Growing up in a flat filled with heirlooms, figurines and things passed down from her ancestors, New York-based figurative painter Bianca Nemelc was immersed in the culture of art from an early age. It was that which bore stories or “connections” to her family’s history that went on to inspire her artistically. “My grandmother’s brother is a painter in Holland, so we had his paintings around the house,” she tells It’s Nice That, “or paintings from artists that she has befriended at different points in her life.” Consequently, Bianca decided to pursue the arts and, as such, she learned from the get-go about how art and storytelling could be used as a catalyst for navigating her own identity.
“But,” she continues, “art as a profession wasn’t something I had planned.” As a self-taught painter, she simply began her practice as a means of addressing her thoughts and experiences. It was a remedial tool that she acted upon to “get something out” that she couldn’t quite with words, as well as a way of connecting to herself “on a deeper level”. She continues on her reasons for first commencing her practice: “I was trying to find that place of home within myself, and I gravitated towards painting the female figure. What’s come from it has been a beautiful journey of growth; I feel like I’m learning about myself at the same time that people are learning about my work.”
The female form is precisely that which appears widely – if not solely – throughout her work. Brown bodies, bodies of water and “plant bodies”, whichever form it takes, Bianca aims to celebrate the “healing connection” between the elements – “Brown bodies and nature,” she says. Most imperative is that Bianca envisions a landscape where “the lens” through which society views the female body of colour is non-existent, “which also means envisioning a natural environment that hasn’t been trained by society either.” A hopeful land and one that shouldn’t be far-reaching, Bianca, in turn, seeks out new possibilities through each brushstroke and splash of paint, marking down the narratives that exist in her view on the world.
In recent times, Bianca – like many practicing artists – has had to adapt her process. Working solely out of her apartment, her creative methodology has received a slight “makeover”. It’s seen her find moments of comfort with the new norm of “rolling out of bed” and straight into her work, something that’s surprisingly made her more productive. “Usually I’m moving my body around trying to find new poses and going for walks before I work,” she adds, “so that I can feel the sun or see the sky before I sketch out something new.” She sees the painterly process as one that can become autonomously quiet and peaceful, particularly as her technique equates to multiple layers and a slow formation.
Alongside working with her adapted surroundings, she’s also started to experiment with pastels and trying to loosen up her line work. “I do think that the circumstances have given me the space and time to think less in terms of process, and just make for the sake of making – however that comes out.”
In times like this, there’s most certainly room for experimentation. Bianca tells us how her most recent works really resonate with her, due to the fact that they were all created in her flat during lockdown with the sun “sometimes rising, sometimes setting”. She adds: “I think that idea was born out of a real need to feel connected to that source while being inside all of the time.” It’s that moment when the sun touches your skin, you’re feeling energised, sun-kissed and physically and mentally energised that Bianca strived to recreate within her newest imagery. “So this series of new works is really an ode to that relationship and that love affair with sunshine.”
Indeed sun-drenched and explicitly calm, her recent paintings are brushed with yellow tones, hues of brown and tropical Caribbean landscapes. Above all, she hopes for her audience to consider these paintings with care. “I can’t say I have one specific message or meaning,” she adds of her concepts, “but the intention is to find new ways to create a visual for what love, connection and peacefulness can look like within nature for Black and Brown bodies.”
Bianca Nemelc: Mujer Y El Agua #1, 48inch x72inch, 2019