Born in Barcelona, Cinta Vidal studied illustration at Escola Massana, and cut her teeth painting large, elaborate backdrops for opera, theater, and ballet during her apprenticeship at Taller de Escenografía Castells Planas.
Now an accomplished illustrator, painter, and mural artist, Vidal is known for her M.C. Escher-like merging of differing perspectives, and she is wanted in nine countries for breaking the law of gravity. If you were to take one of Vidal’s “un-gravity” paintings home with you in a bag, and not pay attention to which side is up, you might lose track of how it’s supposed to be hung when you got home. Then again, if you asked Vidal, she’d tell you that any way you hang it would be correct.
Starting today, you can see the Spanish artist working on a new mural, titled Blow, on the wall facing the museum café, as part of this year’s POW! WOW! Hawaii. (Also part of the annual event is the exhibition Exploring the New Contemporary Movement at the Art School.) She is the third artist—all of them handpicked by POW! WOW! Worldwide’s Jasper Wong and Thinkspace Gallery’s Andrew Hosner—to tackle this “canvas.” The previous murals by Curiot and James Jean exist a few layers of paint under Vidal’s. Vidal was kind enough to answer some questions via email before boarding her flight to Honolulu.
Is this your first time coming to Hawai‘i?
Yes, I’m very excited because I’ve always wanted to go. I’m really proud to be invited to paint in the Honolulu Museum of Art and participate in POW! WOW! Hawai‘i. I have some friends from Hawai‘i and I’m excited to see them again and to spend some days visiting Hawai‘i after I finish my mural.
Tell us about Blow.
When I have a wall, I always want to paint something related with the surrounding environment. The Hawaiian culture is something fascinating for me and my idea is to give light to it, and value some elements and objects around and inside the museum and make them float. I like the idea of trying to make them look like they’re flying and traversing the walls of the museum as if something was blowing them around.
How did you choose the colors for this work?
The colors come from the real objects, and I chose a neutral warm grey as the background to try to give a warm and elegant feeling to the composition. I’d like to also add some small details with more color—like the rooster—to give more vitality to the final result.
How do you imagine the objects in the painting moving? Are they being pulled by gravity? Blown by the wind? Thrown by a force? Flowing in a current? Or does this space play into it? Are they meant to be tumbling down the stairs?
I image them like flying-floating. The viewer could imagine them falling or floating away. I like the fact that my images could be interpreted in different ways, because we all have different points of view. I think that everything is in constant movement and sometimes we forget that. It is because of that that I like to do dynamic compositions with a light feeling.
Your work often shows subjects from multiple perspectives; do you find yourself tilting your head when you paint?
Yes, sometimes! But when I paint small wooden pieces I always rotate them in order to paint multiple points of view. I like the fact that all my paintings could be hung in different orientations.
Some of the objects in the mural are works found in the museum. How did you choose what items to include in the mural?
I decided on everything looking at images from the museum’s website. I choose them by intuition—some objects have something special that attracts me. But the principal element is a canoe. That doesn’t come from the museum, but I think it is a strong Hawaiian symbol, so I wanted to put it as the central object. I’m sure that when I visit the museum in person, I will find more inspiration and maybe I’ll have time to add some new elements. I also added a rooster, because it is an animal with a lot of presence in the islands.
I noticed a painting in your sketch—is the painting a specific work from the museum?
Yes, the finished mural will include two paintings from the museum—one by Monet and another by Gauguin. They are two of my favorite painters. And for me it’s going to be a nice game to depict their paintings floating like they’re going away from the museum.
How do you approach depicting cultural elements that might not be as familiar to you as your own?
The Hawaiian culture is something fascinating for me, and also is something really unknown for me. Over the last weeks, I have learned a lot about Hawaiian symbols while preparing the mural. Sketching objects from the museum is a nice way to start my approach to the native culture and I hope that I will learn much more with my visit to Hawai‘i.
Photo above by David Ruano, courtesy of Cinta Vidal