Gabriella Sanchez: A Hand Embraced

Work / Art

Is it possible to make “art for art’s sake” as an artist of colour?

Gabriella Sanchez’s vivacious paintings embody the liminal space between art and graphic design. Bold, graphic typography is painted onto the canvas with the skill of a sign painter, overlapped with evocative images to raise questions around cultural identity. In her own words, the artist tells It’s Nice That, “my work uses coded visual language to build composite portraits of a life lived in between cultures, and of art made in between cultures”.

Born and raised in Pasadena, Gabriella uses her experience working as a graphic designer to bring structural elements to her fine art practice. A multimedia artist, Gabriella has been tirelessly working over the past few years to find an original way of integrating her design experience with fine art sensibilities, resulting in the sensational series of paintings recently exhibited at the Jeffrey Dietch gallery in New York and Charlie James Gallery in Los Angeles.

The work centres around the tension of duality and explores how meaning is created and received through both text imagery. Polarity is a recurring theme in Gabriella’s vivid paintings seen through the high contrasting, block colours — displaying the duality between graphic design and fine art and the duality between the artist’s Mexican heritage and the American culture she resides within — these oppositions play a key role in the symbolic emotion of the work. The paintings tell a narrative through a semi-autobiographical lens but directly speak to the public’s views on the formation of identity. The paintings posit whether it is possible for her aesthetic choices to be critically considered independent to her ethnic identity?

The artist is also interested in the philosophy of aestheticism, referencing Oscar Wilde’s proposition of “art for art’s sake” which favours the artist’s freedom of expression no matter what form. Gabriella explains, “as an artist of colour is it possible to make ‘art for art’s sake’ or will my artistic choices always be read through a socio-ethnic-political lens. I know the answer to be the latter so I play with the assumptions that will be made, and reflect back to the viewer their own psychographics”. This is seen through the Gabriella’s intelligent use of typographic psychology. She contrasts minimal, sans serif words against historical gothic scripts to play with the context that inherently comes with the connotations of a typeface.

The loaded words she uses in her paintings such as “homes”, “Oscar”, “nada”, “embraced” and “open” are understood in different ways depending on the typesetting, composition and colour that Gabriella prescribes to the canvas. Not to mention, the viewer’s personal understanding of the words that is entirely unique to their subjective experiences and opinions. The artist adds, “I use the same words and same font styles but placed within the context of my paintings, new associations of the words arise to the viewer as well as new perceptions of my identity through the work”.

Gabriella’s creative process “usually starts with writing which then sometimes leads to reading, researching, then writing again,” followed by visually organising her ideas onto canvas. She points out that her paintings “are not a closed system of meaning directed towards an answer, but more a series of connected signifiers pointing to a place in between.” Compositionally, Gabriella takes inspiration the wonderfully psychedelic work of Sister Corita Kent as well as Jacob Lawrence, RB Kitaj and the archive work of Guadelope Rosales. These influences are evident in the seamless interweaving of Gabriella’s text and imagery that come together to form a fluent oeuvre. Ultimately, Gabriella’s background in graphic design directly influences her work as an artist as her top concern is a successful composition, closely followed by the consideration of how the viewer will interpret the work. Her work is artistically and conceptually astute and paves the way for Gabriella to continue “create whatever the fuck I want”.


Gabriella Sanchez: It Is What It Is


Gabriella Sanchez: Homes


Gabriella Sanchez: Wilde Flowers


Gabriella Sanchez: So Much, Too Much


Gabriella Sanchez: Oscar Not Oscar


Gabriella Sanchez: Wild


Gabriella Sanchez: This/That


Gabriella Sanchez: It Is Or It Isn’t


Gabriella Sanchez: Rebel Rebel


Gabriella Sanchez: Anyone


Gabriella Sanchez: Selected Works


Gabriella Sanchez: Open


Gabriella Sanchez: Enter/Homes/Street


Gabriella Sanchez: Blank


Gabriella Sanchez: Pudica


Gabriella Sanchez: Selected Works