Alicia Martín Lopez’ abstract intimate exploration of matter

Hi Alicia, please tell us something about you 🙂
Hi! I am a visual artist from Spain working both on fine art projects and commissions. I am focused on digital and traditional painting, as well as collage and lately exploring sculpture. I am inevitably leant towards image making and always excited to experiment and find new paths in my work. 

Your work has evolved from surreal (slightly) figurative works to a more open embrace of abstraction. How was the path that led you to your current style?
Surreal images have always interested me because of the fantasy and creative component. I started working on that style because I found it challenging to represent something imaginary in a realistic way and I really admired many awesome concept artists doing incredible work. So my first works were more related to that realm, and I really enjoyed it. But slowly I started wondering what would happen if I did not completely define what I was trying to convey on the image. Many times the only final ‘meaning’ my images could take was ‘creatures’ due to the distorted shapes and textures I painted. And many times I felt they were not really creatures but something more undefined, more like a feeling or an emotion instead of something literal. It took me a while to feel comfortable with abstraction because I guess it is a more personal way of working, more intuitive and unknown so everyone has to find their own way to it. It is not objective as when trying to represent something realistically. In abstraction what works for me or has meaning to me may not be the case for other artists. But right now I am very glad I took that path because I feel this kind of work I am doing now is more raw and honest. That does not mean that I don’t enjoy when I get commissions where figurative work is required. I always like the challenge of it as well and I think that being able to work realistically has given me the tools to feel more confident with the kind of abstraction I develop now.

How is your creative process when working on abstract pieces? Which roles does planning and improvisation have?
My process is a combination between intuition and reason. At the beginning stage I make an effort to avoid any logical thought and try just to let things happen by provoking accidents where the material can express itself. This always gives me much more interesting results than anything I could have predicted or planned. Then I keep the parts that interest me the most and discard the rest by sweeping away some areas with a rug or cutting it out in pieces for example. Then I start to combine the interesting parts and try to see some connections among them. Many times it happens that I see a piece in a certain way but suddenly I place it next to another and it completely changes the perception of what I was seeing. That constant awe state is what really hooks me about this process. It is a freer way of working, where uncertainty is the path to go and unpredicted results will lead to problem-solving methods, constantly trusting your intuition. I really love that. 

Your work has a broad and unique approach to matter. What attracts you to matter? What do you want to express / explore working with it?
I started working as a professional digitally but I always needed my images to have some texture and tangible feel even if I was working on the screen. I have always liked images with rich nuances of color, volume and texture to make them look real even though they represent something dreamy. This evolved to some frustration because although I could achieve a satisfactory result digitally I always felt it was not good enough because I could not touch it and the physical aspect was missing. So that pushed me to go back to the analog world and experiment with materials. It has been a long way to find myself comfortable with my process, a lot of trial and error to create a workflow that really worked for me and the results I wanted to achieve. I have learnt a lot and each material gives me something special to apply to my pieces. It is like creating a dialogue with it, I cannot control 100% of what is going to happen and there precisely resides the magic of it. On the computer I can control everything but in the physical world many other factors take place. For me the time in the studio is an endless source of experimentation. 

Your approach to matter also includes working with a wide range of materials. Can you please comment about it? And also, can you tell us about the relation between this use of materials and the three-dimensional aspect of your work?
Yes, I never discard any material to play with. At the moment, graphite and oil painting give me a lot of interesting resources but lately I have been adding spray paint and papers with transparency to create exciting effects. I have always been leant towards elaborated images, not sure why, but the complexity of building up on layers and the effect of different pieces overlapping creates captivating results for me. It is like your eye has to do some effort to complete the image in your head, and depending on the moment or the distance where you look at it, it acquires a different dimension. I am very attracted to that phenomenon. 

About the three-dimensional work, that is something I am exploring right now. I guess it is a natural evolution of my process since, even though until now I have only been working on 2D, my images have a lot of volume. I love thinking about the lighting influence on the shapes I create and how shadows should cast on their surface. This is the realistic aspect I referred to before. Even though my images are abstract, I create them thinking about how they would exist in the real world. Now I am digging into resin, which allows me to create volumetric layers and apply color and texture on them. I want my next pieces to be out of the wall so people can walk around them and perceive different viewpoints.

Your work is far from the traditional collage art, but there are traces of this technique in your work. How has collage influenced you? How do you include collage in your workflow? 
Incorporating collage techniques has been absolutely a game changer in my process. It was at the beginning of 2018 that I started creating my own graphic resources with different materials and began to cut them out and reassemble them to create interesting compositions. I did realize that was exactly the way I worked when I painted digitally. In Photoshop I had my own way of working, which involved a lot of layers, creating different blending modes to provoke accidents so I could cut out the parts I liked and relocate them, twyst, rotate, distort… and paint over to create unity by fitting all the pieces together. This way of working gave me much more freedom and the results were always more interesting than thinking of a sketch beforehand and trying to stick to it. This process is like sculpting while painting, because you use two-dimensional pieces but move them in space and reassemble them. Collage technique for me has meant freedom in my process and an open door to material investigation. 

What’s your definition of collage?
For me collage is a way of putting together pieces from different nature and making them coexist in order to create something new. It is about making connections among unrelated elements and walking hand in hand with chance and unexpectedness. That is really powerful and beautiful. 

Where do you feel your art is evolving to? Which is the next step where your art is heading to?
Right now I am very excited about the three-dimensional pieces I am exploring in my studio. I am focused on creating a new body of work that combines both collage, painting and sculpture and hopefully I will be able to show it in different places. I love large scale so I will see if I can handle some big pieces where matter and physicality create a sensorial experience for the audience. 

More about Alicia Martín here

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