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Where's the frame

Maribelle Bierens

April 15, 2024 3:37 PM


When you try to remember a domestic space from your past, can you construct a clear image in your mind? Is it a specific moment, type of furniture, is an overall colour scheme? Memories, those ephemeral images that flicker in your mind. Often hazy and elusive, they are scenes compiled of half-forgotten, half-remembered visuals, feelings, scents, and ideas. Artist Elena Rivera-Montanes works in this subject matter, exploring themes of time, loss, and observations of life. WTF? had the pleasure of visiting Elena Rivera-Montanes in her studio to talk about how memories play a role in her practice, her technique, and how she aims to allow viewers to find points of relatability within the artwork.

Inside Elena Rivera-Montanes’ studio

In Elena’s paintings, she builds a narrative to tell a story. Often silent, overlooked domestic moments which are often intentionally devoid of figures, there is a sense of a relatable fleeting and fragile everyday moment. A kitchen counter with some bowls, the newspaper and a curtain softly blowing in. Looking outside the window at the bare branches of a winter tree. Looking at a table during a board game. It’s a bit blurry with different degrees of clarity, the works invite the viewer to step into their own memories, to fill in the gaps with fragments of their own experiences. 

Inside Elena Rivera-Montanes’ studio

Elena reveals that the final composition is actually built up from different pictures. Some of them are pictures from her phone, some of them taken on a disposable camera, and some of them from family albums. ‘I often collage and layer a variety of references within one composition to mirror the fragile nature of memory when recollecting, forgetting and rewriting these moments, and to evoke a familiar but non linear narrative.’ she explains.

Due to her use of a distinctive colour palette, the interiors make you wonder about the time and place. Evoking some nostalgic feelings, with the warm tones of oranges and browns, they look like they’re set in the past. 'I am often drawn to painting with warm colours and sepia tones,' Elena continues ''they are very reminiscent of the colours in the analogue photographs from my family album'/

Inside Elena Rivera-Montanes’ studio

The fleeting, unrestricted, open-ended nature of memories makes them at once highly personal but also relatable to others. There is a sense of familiarity most viewers will respond to in the imagery she has composed. Elena explains how the relatability of the viewer is really important to her work. For her, it’s more of a suggestion, ‘not a full stop at the end’. 

Inside Elena Rivera-Montanes’ studio

This open-endedness is fortified by her cropped composition, which anchors you as a viewer. Like looking around, there is only a limited field of perspective that you see. Her use of close-up or partial views compositions, enforces the engagement of the viewer, as it leaves more to the viewer's imagination. 

You can follow Elena Rivera-Montanes on her Instagram and website

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