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The Unknown No 10 Oil on canvas 2019 195 x 250 cm

Arantza Pardo Adventures into the Unknown

A lifelong love for celestial and cosmic phenomena provides constant inspiration for Glasgow-based painter and digital artist.

Arantza Pardo certainly hasn’t let the pandemic slow her down. You may have seen her striking artwork at Festival of the Mind and Yorkshire Artspace in recent months. She also produced the cover and a beautiful series of sketches for Okapi Books’ debut collection The Storm, published in October.

I got in touch with Arantza for a virtual natter to find out more about her artistic practice and what she’s been up to this year.

First things first. Tell us a bit about yourself and what inspires you in your work?

I am an artist from Galicia, Spain, and I studied my MFA [Fine Art MA] between the University of Porto and Sheffield Hallam University. I chose to study in Sheffield because I considered it to be the British Leipzig, where I could access opportunities within the art world, create connections and make an impact. It was the right time to make this decision, as I have become part of the artistic regeneration of the city.

With regards to my work, I have always found art to be an escape from the real world. When I was seven, I wore glasses for the first time. I still remember leaving the opticians with them at night. I was able to look up to the stars for the first time. The impact of their beauty, their distance from all the world’s pain with their shine and calm provoked in me a tremendous fascination with cosmic phenomena.

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Catarsis

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Study of Phenomenon No. 5

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Study of Phenomenon No. 3

Your pieces could legitimately be described as epic. What is it that you enjoy about working in large-scale form?

Wow, I love the word epic! I believe in the power of immersive art. The intimacy of scales appeals to the infinite and evokes the sublime experience. They seem abstract but they are all well-bodied and defined, like a presence - something physical, deep and ultimately autonomous.

I mainly work in portrait instead of landscape format, as the two or three metre-high canvas frames the human body perfectly. Not only am I inspired by the beyond, but my work also acts as a statement of our own nature, to remind us that we are made of the same material as the stars. When someone looks at my paintings I want to make a statement about our connection with the universe and our place in it. It’s you and the painting.

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Study of Phenomenon No. 2

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The Unknown No. 5

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The Unknown No. 6

You recently created a large-scale, interactive painting for Festival of the Mind’s Futurecade. What inspired this project?

'Uncertain Awareness' was inspired by the research of Professor Gareth Phoenix concerning the browning of the Arctic as a result of extreme weather conditions.

Originally the project included a trip with a team of researchers to the affected areas of the Arctic in Norway, which would be materialised in a VR [virtual reality] experience and a painting. Due to the pandemic, I redefined it with my team Virtual Pixel, and we created the AR [augmented reality] app that interacts with the painting and reveals a brown and dry landscape underneath the green and healthy one. It also enables people who didn’t visit the show to download the paintings at home.

The selection of dramatic red colours on the sky over the green strait of Raftsund mountains was something that I decided to do during the lockdown. It was the first show that hundreds of people would see after months locked at home. That red sky gave it the power that the image and the topic needed at the time.

Hanging Catarsis at Hospital Alvaro Cunqueiro Vigo Spain

Hanging Catarsis at Hospital Alvaro Cunqueiro, Vigo, Spain

Arantza with paintings The Unknown No 8 and No 9 Persistence Works Sheffield 2019

Arantza with The Unknown No. 8 & No. 9

Studio Yorkshire Artspace Sheffield 2019

Studio at Yorkshire Artspace

Do you plan to use your artwork again in future to further the cause of climate change acknowledgement?

I will definitely think about working on the subject again in the future. It aligns well with my own political views. Being green is a political position in the crucial times we are living in.

My practice is very much inspired by scientific imagery and research. Collaborating with scientists for the production of specific projects, as well as working independently on my practice, is a combination that actively enriches it.

I consider the art-sci collaborations to be a win-win situation. As an artist, I can use preliminary data to explore speculative aesthetic solutions with new meanings and preconceptions towards a topic.

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Untitled

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Untitled

You've recently graced the hallowed halls of Yorkshire Artspace. How did you find your first solo show in the UK?

Yorkshire Artspace has been tremendously supportive of my art practice. I won the show opportunity through the Open Call: Materiality. My proposal strived to materialise the immaterial, to represent the unrepresentable. The marketing and press that came with it was a real boost for my career in the UK.

I was in the gallery on Saturdays and it was also the day that we ran the VR experience. I had the opportunity to talk to lots of interesting people. Visitors mainly came from Sheffield, London, Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham.

The conversation between myself and Chris Shepherd, who is a Physics researcher at the University of Manchester, was very popular. We filled all the seats. I was nervous but by the end of the talk the guests brought lots of relevant topics related to the show, such as the implications for female artists, and the implications of art and science in society.

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The Unknown No. 1

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The Unknown No. 2

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Study of Phenomenon No. 4

What’s on the horizon for you in the coming weeks and months?

I am working on a new painting series with the initial title ‘The Weight of the Stars’.I have used this time as an opportunity to refresh and to work on new ideas.

I have an upcoming show in Spain about artists and how lockdown has shaped our individual practice, and I have also been commissioned to create a sky painting for the dome of a hotel in Glasgow.

I have a feeling that as soon as the pandemic is over, everybody will be back to their projects, with drive and endeavour even stronger than before.

Filed under: Arantza Pardo

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