Ana Barriga Olivia

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Ana: "Art should be how each artist believes it should be. For me, without a doubt, it's something referential, it's a way of being and being in the world."

Issue XI Art & Artist Feature Empower

Interviewed by Nayonika Roy

Edited by Amrita Nambiar

15th November, 2021

So right off the bat I would love it if you'd introduce yourself in just a few lines about your work, your achievements and about you as an artist.
Ana: In my work, I try to find a balance between reason and emotion. Two apparently contradictory territories that, when rubbed against each other, generate a kind of energy that interests me. I try to move in the realm of playfulness, a place shared by artists and children where prejudices are abandoned and the most unexpected part of us comes to the surface. Humour, play or irony are ways to position ourselves before reality in a different and unexpected way to break common patterns. This gives rise to unpredictable situations that are fresh and attractive to us because they do not conform to pre-established models.  

 

I do my best to learn every day. My work is driven by passion but also by knowledge. I apply myself to the study of a language with a deep tradition such as painting, the usual terrain in which I develop. 

 

About my path in the profession that has chosen me, I think that all the exhibitions, all the works in collections or all the awards are great. But I think that the most important thing is to be able to keep on doing and to have the feeling that it doesn't end.

In Birimbao Gallery you’ve said that you paint, break, mutilate, assemble or compose like you are playing with art. What is that thing that drives you to think so?

Ana: I work with objects; I look for them in flea markets or anywhere. When I find those that interest me I stop for a moment to think about who created them, what would be their circumstances, what purpose they would have, if they were a commission or spontaneous creativity, what family situations accompanied them etc. Then I change them, I mix them, I make them live together, I try to place them in a kind of harmonic contradiction in which nothing fits but everything seems to work. I think this has a lot to do with how the stories I find in them are related to my life.

 

I think that the ability to reuse these objects is a way to revive the hopes of others, and this becomes more than a work process into an energetic and cheerful attitude towards life surrounded by humour, which I always use to better cope with things and subtract seriousness to solemn topics such as sexuality, religion or death. 

 

Watch our interview with Ana Barriga, Art & Artist Feature of Issue XI

Everyone has a medium to express themselves when words may not suffice. When did you realize art was that microphone of thoughts for you?

Ana: I always say that it is a miracle that I dedicated myself to painting. I come from a humble family that did not lack creativity, but unfortunately, as in many other families, our contact with art was a latent lack. I guess, like any teenager, I had no idea what I was going to do with my life. After many failed attempts I gave up studying and started working in a bar. There I met Juanito, the cafeteria’s manager. I mention this because he was the one who insisted that I take up my studies again and told me about the Jerez School of Art, where I would begin to study cabinetmaking. I liked it so much that I continued doing modules, all of them related to furniture, Interior Decoration and Sculpture. 

 

My first contact with painting was out of necessity. While I was studying in Cadiz, I worked in a bar on the weekends, but I couldn't make ends meet. My drawing teacher found out about a vacancy to teach painting classes in a retirement centre, she offered it to me and of course, I said yes; it was work!

 

At the age of 19, I was teaching something I had no idea about because I needed the money. During that period I never picked up a paintbrush, I read books about Matisse, Cezanne and Picasso, the only painters I knew, and tried to explain to the pensioners how they used colour...hahahahaha! I laugh about this a lot because if they asked me now I wouldn't know how to answer. But at that time, necessity, ignorance and motivation helped me to pay the rent and continue studying.

 

After studying five modules at the School of Arts, I decided to enter the Faculty of Fine Arts in Seville, where one of the subjects was painting. It was there that I was forced to buy painting materials and I fell into a wonderful black hole in which I am still fortunate to be immersed. The teachers I had in first grade put painting contests on the table. I jumped into the void without knowing very clearly what would happen and in the second year of my career. Everything I had painted in the first year was exhibited, awarded or bought; and that's when the magic began. 

 

I don't know if it's something I have to express or if I should keep quiet, the thing is that I think I have found something in painting. It's probably nothing new, but for me it is and I want to continue unfolding the layers of the puff pastry until I reach whatever is at the bottom of my head. Pure life!

