In her paintings, Aire Calderón uses light and shadow with a deft sensibility
Leading with intuition and a passion for depicting her immediate surroundings, the artist says that painting has allowed her to see the “deep connections and beauty” present in her life.
- Olivia Hingley
- 13 April 2022
If there is one thing that stands out in Aire Calderón’s exquisite paintings, it is her sensitive use of light and shadow. The panes of a window frame dividing a face, the shadow of a hand splayed across a chest or a warm hue illuminating a subject. With such attention, Aire adds numerous depth and layers to her already striking work. Explaining that her hometown of Costa Rica has six whole months of summer, Aire finds inspiration in the “very particular” light of the period, “bright in the morning to noon, and more soft in the afternoons. Plus the colours that appear in the sky with the sunset, the light reflections, the way the shadows are super colourful, all of it; it's fascinating”.
Starting to paint at the age of 12, Aire tells us, was a means for her to navigate the complex feelings she had after her family’s move to a small town in the middle of a mountain range. “Unconsciously, painting was my way to cope with that change, so I started taking oil painting classes with a local artist”, she explains. “I remember the first class, seeing all the materials and feeling complete fascination with it all.” And now, having maintained her oil painting practice, it is this very hometown, full of nature and intrigue, that most influences the painter’s work, “the light in my parent’s house in the middle of the forest, the light that I see every time I take a walk [...] The act of painting has allowed me to see the deep connections and beauty that life has to offer”.
It is nature that also influences Aire’s pleasingly muted colour palette. Paying attention to the earthy tones of rocks, leaves and other natural objects, the artist says that “I always start choosing one colour, and I create the rest of the palette based on that first colour.” And, from that point onward she lets herself be led by pure intuition, whether she is aware of it or not, “colour always amazes me, because I have an initial idea of what I want to create in terms of colour, but it always changes in the middle of the painting process”. But, not only swayed by the concreteness of the natural world, Aire also tells us that she has a particular love of spiritual iconography, specifically, the famous Marseille Tarot deck.
All of these influences and the best defining facets of Aire Calderón’s work reach a pinnacle in her exceptional piece, Como la reuda de la fortuna. Holding a special affection for the work, Aire tells us that it began in December 2021 and was concluded in January 2022, “so it was in the middle of finishing and initiating a cycle”. The painting began as many of Aire’s do, by taking in the aesthetic potential of her immediate environment, “one day I saw some blue shadows on my arm and a plant in front of me and I started sketching an idea”. With the subject's arm mimicking a circle – a compositional choice Aire originally deemed to be unconscious – the painter now sees as representing cyclicality, “a process through which I was living at that moment”. Moreover, the vase that rests in her hands is symbolic of “the things in her life that she wants to keep protected, thoughts, feelings, experiences, as if she has put them all in there”. And certainly, in Como la reuda de la fortuna’s considered construction, colours and context, it's not hard to image the piece as a modern day Tarot Card, waiting to be dealt.
Aire Calderón: Self-Portrait (Copyright © Aire Calderón, 2021)
About the Author
Olivia joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in November 2021. A graduate of the University of Edinburgh with a degree in English literature and history, she’s particularly interested in illustration, photography, ceramic design and platforming creativity from the north of England.