Torreja‘s childhood impacts her every creation. Growing up on the precipice of lifelessness, in the streets and in the home, has left her on a permanent search for the non-existent memories and life stories left behind by the inanimate beings – human and non-human – that surrounded her.
Her work explores ideas of absence and presence, death, humour, cultural iconography, and street art. Executed often with a surrealist approach whether in acrylic, oil, markers, embroidery or pencil, her work draws imagery and subject matter from her own history growing up in Peru with a taxidermist father during terrorist years. She is interested in exploring the connection between presence and absence and their correlation to space, time and object.
Hello Torreja and welcome to NotRandomArt. The current issue is revolving around the problem of identity. Is there any particular way you would describe your identity as an artist but also as a human being in dynamically changing, unstable times? In particular, does your cultural substratum/identity form your aesthetics? You emphasize your childhood as having a great impact over your creations. Would you like to tell us something about your background? Could you talk a little about experiences that has influence the way you currently relate yourself to your artworks?
Absolutely. My identity is intrinsically connected to my art and to every aspect of who I am. I grew up in Lima, Peru during terrorist years, seeing people disappear and not being able to go on the streets due to bombs and explosions shaped my views of absence and presence as well as life and death, which is a constant obsession of mine since childhood (probably also due to my father’s taxidermy career) Ironically and due to such facts I grew up in an overprotected bubble where I wasn’t allowed out much and I reflect this in the humor found in my work, danger, absence but yet a cartoonish and immature sense of what’s happening around me.
We would state that your work stands as record of existence allows you to capture non-present with an universal kind of language, capable of bringing to a new level of significance the elusive still ubiquitous relationship between experience and memory, to create direct relations with the spectatorship: What is the role of memory in your process? We are particularly interested if you try to achieve a faithful translation of your previous experiences or if you rather use memory as starting point to create.
I believe my work stems not just from memory. My concept of absence and presence stems also from having left my home country and started to leave behind my own identity as well in some way. It’s a constant struggle to hold on to it and at the same time to feel present, as my mother keeps my childhood room and childhood belongings but yet I miss every family event or when a loved one dies, it’s a kind of disappearance while still being alive in the way I left them in my mind. This creates a great disconnection and desperation.
Your approach coherently encapsulates several viewpoints to reveal an incessant search of artificial, human, real and surreal, original and transformed. While walking our readers through your process , we would like to ask you how did you develop your style and how do you conceive your works.
I conceive my works from a sort of “stream of consciousness” it just comes to me but its a very slow process, I think about and research a lot into my own culture and my own past and think deeply about what I need to communicate, what is inside me and it takes me 5 times to think about it as it takes me to actually create the piece. Once I know what I want to say, it’s easier to say it. But as someone who also struggles with the melancholy and a deep connection with these issues it’s also a very difficult task.
We definitely love the way you question the nature of reality and representation, unveiling the visual feature of information you developed through an effective non linear narrative that establish direct relations with the viewers: German multidisciplinary artist Thomas Demand once stated that “nowadays art can no longer rely so much on symbolic strategies and has to probe psychological, narrative elements within the medium instead”. What is your opinion about it? And in particular how do you conceive the narrative for your works?
The narrative of my works is conceived as a non linear story. A group of memories, mixed with feelings and my subconscious. I let it all come out and many times it’s unexpected. I surprise myself by what I see on the canvas and only starts making sense later on. It’s a sort of experiential library that’s stored in my mind.
One of the hallmarks of your practice is the capability to create a direct involvement with the viewers, who are urged to evolve from a condition of mere spectatorship. So before leaving this conversation we would like to pose a question about the nature of the relationship of your art with your audience. Do you consider the issue of audience reception as being a crucial component of your decision-making process, in terms of what type of language is used in a particular context? Is using the pop-culture, street art references helping to build the connection between the artworks and searches for redefining the significance of the unsacred spaces?
I believe art in order to connect with an audience, and in particular the kind of art I enjoy and the one I like to create myself needs to have a sense of humor, a sly smile connected to a deep thought. This is what I seek to achieve and what connects me with my audience.
In your opinion, can art change the future for racial and ethnic identity? How can art help to make sense of these complex histories?
I believe art should not be specific or divisive in any way. Art’s purpose should be a stirring, a beauty, a connection and it should be void of an agenda.
Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Torreja. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving? Its’a mystery!