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Interview with the painter Cristina Barr

Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina (1962) to a Cuban mother and Argentinean father, Cristina Barr left Argentina and her career as an English Literature teacher to come to Paris, which has been her home since 2001. She is known for her bold and intense paintings that intertwine the private and the public – the intimate and the political, combining autobiographical elements with stories from literature, and observations on the contemporary world. She uses color and heavy brushstrokes to create unsettling tableaux which, at times, challenge the social and sexual codes still present mainly in Latin American societies. Charged with a unique psychic and emotional drama, her works, always inhabited by a strong female presence, express what it is to be a woman, particularly one living under the oppressive hierarchies and controlling conventions of patriarchal society.

What do you tell in your pictures? What are you inspired by when painting?

I’m interested in the human condition, the psychological depth of the characters I paint, exposing their power but also their vulnerability. I choose my models, mainly from social media. People striving for their fleeting moment of glory on Instagram. People creating a performance of “self”. I would like the viewer’s psyche to be “disturbed” by the presence, the performative existence of my characters. At the other end, I’m also interested in the “voyeuristic” experience of the spectator.  This is why I choose big, life-size formats. I aim at the confrontation of selves.

Which art movements were you influenced by when you started painting? Which art movement or movements do you feel close to right now?

When I started painting I was deeply impressed by the American Richard Diebenkorn, particularly by his figurative period, in what was later known as the Bay Area figurative movement. But then, after some time, I felt I was not “saying enough”, that I needed more radical figuration. Right at that moment, I came across the work of Alice Neel, and there I knew I had to paint that way. Nowadays, I admire many female figurative painters, with different styles such as Marlene Dumas, Jenny Saville or Jennifer Packer to mention just a few.

What do you do besides painting and do you have any projects that you plan to realize?

I’m a full-time artist currently preparing an exhibit for 2023 in Buenos Aires, Argentina and another one in Barcelona, Spain.

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