 

You graduated in Fine Arts from the University of Seville. What is something that you were taught there that you hold onto till date? Something that shaped you into who you are today?

Ana: I learned a lot at the University. Keep in mind that in my environment being a university student was almost like travelling to Mars. 

 

On the other hand, I was very lucky with my classmates; we became very close friends, a group of around 20 people - almost the entire class. We all encouraged each other to do things, the energy was wonderful and as simple as wanting to do. All this did not come by chance, we had incredible teachers who encouraged this collective growth. 

 

Paco Lara was remarkable - besides being a teacher, he is also an artist and we learned a lot from his attitude towards life and the way he taught his classes. I still think he was and is an example to follow. Paco always said, “don't be afraid, look out the window and enjoy the scenery”. At that time I didn't understand anything, but soon I understood that I only had to thank him and my classmates for having taught me to discover the world through the eyes of art.

 

In your latest curricular achievements the Plastic Arts Prize of the University of Seville, has been added. Would you educate us more about what this event comprises and what made you take part in it?

Ana: Awarding the First Prize with the acquisition of works through a shopping bag is a recognition given by the University of Seville, where I started my career. Before receiving it, the University had already bought my works, but I had been pursuing this for many years. It wasn't because of the economic amount, which was also very good for me, but because of what it represented. Because many of the artists who are presently famous personalities in painting, got it in their day and I wanted to be in that group.

 

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Now something interesting - What does a day in Ana Barriga’s life look like ?

Ana: I wake up to a unicorn named Pepsi with a coffee, and then my day becomes a succession of references. Lola Flores freaking out, a child who has not seen that there is no glass, Christ who turns out to be a Tetris tile, the Pantoja who carries us in her soul, the biggest one who thanks us, a fat guy who does not fit behind a post, cats that seem funny, Martians with wigs or Maradona dancing and so on. Like the objects I find and transfer to my works, they are a way to connect with life and with the wonderful people around me. Then, if I get bored, I start to paint.

 

Your sculptures and pieces are absolutely beautiful! How did you identify that this was your art style? Vivid, inviting and something distinctive?

Ana: Before studying at the university and learning about painting, my training was directed towards sculpture. Somehow I have never abandoned my facet as a sculptor. When I start my work, I need that element that has weight, texture, smell and even taste. That's why I collect objects and make still lives with them. It may be a failed attempt to control the painting from the origin. Sooner or later it can happen within a painting - in those paintings that seem to get out of the two-dimensional image and stop seeming to be.

 

We’ll keep this one easy, what or who is your source of inspiration?

Ana: Life itself is a clear reference, my painting is like a diary of images of things that are happening to me. They don't have to be real things or invented things, they just have to be. On the other hand, I am also inspired by all those who, for me, are like Pokemon hunters and insatiably pursue things that only they can see.  

 

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Should art always be relatable or should it be what contents you and speaks your personal stories?

Ana: I will not be the one to say how art should be. It should be how each artist believes it should be. For me, without a doubt, it's something referential, it's a way of being and being in the world.

 

What is the best thing about having your art up in galleries ? Also do you remember your first ever exhibition , how was it ?

Ana: I remember my first exhibition with an endearing smile. It was in Seville, in a tiny gallery called Birimbao when they proposed it to me. I was excited and terrified in equal parts but happiness did not fit in my little body. That feeling made me deploy the purest part of me to really do whatever I wanted to do without thinking about anything or anyone, just to paint what I wanted. The exhibition was a success in every way, and since then, I always think the same when I do a new project. When I unfold my cards and throw the dice, I roll for bingo!

 

Lastly, what advice would you like to give to the young artists and creatives reading this interview and wanting to grow in the field?

Ana: To look at "the bug"; "The bug" refers to that "I don't know what" you have inside, and for some reason, it is always hungry and insatiable. I wouldn't know how to explain it but maybe it could be some kind of mystical belief, our religion or that thing we call God. That in which you believe and what you do with passion without knowing the consequences or repercussions it may have, something that has no shape or weight or smell, but at the same time awakens all your senses and makes you smile. If "the bug" weighs more than 10 kg, go on, do not hesitate. If it does not reach this, look for something else, you will surely find another kind of "bug" to accompany you to enjoy life.