Andrea Bolima’s debut exhibition

See it at Föenander Galleries from June 3 – but first, read on about the artist…

Philippines-born, Auckland-based visual artist Andrea Bolima’s explorations of colour and form tell the story of how things move and don’t move, the varying degrees of tone, control and spontaneity showing their flow and suspension. Right now, she’s preparing for an exhibition that will showcase her recent journey from art school to art world.

MAIN IMAGE Andrea’s studio is handily located in the garage of the home she shares with her father. Pictured on the top shelf are Through the Forest in Purple (left), Thyme and Thyme Again (middle) and Stormy Blue (far right). The works on the floor are all in progress. “Lately, I’m informed by my dad’s garden when it comes to naming my paintings,” says Andrea. “But it’s mostly about how colour performs in nature, like the way leaves change.” ABOVE “I find myself constantly inspired by everything around me, but that doesn’t always translate into a painting,” says Andrea. “Sometimes I express feelings of inspiration through food, clothes or music.” She might find herself in the zone day or night, but usually paints while listening to music, and any genre will do: “I just press shuffle and off I go.”

We’re captivated by your colour palettes, Andrea. What draws you to the hues you use? I went through a black-and-white phase a couple of years ago, so I could focus on the transition between light and dark. This led to the palette I’m working with now, where the colours are slightly subdued and seem to come from a grey area. Because of that, I’m drawn to colours that are mostly toned down, and occasionally use sharper tones for contrast. 

TOP Andrea often transports paintings from the studio to hang in her dining room. “I make very
important decisions about them while eating very important meals,” she says. ABOVE Sometimes
if she hasn’t achieved something with one painting, she’ll try to do so with the next, which means all of
her works are kind of connected to each other, even if they look different.

What’s your creative process in the studio? I enjoy starting from scratch, so I begin by stretching my own canvas then priming it with gesso. It’s a ritual, like making coffee in the morning. I then start layering oil paint onto the canvas and react intuitively to what happens as I paint. I often have a vague idea of how I want something to look, but it’s never a fixed vision. This is to keep things open and allow for possibilities. You never know, I might invent a new colour or something! 

What materials do you like to use? At the moment, I like using oil on canvas. The slightly rough texture of the canvas gives me enough control to make any kind of gestural marks. Materiality is important in my practice. The slow-drying feature of oil paint keeps things open and approachable. 

What led you down the path to the art practice you have today? I’ve always had an inclination towards communicating things visually. Painting stuck with me because it gives me the middle ground between chaos and control, light and dark, and allows me to make something with my hands. 

 You completed a Master of Visual Arts at AUT last year — what are your thoughts on making art in these Covid-y times? The world being put on hold definitely gave me a lot of time to paint, and that level of attention it wouldn’t otherwise get made me really focus on my practice. I feel both comfort and discomfort during these times. It’s nice to be able to paint but also unsettling because you can never tell what’s going to happen in the future, and this can be reflected in my paintings, where forms may seem grounded but at the same time have a strong sense of movement.

TOP Titled Bluey One, This One, this painting was selected as one of the finalists for this year’s Molly Morpeth Canaday Award. ABOVE When Andrea hits a creative block, she stops and does something else for a while, like having a shower or watching a movie. “Art’s about making the intangible tangible,” she says. “If I can’t see or sense something, I take a break and start again.”

What gets you in the mood to paint? With the projects I’m working on at the moment, the act of painting becomes less about what gets me in the mood and more about allowing for moods and forms of expression to take place. I don’t sit around waiting for ideas to come to me — I just go to the studio and work with what I have. The pondering comes afterwards. 

What would your dream project be? Lately I’ve been working with kids who have special needs and helping with their transition into the working world through art. I’m very grateful for all the opportunities I’ve received so far and this is my way of giving back to the community. Working with them is so rewarding, and it’s also taught me a lot about myself. My dream project would be to be able to do more of this. 

What else is on the horizon for you? My first solo exhibition is on at Föenander Galleries in Mt Eden from June 3 to 23 and I’m really excited about it. Everyone is more than welcome to see it, so please come along!
@andrea.bolima; @foenander_galleries

Interview Alice Lines
Photography Larnie Nicolson

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