Carolina Moscoso draws from the familiar motifs of daily life, like a plant, a table or interior setting. But, in her visual world, everything is heightened – slightly dramatised – as it’s infused with vibrant colours, trippy perspectives and warping patterns. “I would say that domestic interiors are a recurring theme,” she tells It’s Nice That. “Some of the work that I did as an architect had a major role in this – most times we had to draw elevations and diagrams for drawing sets or presentations and dress these up with accessories, plants and people.”
Growing up in the north of Portugal, Caroline always knew that she wanted to be an architect; she enjoyed sketching and devising her own imaginary projects and objects, “mostly lamps”. She romanticised the role of an architect as “someone who designs everything, from the knob to the roof” and “thinking that all things architecture were poetic, from sketches to brick.” Meanwhile, after studying the discipline in Lisbon and living there for 12 years, she packed her bags to New York for an illustration residency, which is where she picked up the habit of drawing and illustrating “informally” in her spare time. Having done so, she realised this was her true passion after all and that it was something she wanted to spend more time doing in her day-to-day. Now, she’s a full-time freelancer based in the Big Apple who takes on a variety of commissions in the realms of books, short stories, publications and more.
While flicking through her works, you can certainly get a feel for Carolina’s past life as an architect. The structural compositions, careful line placements and accurate representations of objects and furniture; everything is orderly and pristine, even if it’s been doused in her signature punchy colour palette. “You will see lots of dogs and some other animals too – I like this imaginary scenario where humans rule during the day and animals take over at night,” she says. Plants tend to pop up quite regularly, too, which inspired by her childhood spent being connected to nature. “I think this is when I learnt to appreciate their intuitiveness and organic shapes. When I sketch on paper it’s the first thing that comes to mind.” All of which is elevated through Carolina’s ability to be observant, noticing the “unimportant things” around her and in turn transferring these elements into a satisfying illustrative piece of art.
Speaking of a couple of favourite pieces, Carolina points us in the direction of Tropicália and While You Swam – two recent works that are quintessentially her own. Both represent the environment where the walls are angular and the plants take centre stage. In Tropicália, a bunch of pumpkin-looking fruits or flora have been placed into a pot. Although more pared back than its predecessors, the conflicting patterns give it the Carolina edge; the object clashes wonderfully and immensely with the table clothes and sculptural ornament behind it. “Tropicália started with a sketch of a vase that had come up in a different drawing,” she notes, “there was this curved detail that I was intrigued about that I wanted to draw again and explore more.” As such, Carolina wanted to find the right setting for her vase. “I had never done a simple still life, so I decided to play with that idea and elaborate with the contrasting drama of the strange plant-fruits (in my mind tropical) and the patterns creating a sort of mundane surrealist atmosphere.”
Meanwhile, While You Swam is busier and a lot more intense. Part of a series where “each drawing will be a slightly wrong axonometric snapshot of the same house”, you’ll start to notice how the interior elements are all a bit off – the odd vases, the placement of the walls, a random pool and cat in a mirror being just a few examples. “Each drawing shows just enough evidence of people but never someone being totally present,” adds Carolina. “It’s about what’s left behind resting while action has moved elsewhere, and these spaces are lively and ‘still warm’ enough with the character of the quirky belongings.”
There’s much to enjoy throughout Carolina’s portfolio, where mundane elements from our everyday are twisted into her own architecturally strange version. An element of the surreal is what she strives for, she says: “I hope [the audience] understands the weirdness in it, and ultimately relate to the moods that I try to convey in these worlds. There’s a lot of silence and quiet in them, but hopefully they invite people to find all the nuances and intricacies that suggest narratives.”
GalleryCopyright © Carolina Moscoso, 2022
Copyright © Carolina Moscoso, 2022
About the Author
Ayla is a London-based freelance writer, editor and consultant specialising in art, photography, design and culture. After joining It’s Nice That in 2017 as editorial assistant, she became online editor in 2022 and continues to work with us on a freelance basis. She has written for i-D, Dazed, AnOther, WePresent, Port, Elephant and more, and she is also the managing editor of design magazine Anima.