Kora Moya Rojo: The Hive

Kora Moya Rojo

Artwork’s Title: The Hive

Material Used: Oil and acrylic on canvas

Studio Based: London, UK

Kora Moya Rojo, ‘The Hive’, Oil and acrylic on canvas, 152.4 x 121.9 cm

Can you tell us about the process of making your work?

Before the pandemic, I either drew on a sketchbook or sketched straight onto the canvas but since being stuck at home without access to my studio, I decided to try new techniques and started sketching digitally with an iPad. I love how much can be done and how quickly things can be changed around with it!

My current creative process is quite methodical. It usually starts digitally: sketching an idea that is buzzing in my head, researching about a subject that intrigues me, or drawing random shapes until they start to make sense. At this stage, the colours and composition of the works take shape, so I pretty much create the painting digitally before painting it physically! 

When moving on to the canvas, there are always alterations that don’t match with the digital version of the painting, as I also like to leave room for experimentation.

How would you define your work in a few words (ideally in 3 words)?

Eerie, symbolic and vibrant.

You were recently taking part in a group show, ‘Realities’, at Artistellar gallery in London. Could you talk about your new works that you were showing there?

Yes! ‘Realities’ was a wonderful pop-up group show curated by The Artistellar; it took place in London from the 2nd until the 5th of December, and it can still be seen online on Artland.

The three paintings in this exhibition are ‘Black Sand’, ‘Gorillas in the Hallway’ and ‘Ruins’. The first two take autobiographical inspiration from my childhood and teenage years. From the box of matches to the apricots, all the elements in those paintings reference a specific point in time and the objects that were present in my life. 

During quarantine, I found myself revisiting memories and travelling back to those times, particularly remembering the summer holidays when I’d visit the fishing village in which my grandad lived. By recalling nostalgic experiences long past and gone, (with the purpose of) I found an avenue to disconnect from the reality we were all living in.

‘Ruins’ is my most recent work. I started sketching the idea for this painting in August but I didn’t start painting it until November as I felt that the drawing needed to rest before I started painting it. The inspiration to create this one came after a trip to my hometown, (Cartagena). Having grown up in a city that’s built on top of ancient Roman ruins and breathable history around every corner really made me appreciate archaeology, architecture, and the past. I conceived this piece as a diptych because I wanted to reinforce two worlds colliding: factual archaeology and fabricated memories. In it, I included amphora remains, artefacts and underwater findings from in and near my hometown. 

In the same way that ruins deteriorate, memories also crumble with time, becoming fragile and slightly mutating each time they are revisited.

Could you share with us some insights on your ‘The Hive’, (2021) painting? Is there any particular story behind this new work?

‘The Hive’ was made in response to a weird dream I had a few months ago. I rarely remember my own dreams, but this one was very vivid, so I wrote it down as soon as I woke up! There were a few details from it that caught my attention, particularly the bees, the dead fish, and the water.

After reading more about these elements, I found out they related to subjects that I had been working on in recent artworks. The fish were widely spread symbols in ancient cultures all over the world and are associated with fertility and femininity. In the same way, since water brings life, all the creatures living beneath its surface also symbolise fertility, birth, and rebirth. As for the bees, their crucial role in the pollination of flowers also associates them with fertility and sexuality. Somehow, it all clicked and made sense to me!

After analysing both personal and social experiences, I’ve become interested in contemplating and questioning what it means to be feminine. How the female body is seen as a reproductive machine. Feeling the weight of society pressuring women and telling them what to do with their bodies as if it was a ticking bomb. The judgement after the choices some of them make, whether they want to go child-free or not. All this led me to make the central figure in the painting. It depicts the body as a home, as a safe space. However, the presence of the bees is represented as intrusive characters. Even though they’re not welcome, they can’t help but try to sneak inside without permission.

I wanted ‘The Hive’ to be about freedom while representing the body as this majestic and powerful force that can’t be destroyed.

Have specific artworks been created by random experiments in your studio or do you usually come up with a particular concept or narrative in the very beginning of your artistic process?

A large part of my process involves researching and reading about the subject that moves me at that moment, and then an artwork emerges from it. The more I know about it, the easier it is for me to translate it into my own visual language. For example, after visiting Paula Rego’s exhibition at the Tate Britain earlier this year, I felt the urge to learn more about the term and meaning of ‘hysteria’, which led me to develop a series of paintings about it.

Even though investigating is a big part of my creative process, every now and then I like giving myself the time to get out of my comfort zone and create without really knowing what’s going to come out of it.

