Raffaella Freyre completed the Drawing and Painting Program at the Florence Academy of Art before joining the Residency at the Barcelona Academy of Art.  She is currently working on a series of paintings exploring her own past and also teaching part-time on the Drawing Program at the BAA.

Why did you decide to do the Residency? What were you doing before?

After graduating from the Florence Academy of Art I worked for the artist Nick Devereux for six months in Paris and then from there I went home to Mexico and spent a year working in my studio alone. It was lonely in a way because there aren’t many artists in the figurative scene there and all my friends from back home have nothing to do with the cultural sector. People who are related to the art world would invite me to really modern installations that I really didn’t connect with and that was the scene going on.

It’s nice to be at the residency where you can talk about shadow shapes and someone understands or someone comes to have a look and says “Hm, I think you should do this…”. Here we’re all supporting each other, if someone has a problem with perspective or can’t figure out how to portray some reflected light then others come and help and I think it is important to have that community.

What first inspired you to take up art?

I always liked art as a kid. My dad was a political cartoonist back in Mexico and he had this big studio, where you could find oils and watercolors. He also did sculpture but everything in a caricature style. I loved his studio and I had my little tiny easel. By the time I graduated from high school, I knew I wanted to study art but couldn’t find what I wanted. Also from the ages of 10 to 15, I took classes with a Spanish realist painter in Mexico and that was what made me realize that this is what I wanted to do.

Things have changed now but back then the internet wasn’t what it is right now. The Florence Academy didn’t even have a website though it’s been around for 26 years. I guess people found out about it from word of mouth and maybe just Europeans, I don’t know. I looked into schools in the US and everything seemed so modern, so far from what I wanted to do. I was kind of lost and depressed and I thought “ok, this art is dead”, so I went into Communications.

I completed a Communications degree and worked for three years until one day I bumped into the website for the Florence Academy and thought “this is where I have to go”. I had to work for one more year so that I could earn enough money to go and I went. I thought I would be there one year, which turned into four years.

What contemporary painters do you look up to? And are there any classical painters you are inspired by?

Yes, Rembrant, Sorolla and I really like Russian painters, like Yuri Levitan and Ivan Kramskoi. My favourite one is Nicolai Fechin.

For contemporary painters there’s Nick Alm, Jeremy Mann, Victor Wang, Malcolm Liepke and Matt Talbert.

Platja Mar Bella, 20 x 30 cm, oil on wood

Platja Mar Bella, 20 x 30 cm, oil on wood

Do you have any other key inspirations?

At some point, I have to do something with ballet because as a child I really loved it, wanted to be a ballet dancer and then I had an accident, which meant I had to stop dancing at 14. Maybe in the self-portrait series something with ballet will have to appear.

Is there a random object that you always have in your studio?

Back in Mexico I had a goldfish, but it died. Now I have many, many snacks. I also have a huge transparent bag of seven different types of dried chillies to make different types of salsas, it was a gift from a friend who brought them from Mexico and I keep forgetting to take them home so this bag is just hanging on the wall next to my palette.

If you could own one painting what would it be?

It would be The Execution of Lady Grey by Paul Delaroche. It’s in the National Gallery in London and it is huge. I saw it as a kid and I thought “woah, that dress…” and then I saw it again two years ago and I’m still impressed by it, even more now that I know the story of Jane Grey. If I didn’t have anywhere to put it because of its dimensions, I think I would like to own The Lady of Shallot by John William Waterhouse, which is quite a bit smaller.

What are your plans for the future?

I have no idea about next year; my plans are more about the next two or three months. I’d like to continue this self-portrait series, start on more paintings of the other two series and…redo my website with the marketing team!

Follow Raffaella on: Instagram


Photos: Mira Karouta

Interview: Eloise Gillow