Artist of the Week: Solange Leon Iriarte

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This week Brighton Journal spoke to Sussex-based artist, Solange Leon Iriarte. Solange explores the rhythms of cityscape and landscape in her energising mixed media work. We discussed many things during our discussion including her ‘Sway’ installation which concerns migration and the urgency of the current climate crisis, as well as how her childhood in Chile shaped her ability to think creatively. Her work features some well-loved familiar landmarks.It is all here , take a look.

Featured Image: © Wayne Matthews-Stroud


What are you doing today?

Today I am trying to remember what it is like to be in a non celebratory New Years Eve mood of marvel, but I am failing to do so and I am smiling and twirling around the place.

Focusing back into work first thing of the year always feels like trying to board a train at full speed wearing wet slippers, but I am excited about what 2020 has in store.


Describe where you do most of your creative work.

In the streets. I love sitting outdoors and dissolving into whichever environment I am in. Time warps and I never know how long I have been in one spot, lost in some horizon or other.

I do further detailed work at my studio afterwards once the pieces have grown bones outdoors. My studio is my favourite hiding hole, it’s both perfect and precious.

I also do a lot of work in my head on the bus, and trains in particular, as writing is a very important part of my practice and it is often when traveling that some of my best ideas seem to coagulate.

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Motion I guess, promotes thought for me – I love movement, dancing included…


What’s the most exciting thing you’ve worked on?

That’s a tough one. I think probably ‘Sway’ at ONCA, an additive collective installation about migration and immigration in response to divisive current politics and the evident urgency of the current climate crisis.

The stories the audience honoured me with were profoundly moving. I felt it was an incredible collective artistic contribution with the community to promote thinking about difficult issues that alas, do not seem to be going away.

It got me entirely out of my comfort zone – no pens or brushes – and I had to work as a designer and partner in a rather complex collaborative cross-discipline beast of a project I had created for myself.

What made you decide to become an artist?

What? No no, I didn’t decided to become an artist, I think I was grown one by my mother, also an artist.

I grew up hiding under the tables at art openings and running wild with the kids of other bohemian artists in Chile, listening to poets and thespians and surrounded by potters and dancers and singing bears – well, perhaps singing pumas since it is the Andes I was in at the time. It might sound like a Garcia Marquez tinted tale but I had a superbly wild barefooted childhood fuelled with mountains of art in all forms, including opera singing at the conservatory when I was fourteen. My interests are still varied and all encompassing, numbers excepted…


What are you currently working on?

I have recently gone back to playing with monoprints, they are beautifully simple, effective, yet full of mystery. I have moved house and the surroundings are closer to nature again, and so my subjects change accordingly.

I also have a couple of oil paintings that keep asking me to change them on my wall, they are taking their time to reveal themselves, like when you develop photographs and the photo first starts to materialize on the wet paper in the darkroom.

They are taking forever, but then some pieces need to sleep for a while before you give them your attention again. I am also writing for an MA in Sustainable Design I started last September, and trying to figure out which shape the art piece that is simmering in the back of my mind will take…


What are the key themes in your work?

Cityscapes and Movement, in macro and micro scale. I think it is the continual change of the line work and the space it conveys that really fascinates me.


What would you like people to notice about your work?

The rhythms captured in each piece are important to me, wether they are still or moving, they express the feeling of a Place.


What attracts you to the medium you work in?

I work in a lot of different mediums but my favourite is ink. The marks and dents and wearing and creasing of the paper give each piece a unique personality and energy.

I also love when I am working outside and it rains, it seals the weather in a unique way in that instant and one has to work with it and embrace it.

And the inks run and I run, to the studio, before the paper completely melts away, or I get hypothermia. Either or both, in no particular order…


What equipment could you not do without?

Pens and paper, any kind of it really.


Who or what inspires you?

Playing, paths, heights, skies, humanscapes, light, and the ever-changing faces of a city. In a different level- kindness, strength, loyalty, originality and dedication as well as love- ohhhh the ‘L’ word-

I feel a particular affinity with those who feel alive, or have the courage to allow themselves to feel, rather than shrink away from life- which is evidently not always easy.

My family is enormously creative and we feed of each other’s creativity too, as well as my friends.


How is your work affected by living in this area?

Brighton and Sussex feature heavily in my work, and I can trace the places I have lived in by seeing how I have taken a certain sheen to one landmark or other over twenty years of living and loving this seaside town of ours.

I mostly draw what I see around me. The West Pier in particular has been my rusty romantic muse for a while, and I play at drawing it from memory often.


What’s your favourite thing to do locally?

Walking with my hound and white loyal shadow, Artemis, in the woods behind my house. They are a secret spot so I won’t tell you where this is….


What’s your favourite gallery (or place to see/experience art)?

Tate Britain in London, Pallant House in Chichester and Cameron Contemporary in Hove.


If you could collaborate with one artist, from any time, who would it be and why?

Paul Nash. His work is extraordinarily sensitive and beautiful, it moves me profoundly.

It is not just the artistic skill he has but his heart that is so apparent in his work. He obviously loved the Sussex walks too, and the sea.


What’s your favourite colour?

Orange. But it used to be red and I think it is slowly changing into yellow.


To find out more about Solange and her work, check out her website, Instagram and Facebook. Solange’s work can also be found at Jaggedart and Cameron Contemporary Art.

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