Cristina BanBan – The Nuance of Memory
JUXTAPOZ|Summer 2021
BanBan’s pieces evoke those complex states of mind when we feel like crying, and how being transported through time can elicit emotions of profound grief and joy.
By Evan Pricco

Think about the last time you cried. Oh, there are myriad reasons. Life can be upsetting, life makes us feel nostalgic. We cry out of sadness and happiness, sometimes at the same time. We cry when something is so beautiful it is incomprehensible and, admittedly, we cry at the heinous moments, as well. I bring up this most human act in the dichotomy of Spanish-born painter Cristina BanBan’s newest body of work, a bold and beautiful series of oil paintings, titled Del Llanto, which translates to “from crying.” BanBan’s pieces evoke those complex states of mind when we feel like crying, and how being transported through time can elicit emotions of profound grief and joy. I spoke with BanBan just as she was finishing Del Llanto, in what will most certainly be a watershed moment for her rising career. These paintings tell universal stories in the most personal way.

Evan Pricco: Can we talk about hands? When we spoke the other day, I didn’t even bring it up. And they are so prominent! One of your paintings I really love, EL PRAT DE LLOBREGAT, 2PM, has such incredibly rendered hands. What’s your feeling about hands?

Cristian BanBan: They’re my favorite part of the human body, after the teeth; but painting an open mouth is one of the most difficult things to do, in my opinion. Playing with hands brings movement into the painting. It doesn’t matter if the subjects are in relaxed positions, hands always create a dynamic composition. I paint huge hands, and recently they’ve become more bony and masculine. When I think about hands in paintings, the first thing that comes to mind are Philip Guston’s—so sophisticated and iconic.

I took a bit of a step back this morning, looked at your work, your characters and some of the moments you capture, and there is such an intimacy. I could be wrong, but I see so much of Spain. Though you were born in Barcelona, you lived in London for nearly a decade, and now Brooklyn, but I love how those Spanish scenes evoke such nostalgia.

My last show, Tigre y Paloma, was centered around nostalgia from missing home. I brought in the familiar spaces: beach scenes, siesta time and family dinner. I began my latest oil paintings last year and there’s a lot of intimacy in them—they’re a reflection of time spent with myself and close friends. I wouldn’t say that my work is always “literally” autobiographical, but for sure, they explain mood and current situations. Alice Neel once said in an interview that “when painting or writing are good, it’s taken right out of life itself, to my mind, and put into the work. Now that doesn’t mean that the work has to tell about real life. I mean, it can be abstract or anything, but the vitality is taken out of real living.” I think that explains it well.

This is an unfair question, but I like unfair questions: What did you take from Barcelona, London, and now, NYC? Those are art capitals with so much history, and your work lends a refreshing take on figurative painting. What did you absorb from those cities, and what does each place mean to you?

You know things in life change, and you change all the time, so your paintings do too. Every move was driven by intuition, perhaps moving away from feeling comfortable. I tend to move when I feel I have done all that place offered me during that time. Spain will always be home, always where I come back to reunite with my loved ones and family. I learned everything I know from drawing and painting in Barcelona, but it was London where I put the time into it. London was the place where my career kicked off and I am very grateful for that and all the moments, the joy and suffering, along the way. I’ve been in New York for about a year and a half now and am excited for what the summer will bring.

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