For Spanish artist, Cristina BanBan, the body and, in particular, the female body, has always been a central figure in her practice. By combining her traditional, academic arts training with her teenage love of anime, Cristina is an artist with a distinctive style, employing neoclassical aesthetics and using the female body “as a channel that allows [her] to articulate certain narratives”.
Composition plays a major role in the accomplishment of Cristina’s work. Bodies, full of curves and lumps fill the canvas in unexpected ways, skewing perspective and establishing relationships between characters. “I enjoy distortion and exaggerating certain parts of the human figure to express different emotions,” she tells It’s Nice That. “Recently hands have become huge and more dominating, while at the same time eyes have become bigger, allowing me to create more expression with them.”
Cristina’s portrayal of the body has changed over time, as her practice has developed and morphed. As an adolescent, she emulated the work Akira Toriyama and similar artists’ “big eyes, big weepy eyes”. And while these early Japanese influences are still clear, nowadays, Cristina has a “much looser expressionist-figuration approach to representing those opulent and juicy looking bodies”.
Although the aesthetics of her works may have changed, however, many concepts have remained consistent. “Human interactions and emotions are what interest me the most,” Cristina tells It’s Nice That. “Relationships, lovers, friendships, these are themes that have interested me over the years and I have the need to filter those thoughts and to find a way to represent them from a woman’s point of view.”
These interactions or emotions are sometimes her own, or observations of others’ but they are always painted from a woman’s perspective. Take one of her most recent paintings, Between the brain and the gut, for example. A self-portrait, it “talks about the dichotomy of how difficult is to live at times between your emotions and your brain”, she outlines. The two characters that appear both represent Cristina, the one in the foreground the “real” her who is “trying to run and catch what she needs (this could represent the gut, the feelings)”. The angelic-looking character in the background, however, “portrays a wiser and more experienced version of me who is stopping my ‘actual’ self in order to save me and protect me from my own and visceral decisions.”
In another work titled At the studio, she presents a female artist “proud and enjoying herself”, in turn reinstating the female figure in the art world. Whereas in Mamas, she depicts three women, two of them with children. “I was 30 when I painted that piece,” she says, “it was a moment where I started to question a lot my life as an artist and a woman and what it could be to have a kid or to decide to not have children.”
By balancing contemporary aesthetic qualities with the traditions of fine art, Cristina adeptly visualises altogether modern scenarios and issues related to the female experience. Her works feel jovial, serene and complicated all at once. And whether she’s depicting her women in saturated colours, with bold brushstrokes or in a more tender pastel palette, one thing remains the same: an “interesting and confident look” on the faces of her subjects, “sometimes mysterious but with high self-esteem”.
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