Elena Gual

Passages from life

The day she saw the painting Sunflowers in the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, was the day Elena Gual (Palma, 1994) decided she wanted to be a painter. “At that moment in time I felt the same as when you hear a song and can’t explain why it moves you so much. But at that instant, I knew I wanted to devote my life to painting”. She called her parents to tell them, and from then on, her journey through the most prestigious classical painting schools began, in Florence, New York and London. She recently concluded a global representation deal with Gallery Red.

Did you want to be a painter as a child?

Not consciously, but unconsciously, yes, I did. As a child I did a lot of after-school activities related to art. I went to painting classes, to rhythmic gymnastics and to piano lessons – I am particularly fond of the piano. I learned to play scales and notes and once I had a good base, I improvised. I wanted to do the same with art.

You have always travelled a lot. What influence do you think discovering so many different places has had on you?

I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to many countries on several continents. Every single one of these places was a life lesson for me, and I am where I am today thanks to those discoveries. But without a shadow of a doubt the trip I learned the most from was my gap year, after finishing my baccalaureate.

Where did you go?

I went to India to live in an orphanage for four months. I analysed and interpreted the difference in how women are treated there and here. Many of those girls ran away from home because they were mistreated and wanted to have an education. The same as when I went to Peru, where I was in an organisation for girls under the age of 16 who had babies, most of them as a result of rape. I learned so many things over those years, things that helped me understand the world. The women I met in those places are reflected in my works today.

All of those experiences helped you find your path.

Yes. Before that gap year I wanted to be an architect, because it was a safe option. But the time I spent in India taught me that you have to seek out your true calling. Without that gap year, I wouldn’t be a painter today, because we don’t normally have time to choose our own path in life.

Van Gogh’s Sunflowers in that museum in Amsterdam showed you the way. And shortly afterwards, you entered the Florence Academy of Art to study classical painting.

I had the choice of studying Fine Arts or going to an academy. I preferred an academy because I wanted to achieve that base so as to improvise later, as I had done with the piano. First you learn the alphabet, and then you can form words. I didn’t pick up a paintbrush until the second year. For the first year we basically drew – they would put a sculpture in front of you and you couldn’t move on to the next drawing until it was perfect. I remember that I didn’t have a very good time, because I couldn’t express myself and sometimes I forgot why I was there. I found out that I was there to learn that you have to cry, enjoy and dream with all that. When you experience these three things, you have learned.

You are not even 30 yet but you have been all over the world, you have studied in highly prestigious centres and have exhibited your work with success. How do you feel about all this?

I have been very lucky. I always had the desire to explore myself and explore the outside world. Everything that is close to me and far from me. But I still have a lot of learning and living left to do. I want to learn more about creativity, above all how to foster and reinforce it. And live in a different country, not for ten days, but for long enough to be able to really inhale it. I would love to go to Japan.

Why do you paint with a spatula?

At first I painted with a paintbrush and used turpentine a lot, until one day [...]


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