The bold, thick paint strokes of Cristina BanBan’s paintings offer us a window into diverse and colourful scenes inspired by an amalgamation of the artist’s native Barcelona and her present place of residence, the London Borough of Hackney. Making the move from Barcelona to London, BanBan’s artwork has been formed through a unique lens, leading her to a distinct style that exposes the intimate moments of everyday life such as sharing a conversation on the couch or eating pizza with a friend. Flat planes of colour are built up and layered across her compositions, injecting an energetic spark that reflects the cultural vibrancy and variety found in East London.
Join us as we delve into Cristina BanBan’s artistic practice, as she discusses finding inspiration in the open-minded atmosphere of Hackney as well as her journey in exploration as she develops her unique depiction of the human body.
AMM: You studied art formally at the University of Barcelona. Was pursuing art as a career always the end goal? Did you always consider being an artist a part of your future?
CB: Yes, I always knew that it was what I wanted to do, I’ve been interested in art since I was a child, although I didn’t know that I could make it into a career. I started art classes at 5. I have to say
I didn’t have a clue how to make a living even after I finished my BA, I guess I was still very young
(I was 21!).
AMM: What inspired you to make the move from Barcelona to London?
CB: The main reason was that I wanted to improve my English. I thought that this was important if I was going to share my work widely. I also had the feeling that changing my environment and starting a completely new life would be incredibly helpful for my work. It has been challenging but also good. I have been more focused than ever and been able to work hard without interruption.
AMM: Tell us a bit about your aesthetic development as an artist. Did your process as a painter ever drastically change?
CB: As a painter, I have always studied and drawn the human figure. The teachers on the Fine Arts degree course in Barcelona put considerable emphasis on traditional life drawing with a model, with long drawing sessions and strict discipline. While studying, and after graduating, I spent time teaching. When I moved to London I did some illustration and commercial assignments until I found the time and money to focus again on painting and moved into a studio space. All of this was a very organic process, a natural way of moving myself into a new life.
When I started painting again, it was easy, as if something inside me had suddenly come to life. My style changed and modified with each canvas — the kind of transformation that happens when you take up running, after a month you are much fitter than when you started!
AMM: Were you always interested in the figure? The subjects in your paintings always tend to be large and curvy. Is there a reason behind this stylistic choice?
CB: I find that the best way of telling stories is through people and their bodies, exploring new ways of representing the human body.
AMM: Your paintings appear very textural, as if many layers of paint have been built up. Is this an important component in your work for you? Discuss briefly your process during the creation of a single painting.
CB: I have an image in my head and then I start a new canvas. I don’t follow a strict method, rather
I experiment with whatever each piece brings. The most important thing for me is to have the feeling of painting and loads of energy.
Once I have a clear picture in my mind, I do a quick doodle on a piece of paper so I can remind myself before the composition moves itself elsewhere. Then, I do a simple drawing on the canvas and
I start to paint.
I use different layers and lots of thick paint, which creates texture. I normally start by painting a few blocks of colours, and then I paint over them following the figures and the different elements until I feel there is a balance.
AMM: The scenes of everyday life you paint convey a certain intimacy that feels personal to you as an individual. Are the figures in your work inspired by the people involved in your own life?
CB: Some of the narratives that lie behind my paintings are based on the mood I sense in the street, on the tube, at the market,…sometimes they relate to issues that I hear from friends or social media.
AMM: Do these vibrant, full-of-life environments you create in your paintings reflect your own day-to-day surroundings?
CB: Hackney is certainly a place where in a small area there are many people from different backgrounds. Also the landscape and environment are changing dramatically. This mish-mash of cultures has influenced the full-on canvasses.
Some people have suggested that the brightness of my palette comes from Spain, and I think that might be true, the light there enhances colour.
AMM: You’ve had a couple of solo exhibitions in Hackney, as well as received the 2016 Hackney WickEd Prize. Living in Hackney, do you feel an affinity with East London? Does the community you live in influence the content in your work?
CB: I like to live near the marshes and the canal — they give me a sense of freedom whilst living in a big city.
I have met inspiring people in East London. People who are open minded, artists, musicians, designers…it is an inspiring place to live but also competitive.
And those of us living and working in East London are under constant threat from the astronomic and always increasing prices as our workplaces are replaced by more profitable developments.
AMM: I see your work is included in the Royal Academy of Arts Summer Exhibition. Do you have any other exhibitions or projects planned in the near future?
CB: It has been great to see my work hanging on the walls of the RA and also receiving the Arts Club Prize for the best work by an artist under 35. I am very grateful. I have a couple of commissions and am working towards a solo show in Barcelona at the end of October.
AMM: If you could tell your audience one thing about your artwork before they saw it, what would it be?
CB: I hope my artwork talks for itself!
AMM: What is your biggest fear as an artist?
CB: That my artwork doesn´t talk for itself!
Find out more about Cristina’s work: www.cristinabanban.com
Interview by Christina Nafziger for ArtMaze Mag.