HomeArt is freedom, in every way it exists

Art is freedom, in every way it exists

Elena Gual

Ele­na, born in the beau­ti­ful island of Mal­lor­ca in 1994, is one of the fas­test gro­wing young artists on the natio­nal art sce­ne. She was trai­ned as a clas­sic pain­ter at the Flo­rence Aca­de­my of Art, fol­lo­wed by pres­ti­gious  our­ses at Cen­tral Saint Martin’s and the Roy­al Aca­de­my in Lon­don. The artist lives full­time in Mal­lor­ca, whe­re she also has her main stu­dio. Her home­land recon­nects her to her roots and allows her to find inspi­ra­ti­on for the per­fect light and colors of her pain­tings, which are stron­gly influ­en­ced by the Medi­ter­ra­ne­an ambi­an­ce. “I star­ted pain­ting when I was very young. I grew up as an only child, so I spent most of my time in after-school acti­vi­ties, one of them being fine arts. I would say I’ve been pain­ting sin­ce I was about six years old. But it was during my gap year, at the Van Gogh Muse­um in Ams­ter­dam, in front of one of his pain­tings, that I rea­li­zed I did­n’t want to be an archi­tect, I wan­ted to be a pain­ter.” The artist expres­ses that her favo­ri­te pain­ters when she was a child are still her favo­ri­tes today, such as Van Gogh and Monet. Ele­na Gual’s aca­de­mic stu­dies allo­wed her to be ver­sa­ti­le and deve­lop many tech­ni­ques, such as char­co­al drawing and oil pain­ting, but she is most pro­li­fic with the palet­te kni­fe tech­ni­que, which per­mit­ted her to estab­lish her own style. She first star­ted using this tech­ni­que due to a strong all­er­gic reac­tion to tur­pen­ti­ne, a necessa­ry pro­duct in clean­ser for paint brushes.

The artist didn’t touch a paint­brush until the second year of Art School. She would spend up to three mon­ths finis­hing a sin­gle char­co­al drawing, try­ing to copy a model posing live or a sculp­tu­re on paper, using only two tones, black and white. At that time, she did­n’t rea­li­ze how important that was going to be for her artis­tic care­er. Gual says “I have worked to deve­lop my own style, stri­ving to encom­pass the basic tenets of aca­de­mic work and clas­sic pain­ters. I attempt to trans­la­te their under­stan­ding of ana­to­my, com­po­si­ti­on and light using my own approach. As a self-taught pho­to­gra­pher, I explo­re the con­nec­tion bet­ween pho­to­gra­phy and pain­tings. I crea­te pain­tings from my own pho­to­graphs, yet the­re are also instan­ces whe­re I belie­ve that a pho­to­graph can­not be impro­ved and should be left as such”. One of her big­gest influ­en­ces and role models is her own mother, whom Ele­na says she should por­tray more often. “I think I have inheri­ted her strength and opti­mism in dif­fi­cult situa­tions. She is, without aban­do­ning her social side, one of the most inde­pen­dent women I know. I admi­re her with all my heart.”

The 28-year-old, at a young age, tra­v­eled the world and met many women who she con­veys in her works and who pro­found­ly inspi­re her. Dri­ven to high­light the uni­que and natu­ral beau­ty of the fema­le body and cul­tu­re, Gual crea­tes vivid por­traits of diver­se women and stron­gly belie­ves all bodies are beau­ti­ful, des­pi­te size, color or age. Tra­ve­ling is one of the things that inspi­res Ele­na the most. “Every year sin­ce I was six years old, I went on a trip with my father to dif­fe­rent parts of Afri­ca, Asia, and South Ame­ri­ca. I fell in love with tho­se con­ti­nents, their natu­re and their colors, but what always caught my atten­ti­on was the beau­ty and strength that the women con­vey­ed.” Befo­re star­ting her degree, she had a sab­ba­ti­cal year, in which she taught Eng­lish and art in an orpha­na­ge for four mon­ths. It was the­re that she expe­ri­en­ced the ine­qua­li­ty of women, which she tried to cap­tu­re and trans­mit through pho­to­gra­phy, and which today she tri­es to pro­mo­te in her pain­tings. After tra­ve­ling the world, collec­ting memo­ries and inspi­ra­ti­on to pro­du­ce the works of the women she had met along the way, she made a seri­es of por­traits she was hap­py to exhi­bit in her first Solo Show. This took place in Lon­don in September2021, “Aura” was a selec­tion of her fema­le por­traits. Drew Aaron, the Gal­le­ry RED’s foun­der, dis­co­ve­r­ed Ele­na Gual a few years ago and, from that moment on, he knew she had extra­or­di­na­ry talent, bey­ond that of any other emer­ging artist. He fol­lo­wed Ele­na Gual’s care­er for two years befo­re repre­sen­ting her exclu­si­ve­ly in 2021.

