Interview with Josefina Ayllón | Rise Art

Interview with Josefina Ayllón | Rise Art

“I have always painted with my fingers, kind of like sculpturing the paint … I guess I need that kind of contact with my work: I need to feel the materials.”

By Tatty Martin | 01 Jun 2022

Josefina Ayllón is a self-taught artist based in Rome. Working in an expressive impasto style, Josefina creates portraits of both recognisable and unrecognisable sitters. Many of her subjects are fictional characters, and with a heavy application of paint and a bold approach to brushwork, Josefina explores the tension between physicality and the makebelieve. 

Josefina sees colour, texture and the relationship between the two, as a means of generating intensity. Oils allow Josefina to build up texture and form a painting surface that appears tangible, or as she calls it, “a bi-dimensional object”. Josefina is new to Rise Art, and to welcome her to the platform, we recently caught up with her and learnt more about her practice and journey as an artist. 

Untitled (JA0616), 2020, by Josefina Ayllón

How would you describe your style and the work you create?

I paint expressionist portraits. My main focus is the colour and the material. I guess that when looking at my work one would say that the subject matter is the portrait, when in reality I consider the paint itself to be the main character.

I believe all paintings to be abstract, it is one’s job to decide whether to focus on the work as something figurative or not. I have always painted with my fingers, kind of like sculpturing the paint, which is weird because I often appreciate observing the brushstrokes of many painters. But I guess I need that kind of contact with my work: I need to feel the materials. I still paint the backgrounds with a brush, but for the figures, I need to break the intermediation of the brush between my hand and the canvas. Also, the texture this way of painting generates has a different effect under the lighting, there is a much bigger contrast between the figure and the ground. The character becomes even more in solitude within the composition.


Tell us a bit about the inspiration behind your practice

The inspiration comes mainly from my inside. It’s an unconscious rather than a conscious process. I believe that the work I create echoes the experiences I have lived and the cultural stimuli that surround me.

Untitled (JA0621), 2020, by Josefina Ayllón

How do you go about choosing the subjects for your paintings?

I often paint imaginary characters, especially in small paintings. Otherwise, I use photos that I stumble upon from different sources as a starting point. However, I tend to forget about them once I am painting.

I think that is why my paintings do not have a title. Even if I use a person in concrete as a source of inspiration, once I start to paint, this will turn into a totally different portrait. In fact, if the person and the portrait look alike, I feel that in a way I have failed.


How has your practice evolved in recent years?

A few years ago, the portraits that I painted were only about creating imaginary subjects and my way of working was kind of intuitive. But with time my focus shifted to something less abstract. Even though I continue to work in that way, I now use a more figurative approach in some of my paintings.

Regarding the medium, during my first steps I painted with oils, but soon I had to shift to acrylic paint due to practical reasons. However, when using acrylics, it became very evident to me that oil paint is much more alive. It is an organic material, coming from nature, that elders with time. Therefore a few years ago I went back to painting with oils. Lately, I have been experimenting with oil sticks on paper, which allows me to deepen much more on the gestures of my portraits.

Untitled (JA0527), 2019, by Josefina Ayllón

What’s an average day like in your studio?

My studio is located in the suburbs of Rome, so I take the train every morning to get there. I am not tightened to a specific routine, but I tend to work until 4 or 5pm As my workspace is located outside of the city, I really appreciate the silence and the privacy that I have while painting.


Who are your key influences?

There are many artists that I dearly admire, still, I never considered them as having a direct influence on my work. To name a few: Baselitz, de Kooning, Guston, Auerbach, Alice Neel.

Untitled (JA0555), 2019, by Josefina Ayllón

Who are some Rise Art artists with work you’re enjoying at the moment?

Clare Thatcher, Karoline Kroiss, Barbara Howey


Are you working on any exciting new projects?

I am currently working on a series in which I am painting many subjects, each one in two different styles. Then I will get two different results for each portrait.

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