- Where are you from and where do you reside?
- I am originally from Sevilla, a city in the region of Andalucía, south Spain.
I currently reside in Hong Kong.
- What brought you to Hong Kong? How do you see Hong Kong influencing you as an artist and/or designer?
- I lived in London for almost eight years, I also spent some time in the Netherlands before that, and I’m originally from Spain. All were very much European experiences that, even if very different, are nothing compared to a move to Asia. At the time there was a good opportunity with the design job I was doing and I didn’t hesitate much. The Asian experience has opened up a whole new look at things and possibilities that I personally never imagined. I have been forced to observe again much longer before making assumptions. Being so detached to what I was used to has been hectic, but also relaxing at times. It has somehow simplified things in my practice.
- Describe a typical day in the studio for you.
- I like to leave the first hours in the morning for the most intuitive and less planned work, like drawing. Collages require a different type of focus and process, more appropriate for later hours of the day. I tend to try resolving things at some point in the afternoon, and either evening or later at night I pick up again work with a quieter mind and a more explorative approach. I like to think I can open questions at night and leave them to be resolved the day after.
During the day I like having a short walk outside, stop for groceries, or cook my lunch. At some point I must practice yoga.
- What necessities do you require in the studio?
- At the moment I am used to not having a great deal of space. I need solitude most of the time, or at least to be able to mentally isolate myself. I mostly need music - not random music, but music I choose for the moment. I prefer to be surrounded with a variety of materials, so I can change and explore. I like working on more than one piece at the same time. Ideally, I’ll have an empty wall and I definitely need empty floor space. I love being on the floor with everything lying around me. A morning coffee, chocolate, avocados, and cashews are other essentials.
I like to think I can open questions at night and leave them to be resolved the day after.
— Carmen Vela
- Are you formally trained?
- I have been painting and drawing as long as I can remember. Then, at some point, I started cutting paper, making little books, and I never stopped making things. I took different courses throughout the years on creative drawing, typography or image making. I hold an MA in Graphics from Central Saint Martins. In my coursework I shared days with designers, illustrators, and photographers - all practices having equal influence in me.
- Are you influenced by any artist that does something completely different than you?
- Definitely. I believe in being constantly nurtured with all sorts of stimulus, not only visually. I think I’m actually influenced by anyone or anything that makes me feel something fairly intensely, and being the highly sensitive person I am, I guess it sometimes gets overwhelming. On the downside, it can feel very distracting. The obvious would be musicians and writers, but really, anyone with a sincere way of expressing a genuine emotion.
- What themes or motifs are you consistently drawn to?
- I collect visual elements in my memory, they are connected to a feeling or an emotion of a particular moment or situation that I’m going through. I build an inner vocabulary of that experience, and at some point they start coming together to give some sort of shape and completion to it. Then I can move on to the next thing. I have always been drawn to body language, physical emotions, and the relationship between the body and a particular space and time.
- Do your collages have a literal interpretation, once the personal vocabulary has been unpacked?
- At the specific moment of creation there is not much intended literal meaning attached to it, but as I complete it the connection becomes more obvious. Occasionally, it is only after some time that I actually understand a bit more why I needed to make it that way and not differently.
- What tangible objects or intangible moments are you most interested in representing through your works?
- Relationships, and sincere emotions. Whether the way we relate to a particular space, moment in time or to others. The emotions attached to body language, the fluidity or awkwardness of it, and non-verbal expression.
I have always been drawn to body language, physical emotions, and the relationship between the body and a particular space and time.
— Carmen Vela
- What is the most difficult part of the artistic process for you?
- Probably one of the most difficult parts for me is to avoid creating expectations. I still need to remind myself to trust the process constantly. There’s frustration between the initial burst of creative energy and the first work that I am actually happy with, the moment when things seem not to be what I might already have in mind, even subconsciously. Then, I realize that it will be something different and I just need to keep going instead of constraining myself to those initial thoughts to reach an outcome. I believe the fewer expectations I build, the more the work can grow.
- How important is spontaneity in your art?
- Very important. Intuition and spontaneity seem to be crucial in my process. I like when compositions don’t feel forced. That’s why my process tend to be fairly quick in execution, whether is a mark, a whole drawing, a collage, or other media. I usually make many iterations then I edit most out.
Probably one of the most difficult parts for me is to avoid creating expectations. I still need to remind myself to trust the process constantly.
— Carmen Vela
- For your current series on the Uprise Art gallery, Somewhere Else, how many iterations would you estimate you’ve omitted?
- When doing collages the iterations come in pieces. I cut, paint, draw, and cut again tons of small parts, then I start creating combinations, even dozens of them, and I lay them out all around. At some point, one of those clicks and it represents what I am looking for. I then edit the rest out and keep building on that one. Sometimes that one doesn’t make it as final either. For this series I spent weeks doing tons of collages that stayed as sketches, then this series came out within a couple of weeks.
- How do the different elements come together in your works?
- I constantly take pictures, make drawings, collect colors and textures, and write notes. To keep drawing, writing, and looking at photos that have a particular meaning to me is essential to my work. There are times I think all that is useless and takes up time and space, but eventually I believe they are all there one way or another, part of an outcome at some point.
- How do you choose your materials?
- I have always been a very tactile person, I need to feel comfortable holding or touching something in order to incorporate it into my work. I like not thinking about high quality materials, but rather whatever feels good to me.
- How has your work developed in the past few years, and how do you see it evolving in the future?
- I want to think it has become more honest and closer to what I actually liked doing as a child. I am currently putting more time into my personal work and I am excited to see where it goes and how it evolves.