After exhi­bi­t­ing her art­works here in Pal­ma de Mal­lor­ca and the gre­at feed­back from the resi­dents and mix of natio­na­li­ties the­re are here on the island, the next step was to take her to the next level, and what a bet­ter place than New York City. Aaron, who has deep roo­ted rela­ti­ons­hips in New York, wan­ted to intro­du­ce Gual to the United Sta­tes. “I had this idea of what I wan­ted to paint last Decem­ber becau­se the­re were a lot of issu­es with my friends’ sis­ters who were ano­rexic and a lot of issu­es I saw hap­pe­ning on Insta­gram with body image,” Gual said. “I thought, oh my god, I real­ly want to speak on behalf of the­se peop­le and just crea­te a body image that makes us all equal.”

One of her recent mas­ter­pie­ces: God is a woman, 200 x 150 cm oil on canvas

Her long dark hair behind her shoul­ders, her arms stret­ched out at her sides, a tan­ned naked woman walks towards the view­er, her right foot lea­ding in a thea­tri­cal stri­de. Two naked women of simi­lar skin color kne­el to her right, the one clo­sest to her, stret­ching her tor­so and sup­por­ting the other woman while res­ting her forehead casual­ly on her shoul­der. To the left of the cen­tral figu­re, a black woman kne­els in front of the face and sta­res to the viewer’s left, with her ele­gant pro­fi­le and long hair. A volup­tuous fair-skin­ned woman leans on her right side and sup­ports her upper body with elbow and fore­arm, in front of the black woman. The poses tog­e­ther form a pyra­mid, high­ligh­t­ing the ran­ge of their skin tones, pos­tu­res and body types, against an ear­thy red back­ground. This type of tri­an­gu­lar com­po­si­ti­on was often used by Mas­ters of Histo­ry of Art to empha­si­ze the most important cha­rac­ter of the work, as well as being refe­rence to the Tri­ni­ty. Gual uses this type of com­po­si­ti­on as an homage to the­se mas­ters and makes it clear with the tit­le God is a Woman. Ele­na Gual’s first Solo Exhi­bi­ti­on in NY, orga­ni­zed by the Spain-based Gal­le­ry RED, gathe­red an eclec­tic crowd, inclu­ding cele­bri­ties, artists, fashion desi­gners, finan­ciers, socia­li­tes and collec­tors, gathe­red for the ope­ning Wed­nes­day night, genera­ting buzz in the US and buil­ding the over­seas momen­tum of last year’s sold-out Lon­don debut.

I think it sounds cli­ché, but we are all one, kind of the same. What I wan­ted to por­tray is that even though the five women look so dif­fe­rent, they are still lea­ning on and hol­ding each other,” Gual told me on a walkthrough. “The one in the midd­le pro­jects the voices of the others, and that’s what I wan­ted to portray.”

Ele­na Gual RITUAL II oil on can­vas 209,5 x 89,5 cm 82,48″ x 35,23″

Ritu­al I and Ritu­al II hang along­side each other, depic­ting the same woman stan­ding nude, one facing the view­er while latching her hands behind her back and exten­ding her left foot for­ward cros­sed over the right, the other expo­sing her back as she grasps her right shoul­der with her left hand and tilts her hips to the left, her right heel pee­led off the ground.

Ele­na Gual RITUAL I oil on can­vas 209,5 x 89,5 cm 82,48″ x 35,23″

The lush blue back­ground evo­kes the Medi­ter­ra­ne­an Sea. Gual cho­se an expe­ri­en­ced artist’s model to pose for the­se empowe­ring por­traits that exu­de con­fi­dence and vigor. Sin­ce the world­wi­de situa­ti­on we all expe­ri­en­ced during COVID, the artist has thought a lot on her future pro­jects. “I’m sharing my know­ledge of pain­ting with peop­le who like art but haven’t had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to stu­dy it. I’m real­ly enjoy­ing giving live clas­ses and enjoy­ing this com­mu­ni­ty that I’ve crea­ted thanks to Insta­gram. Also, I’ve rea­li­zed what a strong con­nec­tion we have glo­bal­ly, peop­le from dif­fe­rent coun­tries with simi­lar tas­tes, con­nec­ted by art and pain­ting.” Having time and the oppor­tu­ni­ty to get to know herself bet­ter, Ele­na has lear­ned to con­ti­nue expe­ri­men­ting without fear and to dare to try new things. She has always thought that she did­n’t do it for lack of time but has rea­li­zed that she did­n’t do it for fear of failure.

Every day is dif­fe­rent and this is some­thing I appre­cia­te that must be appre­cia­ted. Each day Ele­na learns some­thing new that she can add to her work, from a tech­ni­que to a new fee­ling. She loves to focus on the essen­ti­als of life. The artist expres­ses that art has been and is a mir­ror of our evo­lu­ti­on, of reli­gi­on and of socie­ty. It is also a form of expres­si­on that comes from the heart to the mind. “I don’t think I would be a pain­ter without having seen all the plays, films and muse­ums I have seen, without having lis­tened to songs that make me think, or books that have taken my ima­gi­na­ti­on to pla­ces I had never ima­gi­ned. Art is inspi­ra­ti­on for ever­yo­ne, in every way it exists, it is  freedom.”

Gal­le­ry RED’s foun­der Drew Aaron belie­ves that Gual will be one of the next big names in Art Histo­ry, as she has excel­lent tech­ni­que skills, talent, uni­que tas­te, and style, which makes it to a gre­at fusion.

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