Ivana de Vivanco
Artwork’s Title: Venus and Adonis
Materials Used: Oil on canvas (260 x 240 cm/102.4 x 94.5 in)
Studio Based: Leipzig
Can you tell us about the process of making your work?
Ivana de Vivanco
Oh! It’s always a real fight and this work was not an exception! You know, in a good painting each moment of it has to have its particular melody, tempo and raison d’être in the whole of the composition. Likewise in music, in painting one can also identify those single moments that construct the final picture. The parts that have been painted slowly and delicately as if they were a refined jewel and the ones that were spontaneous and quick coexist on the surface. There are also so many hidden layers of paint, that are necessary to create the final image! The process of constructing a painting is always hard and unpredictable. I don’t have any fixed method. I’m convinced that as soon as the artist gets comfortable with something, a change that imbalances that comfort has to take place. The work of the artist is in this aspect very different from the work of many others. It’s really not about looking for stability in the daily praxis, but about the opposite: it’s about putting yourself into crises permanently. That’s the only way of remaining creative.
How did you come up with this painting idea? Is there any story behind this painting?
At that time, I was completely obsessed with Titian. He was an incredible artist and there’s so much to learn when looking at his paintings. His brush-strokes are enormously sensitive; spontaneous and delicate at the same time! Astonishing! Well, I was looking at his paintings a lot and I couldn’t resist to steal a composition of his. Towards the end of the process I painted two of his masterpieces hanging in the room, as a way of quoting him. I wanted to find the equivaled of a footnote in painting.
What colour is used the most in this painting?
Wow, that’s a hard question, because there are countless colours and lots of them are reached by the superposition of many others. But if I had to reduce the pallet of this painting to one sentence, I would say its light is rather violet and has a cold yellow tint in it.
What would be the best way to exhibit your work?
A bright large space with high ceilings would be great, because the painting is almost 3 meters high! It would be fantastic if there’s room for other works as well; maybe a couple of smaller paintings and some sculptures… But, you know, even though a white cube situation is a guaranteed good “frame” to observe art, I find always exiting to exhibit my works in less conventional places. I have seen my paintings for example in old factory buildings and the result has been surprising!
Can you mention any artists you, lately or generally, take inspiration from?
Oh, there are so many! From the Spanish school Velázquez, El Greco and Goya are absolutely amazing and I will never ever forget the first time I saw their paintings directly at the Museo del Prado when I was 14. Since then, visiting the museum in Madrid has become almost a religious obligation. Every couple of years I plan a pilgrimage to Madrid like an obedient sanctimonious. I’m actually flying to Madrid next week to meet the old Spanish masters! The Venetian school has also taught me so much, especially in terms of colour. And the Flemish primitives! And much later Manet and a bit after him Paula Modersohn-Becker, Brancuși… and more contemporary Balthus, Lucian Freud, Paula Rego, Bacon, Hockney…
Colonial art from the Latin-American Baroque hast also left an extremely important mark in my work. I grew up surrounded by that aesthetic. My grandparents had in their house in Lima a small collection of colonial painting from the Cusco school, that has always left me with my mouth open. I also spent five years of my childhood in Quito, another of the cradles of colonial painting in South America. Recently I have finished to understand that an important part of the dramatic of my work comes from that line in an almost unconscious manner. Last year I travelled again to Cusco to visit the churches and to study with detention the Andean colonial art. Religious paintings and sculptures from the Latin-American Baroque have a sort of twisting, of extreme suffering; they have something excessive and impossible, but that precisely makes them more real than real.
How do you know when this painting was finished?
I think this work was finished after I painted some of its last details; the pearl of the lady, the basket’s plait, the bulb. After completing those elements, it seemed to me, a diversity of rhythms within the picture was finally reached: there were moments that had been painted quickly and spontaneously and others that embraced a very slow time. At the end of the process of Venus and Adonisthe painting had a good melody with its different pictorial codes and timings and after looking at it for hours I just didn’t know what else to do. It’s so hard to know when a painting is finished! I suppose I always abandon them in the end, exhausted after having fought for such a long space of time. Painting is a battle the painter never wins. After so much sweat, struggle and joy one has just made a painting full of mistakes!
What about the place where you work? What’s your studio space look like?
My studio is in an old large building, originally a textile mill that closed down after the fall of the Berlin Wall. With the passing of the years the empty rooms have been slowly appropriated by artists. There are a lot of musicians there as well, so often I hear them practicing while I’m working. I have a big room with high ceilings and two large windows facing the southeast – the reason why I enjoy good light, especially in the morning. I love to work there, even though the space is extremely chaotic at the moment! I have been experimenting with sculpture this year and everything is covered in dust. My studio has become a real building site these days. That annoys me sometimes, because the dust flies all over the place and sticks everywhere… But, you know, on the other hand, that kind of messy “atelier’s aesthetic” fits much better an image of the diligent artist I empathize with. Even though some days I dream of the romantic idea of the painter having an artistic elevation, and even though occasionally I feel like that, I suppose I’m much more like an art-worker who has to wake up early independent of her mood or degree of inspiration, who works with her old boots submerged into construction materials and is exhausted at the end of the day.
Is there any particular message that you wish your viewers can take from this painting?
Definitely, but I think the message is not separable from the painting or translatable into words. Every painting is in a way a message on its own. So, if you allow me to redirect the question to my painting, we would listen a subtle but resolute voice coming out from the canvas saying: l-o-o-k a-t m-e! L-o-o-k a-t m-e a-n-d y-o-u w-i-l-l k-n-o-w w-h-a-t i-s t-h-e m-e-s-s-a-g-e a-b-o-u-t.
What does your mum think about your art?
Oh, my mum is my fan and first patron and she has always supported me a lot! She says that the day she bought me my first box of crayons she knew that I would be an artist. It looks like since I was able to hold a pencil, I never put it down again!
Which exhibition did you visit last?
Last week I visited the exhibition of Nolde at the Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin. It is a very interesting show that explores what happens with artworks, when one observes them having a text next to them. Nolde is a polemic figure in the arts, because of his sympathy for Nazism. It was very hard to read certain declarations by the artist and then just look at beautiful paintings of his. His sentences interposed between us and the paintings, his words stuck to the colours. An observation of the art works overcoming a reproach against the artist became almost impossible. It just didn’t work… so I was there with my boyfriend for almost four hours trying to figure out what does a statement or specific ideology do to a specific painting. Is a work of art independent and in a way untouchable by the political thinking and acting of this creator or it is somehow transformed by them? My experience makes me think that they are indeed transformed, but I’m still far from understanding the complex dialog between politics and art! In any case the exhibition is totally worth it.
Which are your plans for the near future?
Keep working and working and working! Yes, I will keep painting and drawing a lot in the studio and also experimenting with sculpture. I have a couple of exciting shows coming up as well. For example, in January I’ll be showing my work with 4 cool colleagues at the Kunsthalle Darmstadt. I’m really looking forward to that!
© All images are courtesy of the artist