When you see around the world, you may find some towns like European enclave. Macau, Cape Town and here Buenos Aires are some of these places. The reason why people call this town as “Paris of South America” is not only because of its beautiful streetscape. The town has been influenced by Western modernization at the first point. Buenos Aires has become a cultural capital as same as same as these towns which has been received external stimulus consistently. La Boca, where many Europeans live, is one of the most well-known cultural places.
If you like dance, you may know the town of La Boca as the birthplace of Argentine tango. Beautiful and vivid street of Caminito has many tango dancers performance there. Also, if you like paintings or graphics, you may come up with its artistic streetscape from its name. Actually, it was very interesting and fun to just hang around and see the scenery here. You will find many graffiti art and many Diego Maradona on them. He, so called the best soccer player in the history of mankind, belonged to Boca Juniors which is a local club team here before he went to Europe. It was a short period of time for him playing in this town, but people of Boca praise and feels proud of him as a town hero. Passionate tango, vibrating colors and artistic dribbling of the fantasista – this town is the spring of creativity.
So here we came with expectation to meet many young and energetic local artists. For this issue, we got a chance to interview with a female artist living here through personal connections. Her name is Barbara - "Barbara" sounds more English rather than Spanish speaking area's. She lives in the outside of central Buenos Aires and uploads her creations actively on the web from her atelier there.
Getting off the taxi around her house address - we noticed the atmosphere was different from the rich area we'd been stayed for a while, where our friend home was located. Walls on streets are filled with graffiti art. They are not same as ones in La Boca. Some of them seemed just roughly drawn by spray bottles. Streets were in the atmosphere of both art and danger - reminded us the atmosphere of where Paul lived in Cape Town. We walked in to an old apartment on these corners.
Opening the door, we noticed the room is used for atelier rather than her living space. It has a high ceiling and many art pieces including hers hanged on the wall. Canvas in process is set on the easel. Flowing the smell of oil paint. Though things were lying around, we felt some kind of order in this place. It was not a total mess, but all things were in a good balance that telling us she set them in a reasonable way only for herself. And, everything here was very colorful. Through the window, sunshine showed up these colors vividly. She offered us tea and fruits for the breakfast - oranges, strawberries, grapes and bananas. They were also colorful. Surrounded by the strong colorfulness, we felt the mood of Latin art. On the other hand, Barbara's speaking English was not Latin at all; it was too fluent for usual Spanish mother tongue people. Then we found out that she was born in USA and lived in Los Angeles until 10. Her father who is a doctor also born in US, and was studying there. That's why she got to tote two nationalities and languages.
Barbara loved to draw since being a small child. There are many those kids but there was a simple difference from her. “Everyone stopped drawing at some timing but I just didn't." More than that, she entered the school to study art. The school she joined at her 6 or 7 was quite hard but she enjoyed that hardness. There were elder students like 15 or 18 years old in the same school, and she was inspired from them a lot. "I wanna be like them." And soon, she began to think that she will become an artist when she grows up. Actually, Barbara's grandmother was an artist painter also. Since she was looking at portraits she drew sold and that money came into her household budget from young, it is not unusual nor beyond imagination to earn her daily bread by drawing.
However, her learning environment got tough after moving to Argentine at her 10. There was no school to tell her anything from acrylic, oil painting to anything about basic. Probably that made her more motivated to study by herself. When she entered the high school, things got worse. Her school was focusing on studies and not so much about art or music. "I really couldn't get any of physics or chemistry!" in spite of her current intelligence, she told her story with fun. "I was such a bad student." She said students interested into art or music, like her, were "discriminated" in the classroom. That made her will strong, and go on to her way to the art.
Wearing Latin Vibe
Barbara told us that this area was quite unsafe before. Her parents advised her not to live here since they had that unsafe image of this place. But now, it is not so much if you pay attention. Every Monday there is a concert or some music events and that annoy her ("Give me a break!" by Barbara,) but other than that, this place is comfortable. She seemed to like this environment surrounded by graffiti art.
