There is a great deal of pressure as an artists or an art consultant to be present on Instagram and Twitter. To curate the perfect feed and rack-up a sizeable amount of followers means the digital life is increasingly distracting and demanding. Paradoxically, as an ‘anecdote’ to this digital-overload, it was suggested that I should trial the relaxation and meditation app called Calm. Calm was recognised by Apple as app of the year in 2017 and is valued over $300 million. When you activate the app you enter a world of scenic images entitled Mountain Lake or Rain On Leaves and optional soundscapes of Healing Piano and Rushing Water. The Daily Calm program offers instruction of how to be present and mindful to your feelings and surroundings. It is apparent that this style of app are in high-demand as shown by the success of Headspace, Simple Habit and Buddhify. They all have a similar offering with a promise that they will lead us to the ultimate relaxed state of mind, enabling us able to engage and be present in the moment.

Art is all about connections. The connection made by the artist and the connection made by the viewer. When artist Marta Lafuente sent new images of a series of paintings she had been working on for her fourth coming exhibition Small Worlds, her first solo exhibition in Scandinavia, I connected with the work instantly. Lafuente is a well established artist in Spain, her work is featured in many private collection, she has won various prizes and awards and has exhibited internationally, but the Nordics is a relatively new market for her.

Long Forgotten Days - 110 x 75 cm

Long Forgotten Days – 110 x 75 cm

Many of the images Lafuente sent featured families and children in various narratives surrounding swimming, playing in the sea or by the pool. Some images documented very familiar scenes of swimming lessons; small coloured cap-headed children lining up to take their turn with floats, armbands or foam noodles. After all, learning to swim is essential and most parents resort to their local heavily-chlorinate pool to support their children’s water safety, so these images felt natural and not unfamiliar territory. Lafuente paints her subjects in an impressionistic mixed media style. Her compositions feel honest and unembellished, capturing energy and emotion. These poolside images are intimate moments where you feel the artist was very present, caught up in the watery activity of the children.

It brought to mind a relatively recent excursion to a swimming pool where signs had been posted. These signs were informing parents that mobile phones and the use of phones whilst their children were swimming was banned. The sign was a simple stick man drawing of an adult, with their head down staring at their hand, which was holding a phone. The stick man image was crossed out firmly with thick red lines. The sign was specifically calling out the rows of parents sitting on the pool sidelines whose focus was on their digital lives, rather than observing the little swimmer in front of them, the ones in their actual lives. The message given was clear; be present. This message was haunting and disconcerting to me, mainly due to the fact that I have succumb, far too often, to the allure of the digital life rather than my real life.

Small Worlds is an exploration into the moments that are familiar and fleeting. These moments are unremarkable in themselves but if observe fully, they narrate something of importance, beauty and hold a timeless value.

Paul - 28 x 39 cm

Paul – 28 x 39 cm

Small Worlds Scene 7 - 105 x 75 cm

Small Worlds Scene 7 – 105 x 75 cm

Scene 7 captures the moment of solitude and peacefulness when stepping into the ocean. The loose brush work and muted pallet conjures feelings of harmony and tranquility, the moment when air becomes liquid and the weightiness of limbs are supported by water.

Lafuente leaves spaces in her work for the narrative to expand, for the motion to stretch beyond the confines of the composition. She allows open, unpainted spaces to form. Here the composition can breathe and the narrative find it’s own beginning and end. It adds to the whimsical quality of her work and the flow in and out of a moment in time.

Scene 7 is comforting, uplifting and memorable and the moment captured is possibly one which we might relate to and yearn to return to.

Ultimately, Lafuente focuses on unanointed moments, which go unnoticed and are deemed insignificant. Her work connects to moments in her life that she wishes to claim and record no matter how repetitive or indistinctive.

Early in her career, afterwinning an Erasmus Scholarship to the Academy of Belli Arti di Bologna, Italy, Lafuente set to work on a series of portraits with childhood being the central subject matter. Thirteen years have passed and Lafuente still continues to explore these themes.

Scene 3 - 100 x 70 cm

Scene 3 – 100 x 70 cm

The paper-on-board surface which she uses in many of her larger works provides an earthy matt hue as a backdrop. The surface is highly absorbent and sets the tone of her compositions perfectly. Along with eloquent gestures in paint, charcoal and pencil, Lafuente uses photographic images to inform the figures. Her creative process allows the treatment of the various mediums to feel spontaneous, experimental and organic at times. 

Her development as an artist has already seen several stages, working with mixed techniques on paperboard, paper or wood, illustrating books published by Lumen & Random House & creating some exquisite award-winning short animated films of her sketches.  

Descanso - 101 x 148 cm

Descanso – 101 x 148 cm

I first met Marta Lafuente when I travelled to Barcelona in 2017 for a studio visit. With her gentle manner, and shyly spoken English, she introduced me to her work and we spent time exploring the various paintings and sketches which filled her inviting studio. Together we watched the mesmerising short film Deep which was an animation of paintings and sketches. Deep has been selected for several prestigious awards including the MECAL International Short Film and Animation Festival of Barcelona, 2017 and the BCN International Sports Film Festival 2017. It was a memorable meeting and two years later we are delighted to presents Marta Lafuente in her first solo exhibition in Scandinavia at the Nordic Art Agency.