The beautiful, exaggerated figures depicted in the large scale canvases of artist Cristina BanBan are portraits of the society in which she lives; scenes of the everyday - the banal - which she manages to bring to life through her appetising colour palette. BanBan creates intimate moments between each of her subjects; from a man and woman washing one another in the bath (Lovers in the Bath, 2018) to a mother cradling her child (Mamas, 2018). Yet paradoxically, many of her scenes emphasise the contemporary phenomenon we have become accustomed - multitasking - thanks to the birth of technology and the restlessness it provokes. We see this in Carbonara Text (2018), where the female figure, distracted by her iPhone, attempts to eat her pasta. BanBan’s curvaceous and exaggerated depictions of women should be acknowledged for the positive messages they project around body image. As seen in Sunset con las chicas (Sunset with the Girls), 2018, where a group of bikini clad women pose confidently and unapologetically, their postures and eye contact with the viewer suggestive of their self confidence paired with their enviable sassiness.
Since moving to London from Barcelona in 2012 BanBan has gained notable recognition within the emerging contemporary art scene. In the last year, her work has been shown at Art Brussels with her represented gallerist Kristin Hjellegjerde and was recently included in the group show Extra at New York’s The Hole alongside artists that include Fernando Botero, George Rouy and Monica Kim Garza. Coeval spoke with the fiery Spaniard about her inclusion in the 2017 Royal Academy Summer Show, what she enjoys listening to when working in the studio and about her next solo show dedicated to works on paper.
How long had you been living in London before you were selected for the RA summer show and how do you feel your inclusion in the show has impacted your career as an emerging artist living in London?
I had been living in London for almost five years. I started painting again in 2016 after doing some commercial work -that wasn't for me at all. I applied for the first time to be included in the Summer Show in 2017 and was accepted first time. Winning the Royal Academy Arts Club Prize, which is awarded to an artist under the age of 35 was the icing on the cake. When it comes to the exposure the show gave me, undeniably it was a lot. It is one of the most visited exhibitions in the UK! I had a number of studio visits, these subsequently lead to sales, exhibitions and other collaborations.
How would you compare the contemporary art scene in Barcelona to London?
Back when I was living in Barcelona I wasn't that involved in the Art scene as I was teaching then, so I can't not give you a proper insight on this. Nowadays I try to be connected with my motherland by exhibiting with local galleries and working on commissioned projects, but really my focus is on London as it is here that my career took off.
You always listen to music when working in the studio - do you have a favourite song/band/DJ/musician?
I do always play loud music while working and the selection varies a lot depending on my mood. It can go from flamenco, salsa, post-dubstep, hip hop or house music from the 80s. Recently Mr Fingers, Nathy Peluso, Fania All-Stars, Grandmaster Flash, The Space Lady and Morton Garson (at the end of the day) can be heard from down the hall of my studio.
The women you depict in your work are always beautifully curvaceous and seem more than comfortable in their own skin - is this a conscious effort to advocate female empowerment?
I believe that people should feel comfortable with their own body no matter what size they are. For me, beauty is subjective and very much in the eye of the beholder - no matter what size, gender, age you are, beauty is always present, it just shows its self in different ways.
You have a very strong presence on Instagram with a large following - can you tell me about your relationship with the online platform, do you find that you have to maintain/project a certain image?
I use Instagram as a platform to show my work and I certainly think it was very useful at an early stage to promote me and the art. I think it is fun, I find lots of inspiration from instagram and think it is an important place to connect with people. But I also believe it can be quite distracting and that painting should not only be seen through our iPhones and tablets, painting needs the time and space that it deserves - it needs to be seen in the flesh to be fully appreciated!
You are currently exhibiting in the group show ‘Extra’ at The Hole NY, can you tell me a bit about the theme of the exhibition?
“Extra” is a very fun show that celebrates womanhood. The polka dot patterned walls present the viewer with19 paintings from emerging and established artists that explore femininity by depicting women that are large in body, spirit or both! This summer show pushes the viewer to think about how women’s bodies have been represented or stereotyped thought the history of art and painting.
What else will you be working on this year?
I am working on a big commission for a private collector and am exited to be working towards my next solo show with The Dot Project who have recently changed their trajectory by moving from the more traditional gallery model of the ‘white cube’ to providing a more intimate, by appointment only programme within a domestic setting. Rather than creating my more traditional canvas works I will be presenting works on paper, which is a first and something I am really looking forward to working on. We will be hosting a few events during the exhibiting so keep an eye out on Instagram!
Do you think you will ever work in a different medium or are you happy working specifically with canvas?
I like shifting from painting to drawing as it changes the process. For my solo in TDP I am working in only work on paper which is pushing me to rediscover drawing again, a much more immediate way of applying colour that also requires faster decision making. I think it is very important to explore new ideas and mediums to keep developing as an artist and avoid duplicating work.
If you could collaborate with any other artists who would it be?
Dale Lewis, Lou Fratino, Genieve Figgis, Mernet Larsen.
Your titles seem to reflect contemporary youth culture - how do you come up with these?
I pick titles as I pick the colours.
Are there specific themes that you explore in your work?
Personal stories, being in your own head, the idea of motherhood, relationships, beauty and ageing.
Images courtesy of CRISTINA BANBAN
words LARA MONRO
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