Your body of work seems to reflect some visionary, dreamlike or even subconscious visions on your canvases. As an artist, do you feel attracted by the attributes of the neo-surrealism artistic genre?

I’ve consistently found the surreal movement to be very interesting and distinctive. I love how it habitually relies on the subconscious to express concepts and how it breaks formal rules in order to transform things that at first don’t make sense in a way that seems logical. I like that freedom of creating your own language and utopia.

In my work, I try not only to represent but also mutate everyday objects or personal experiences, so I’m constantly combining the real with the imagined. It’s like having a never-ending conversation with the two.

Vivid tonalities such as fuchsia, purple or blue dominate your recent imagery; have these hues incited a more meaningful side to you?

Yes! I tend to lean towards blue and pink tones. There’s something very harmonic about those two together. I just love how they complement each other! 

Throughout the last year, my palette has changed drastically. Before I started working digitally, I used to go for a darker choice full of greys, purples and muted blues, even though I’ve always felt inclined by colourful things and vibrant tones. It wasn’t until then when I decided to completely go for it and head towards a different direction with my colour choices.

Is there any particular theme that utterly triggers you to engage your art with?

There are definitely themes that boost my inspiration and make me want to create. Some of them being nostalgia and memories, womanhood and fluidity, or national identity and personal displacement.

What would be the best way to exhibit your work?

Since my paintings are usually very colourful and detailed, a white cube space is always a good option to make the colours stand out and draw attention towards the paintings. 

Having said that, I also love spaces that have a strong personality. For example, the location where ‘Realities’ took place was very peculiar. The exhibition was divided into two spaces. The first one had a bricked wall and a beautiful antique cabinet next to the paintings ‘Black Sand’ and ‘Gorillas in the Hallway’, creating an interesting contrast between the vibrant colours of the work and the antique wood of the surroundings. In the second one, the painting ‘Ruins’ was hanging over a large glass window that let the light shine through, giving it an aquatic effect. 

In the future, I’d love to work in dialogue with spaces in a way that my work can also react to them and be made to fit the space.

Can you mention any artists you, lately or generally, take inspiration from?

I’ve always felt fascinated by Hieronymus Bosch’s paintings. The fact that he came up with these beautiful yet bizarre scenarios at such an early point in time blows my mind! I could look at his paintings for hours, especially ‘The Garden of Earthly Delights’. Women surrealists like Kay Sage, Leonora Carrington, Dorothea Tanning, Leonor Fini (just to name a few) have also been a strong source of inspiration for my paintings.

What about the place where you work? What does your studio space look like?

My studio is in North London. It’s quite spacious, so I can make big paintings and also store them there. I’m definitely not a messy artist. I like things tidy and clean whenever it’s possible. If things get too chaotic, I can’t work properly and get easily distracted.

The studio is divided into the storage area, where I keep older works and finished paintings, and the working area, where I paint and sketch. I prefer not to surround myself with finalised paintings while I work on new pieces since I don’t want to compare them or affect how I might approach the painting process.

What do your mum and dad think about your art?

They seem to really enjoy what I do, particularly when it comes to the colours in my paintings. In addition to having a passion for drawing and painting, my mum also makes crafts, especially knitting. In fact, she’s currently working on a small series of soft sculptures that I designed, so hopefully we’ll release them in the near future! My dad is really interested in music. He’s always loved playing drums and actually was part of a band when he was young. You could say I come from a creative background! They’ve always been very supportive and I feel very grateful for that.

What are your plans for the near future?

I would like to expand my practice towards the three-dimensional field through the incorporation of ceramic sculptures and installations. The ceramics will extract elements from my paintings, creating a union between the two different mediums. 

During my recent art residency at Joya: Air (Spain), I created small sculptures by sourcing my own clay. The land where the residency is located is surrounded by natural white clay, so I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to familiarise myself with this material. I also have an art residency at ArtHouse Pani in Mexico coming up in 2022, which I’m very excited about!

Additional Paintings

Kora Moya Rojo, ‘Water that Tastes Like Fruit”, Oil and acrylic on canvas, 76.2 x 91.4 cm
Kora Moya Rojo, ‘Ruins’, Oil and acrylic on canvas, 100 x 200 cm
Kora Moya Rojo, ‘La Virgen de la Cueva’, Oil and acrylic on canvas, 152.4 x 121.9 cm
Kora Moya Rojo, ‘The Nest’, Oil and oil pastels on canvas, 76.2 x 101.6 cm



All images courtesy of the artist

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