The Way I Work... Angela Santana
In our series where we look at the things, places and people that inspire a creative’s working life, journalist Marie-Claire Chappet spoke to the contemporary artist about everything from her workspaces to her creative process
The Swiss-born artist Angela Santana is attempting to reframe how we view the female form in art. After training in her native Zurich, Santana moved to New York, where, along with major shows in Europe, she has exhibited widely. The last seven years have been devoted to a major body of work on women’s bodies, which formed the backbone of her first major solo show this summer in London’s Saatchi Yates gallery.
Here, Santana exhibited large-scale depictions of women, brilliantly rendered from pixelated online images frequently found on illicit sites. Through her clever blending of digital images and oil painting, Santana distorted the female form to challenge the male gaze, which has dominated the art world for so long.
She sat down with Service95 to share how she works, and what gets her creatively motivated…
On The Importance Of Space… My studio is on the top floor of a beautiful warehouse in Brooklyn. I also do etchings and experiments from a print studio nearby. All my paintings begin as a digital painting, so lots of time is spent painting digitally, in hundreds of layers, creating intricate compositions. I am looking into building a garden studio; imagine painting surrounded by nature! It’s incredibly fascinating and inspiring. It also takes me back to my childhood, when I painted on large paper rolls in the garden from the moment I could hold a brush.
On Music… I’ve got a very eclectic record collection, ranging from contemporary electronic composers and ’60s-’90s rock and pop, to shoegaze, psychedelic and African records from the ’70s. I love Motown too. I am massively inspired by music. I often focus on the composition of a song, taking the layers apart in my mind, imagining the building blocks that create a particular sound, and being inspired by the narration or elegance of a story that can be told within a song, like poetry. I’m always astonished by the freedom and experimentation that goes into creating and recording a song.
On Dressing The Part… When I paint, it feels liberating to wear boiler suits, [so] that I can focus on the work and strip everything else to the essentials. I don’t want the clothes to hold me back, I want to feel free. For openings, I love dresses. Sculptural shapes and textured details. I love wearing sustainable clothes that last forever, by Rachel Comey or Mara Hoffman, not only for their designs, but for what they stand for, and their powerful message. Beyond the special shapes and gorgeous materials, I love that I feel like me, and there are many versions of me that I like to celebrate.
On Signature Scents… I like wearing essential oils, such as the ones from Babylonstoren. Or [fragrances] by Bottega Veneta, Guerlain and Hermès. And I have a thing for incense. Awaji Incense by Astier de Villatte is my favourite. A friend also brought me incense from a Japanese monastery years ago that I still treasure, and both help me focus and get into the flow when working.
On Travel… Landscapes are very inspiring to me, be it the beautiful foothills of the Himalayas (that surprisingly resemble Switzerland where I grew up), or the lush and mossy hills in Scotland. I would also count South Africa’s Cape region to be one of the most incredible places and, of course, Italy and Greece with all their splendour and art history.
On Seeking Inspiration… I take a lot of inspiration from other art forms, such as film and TV. Sisters With Transistors by Lisa Rovner shines a light on female pioneers in electronic music; their radical experiments in the 20th century redefined the boundaries of music. I also love Boccaccio ’70 – a satirical masterpiece. It’s based on Giovanni Boccaccio’s novellas written in the 14th century, and directors Fellini, De Sica, Monicelli and Visconti reimagine these themes set in Italy in the 1960s.
On Art… As an artist, of course, I take inspiration from other artists. For me, it has to be Willem De Kooning and Cecily Brown for their untamed brushstrokes and for oscillating between figuration and abstraction. I also love Louise Bourgeois, Miriam Cahn, Meret Oppenheim, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Francis Bacon, Marlene Dumas and Tschabalala Self.
On Digital Habits… My favourite Instagram accounts are @Heba_Kadry, @Williamcult and @Republicofnowhere. When I’m on my phone I’m on Brian Eno’s Bloom, the Pantone colour app, BBC Sounds and any travel app that gets me around the city. But I try to spend the least time possible on my phone!
Marie-Claire Chappet is a London-based arts and culture journalist and contributing editor at Harper’s Bazaar