Barbara herself sometimes draws graffiti. Surprisingly, graffiti is legitimated here with the town policy. Most of the world prohibit graffiti as just "scribbles on the wall" even if some of them are high quality and have strong cultural/political messages. In Bulgaria or South Africa, it was same - an unlawful drawing. But in this town, it is legally approved. Still, this "Paris in South America" is not fully painted out. Graffiti is concentrated in few areas. She told us three places - La Boca, Colegiales and San Telmo. Sometimes bijou, sometimes motley - towns of Buenos Aires have various profiles.
She spoke to us that Buenos Aires is good for bot living and drawing. Barbara who has two back grounds of Argentine and America decided to settle down and work in Argentine, not US. Actually she had lived in New York for few months but the place didn't fit her. So she came back Buenos Aires. In New York, things are so expensive there and competition is very keen. When we brought up Alejandro, the young active fashion designer in NY, she nodded and said "I think there is thousands of that kind of people."
When we asked about what of Argentine influenced to her creativity, she brought up one English word "VIBE." The word does not mention only about "mood" but means feeling or will that mood includes. This explanation doesn't need if you see her creations. Vivid colored curves are strong and delicate. Choripán (sandwich with chorizo, Argentina soul food) selling old guy in the picture seems about to speak to us. Grass field waving on the back of Gaucho styled guy. These motif are quite Argentine local. Barbara is aware of her style being conscious of the country traditional culture.
Still, she has an American side in her work style, she described herself. For example, she uses iPad actively during her creation. It doesn't require waiting for paint get dry and also it's easy to revise. She brings it to the town and draws the graffiti. Thanks to iPad, she makes good progress on drawing. Very reasonable. But she doesn't finish her work only in PC or tablet. She draws by her hands onto the canvas or walls for real, even though she masters using these gadgets. "I have to do so," she said. We saw her setting a boundary in her mind.
Study, Teach, Move
Barbara is still in the middle of her way to build up her own drawing style. We saw a certain common idea through her creations that means to us she has her style already, but for her, it is still ongoing. She had been influenced not only by vivid Latin design, but also by German expressionism which has colorful but internal and dark impressions. What she want to express from her heart is not that simple as we can explain by words, and that makes her eager to learn new things to find out the best fitting way for her. Recently she is studying the method “Hyper-realism.” It is not usual realism but a method to draw a precise same picture like photo by looking at actual photography. She does not intend to change her style to hyper-realism, but tries to deepen her expression by learning this method.
Barbara teaches also, not only learning. She has a drawing class for 8 students, and for that time, this atelier is changed to the classroom. Since she had a so good time at the art school when she was young, she might want to share her fun-filled memory. Also, she always learns from teaching. “Sometimes, it's funny I can't tell who is a teacher." For students who are frustrated by their perverse output, she tells them "there is no right answer for drawing. Neither nor wrong." She nodded as she was confirming to herself.
It is important for her to spend time doing other than drawing. For example, music: she likes Bebop or Latin Jazz and sometimes plays a guitar for fun. However, it seems playing music is much more difficult than drawing for her. “I wish I could be a better player, but instruments are super complicated.” We thought her painting was super complicated, but there are always strong and weak points.
Also, she likes to drive around by her sport bicycle. She was planning to travel around the south part of Argentine from this weekend for 2 weeks. She told her plan like “and I go up to Andes and coming down to Chili…” so easily, but it should be a long and hard tour. We wondered, it must be not that easy to climbing up the Andes by mountain bike.
Still, we could tell that it is very important for her to move in real, physically move her arms to draw. It seemed she felt empty inside sitting while she was in the interview. So we asked to take a photo of her painting, she stood up and started running brushes naturally. Even more, she drew rough portrait of interviewers quickly. We said “then we should have groomed better to come here” and she laughed “no worries.” The finished picture, only drawn by single color black, was so vivid.
TRANSLATION BY muma