Fragments from an interview with Catalina León


“I grew up in houses – several different ones, we moved three times during my childhood – where space was occupied in a playful, extravagant way and functionality was always a secondary consideration. Where you were allowed to draw on the walls. They were like scenes from a dream. My mother had an incredible gift for finding beauty and my father used space in unusual ways, although he didn’t care about aesthetics at all. Sometimes I see their two influences in my work. So, the use I make of space is partly an inheritance from my family – just like the manual aspects – and that makes it very natural, like an artisan reproducing the traditions of their parents and grandparents.”

“When I set up an installation, I don’t make it solely to be seen in full, I try to lay out the space and artworks in such a way that can convey the impulse that drove them to be made to the person experiencing them, and so they can be used as references. I inhabit the space and make the works to encourage myself to act in life.”

2. Images

“My practice helps me to understand not just who I am but what it means to be a person in this world. That’s why I try to direct my personal story to a more abstract place, where the narrative breaks down, expanding it to make everything more clear. I think that this in turn enables other stories eventually to be projected on these images.”

“I subscribe to the theory that magic was the primary motivation for cave paintings. I project my wishes onto the material. I see representation as a means of remembering and affirming living experience.”

3. Chance

“I move as I work, without knowing where I’m going. I don’t have a clear plan or an image of the final destination: I do have themes, climates, floating questions, images that produce desire within me that then I represent. I listen to songs that make me move and that derive in gestures, an accumulation of evidence and dead ends that give form to the work.”

“I spent hours lurking quietly next to the canvases in this exhibition, sometimes sitting on them, without being able to do much more than just be. And then I am taken by surprise by an abstraction and the fact that the work won’t let me go further than a certain point, regulating the strength and impulse in a new act of moderation.”

“My practice involves voices that accompany me and a process of synaesthesia. Sometimes I taste flavours and now I hear the sound of what I see: they’re not words, they’re sounds. Who’s speaking to me? Probably my unconscious, so I answer and he says something else and we go on like that until we achieve a comfortable silence.”


“I choose to work with plaster boards, worn-out fabrics, and cardboard because they attract me in visual, tactile, physical and emotional ways. The weight of the material is also important to me.”

“The material speaks to me. I am attracted by materials that, somehow, have suffered from the passing of time, water, sun and neglect. And when the material is new – a fabric, a piece of wood – I leave it outside, use it as a table, a table cloth, or take it travelling with me. That punishes it a little, but it also wakes it up. I let the material form a relationship with my environment first, I let chance leave its mark upon it. And when I get to work, the material has something to tell me.”


“There are images that lie hidden. I like to think that a painting is not only absorbed by the eye, it is also tactile, about the body and atmosphere. There is an energy that emanates from the work beyond the visible spectrum. I think that that places the emphasis on the act of painting itself, in painting for painting’s sake, rather than producing something for display: that comes afterwards, but it’s not what motivates artistic production. The work emanates energy from the source that provokes it... just as the visible can evoke the invisible, so the hidden can reveal things.”


“There’s a place I long for, it is a place with sea and amber light and is from another time. I have found fragments of that place in Guatemala, Bolivia, Spain, Italy, Mexico, Costa Rica and Peru, a country I haven’t yet been to but that is a part of me thanks to years living with Peruvian immigrants. There’s also plenty of that place in Buenos Aires and the north of Argentina. But it’s not complete anywhere. Aspects of these places, the sensations that they provoke in me, appear in my work. But I would say that what’s there is more of an interior place, a state. And a temperature: 27 degrees at sunset on a summer evening in San Juan.”