have to do every day, and if I don’t do it for any reason, I will paint the next day with more passion and heart. Art is a way of living; it is connecting with yourself and being able to express yourself with any discipline; music, dance, acting,… I feel so grateful to have this light inside of me and to have the necessity to transmit it to the others. I know I’m at the beginning of my artistic career and I can’t wait to discover what I will become.
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