The Visceral Paintings of Laura Castellanos

Recently I had the opportunity to view one of Laura Castellanos’ paintings first hand, and my immediate reaction was I wanted to lick it. It was entirely visceral. The colour was so gloriously candied pink, and the resin surface so glossy, it looked like a delicious confection, and I was sorely tempted to give in to my desire, right there in the gallery, when no one was watching. And I wasn’t the only viewer the artwork made feel that way. Other’s told me they felt that way too.

An unusual technique Laura is beginning to experiment with in completing her paintings is the application of a resin layer on top of the finished artwork. It was partly this glossiness that led to my intense response to one of her resin-coated works recently. (Learn more about the artist in my recent interview)

“I love to use it because it reminds me of adding a cabochon onto a sliver of an opal. It magnifies and allows the color and depth to shine to its most intense potential! I didn’t always use it, but have recently been using it on many of my works. There are many ways I’d like to explore the resin material in layers in the future projects.”

I am reminded very strongly of the Naïve school of painting when I look at Laura Castellanos’ body of work thus far. And it is this unselfconscious and uncontrived naivety to Laura’s style which makes it immediately accessible and very appealing for me. She does not preoccupy herself with the formalities of realistic perspective and tonal modelling throughout her compositions but rather playfully mixes elements of these with flattened pattern or perspective. There is an underlying duality to compositions and colour palette of the artist’s work that connects to the light and dark, the complex feelings versus the basic nature present in all of us.

“I think I paint them in dark and brights because I am like these feelings inside. I’m a highly sensitive person and I feel very strongly both happiness and sadness.”

Laura finds inspiration and influences from a wide variety of sources including her background as a toy designer for Hasbro.

“I was a toy designer for many years and I think it’s definitely influenced my work. Even before that was a child I loved the ‘Serendipity’ books because the illustrations had these beautiful huge eyes. Eyes have always been an obsession for me and make me think of windows to new worlds to be seen and explored.”

A strong feature of her works is the predominance of the eyes that loom out of the oft sad or pensive faces she paints. While many elements in her painting or drawing may be flattened or patterned, the eyes are always tonally modelled with enormous depth and a glimmering luminosity that draws the viewer into their depths, mesmerized and held captive by that gaze.

Laura has travelled extensively and her interest in Art History and artifacts can also be seen underpinning the ideas behind some of her works.

“My ‘Starseed’ series is inspired by the head size and shape of the Egyptian and skulls found in old relics in South America. There are many legends or stories attached to them and they fascinate me. I went to Peru to see some of the large skulls first hand and did some research there….and ‘Goddess’ I painted for a presentation of a few works at Hive Gallery. She was inspired by my trip to Malta in May. I went for the purpose of seeing the old megalithic structures found in this teal paradise world. The ancient peoples that built them also built enormous goddess sculptures that look like fertility goddesses. The female figure in this painting is inspired by that goddess energy I found in Malta.”

Laura is an obsessive reader, and this too is reflected in her artwork. She especially revels in fairy tales, myths, mysteries and stories of the unknown. Anything that takes her to another world. And in turn Laura takes us to another world, her world, where intense colours and marvelous patterns form the imaginative landscapes and interiors populated by strange, disproportionate glassy eyed little humans, toys and creatures.

Laura Castellanos is an emerging artist well worth keeping an eye on. Her body of work thus far is consistent and she has developed a signature style that is unique, delightfully quirky and easily recognisable. Her art is of the dream and spirit world and is fittingly unfettered by considerations of realistic representation. She offers us a delightful escape from this real world with all its complexities and distractions.

Laura’s work has been exhibited at Hive Gallery and Cactus Gallery in the USA and Weswal Gallery in Australia and represented with other artists of the Artfreaks Collective.


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