Carla Cascales Alimbau was born and raised in Barcelona, Spain, where she currently lives and works. Her artistic practice encompasses a host of disciplines including drawing, painting and sculpture, all sharing her distinctive aesthetic. Originally working as a fashion designer and illustrator, in 2016 Cascales decided to pursue her true passion and begin a fine art practice. Since then, Cascales’ work has been exhibited throughout Spain and has garnered speaking invitations from the Barcelona Design Museum, the Tel Aviv Museum of Art and the Conde Duque Art Center in Madrid. The artist’s most recent body of work portrays a refined interpretation of everyday objects and familiar scenes, free from unnecessary distractions and distilled into modern-day still life and landscape compositions.
Tell us about yourself and how you came to be an artist…
Since I was a child, I have always drawn and built little objects. I was born in a modest and hardworking family where we all shared an appreciation for artistic disciplines. My father creates architectural models for a living, my mother is an interior designer, and my sister is a musician.
We lived through a very hard time in the family during the arrival of digital 3D design and laser cutting machines, as my father had to close his own studio where everything was made by hand and find a new profession. Following this experience, I began prioritizing a more stable future. I decided to study Advertising at Pompeu Fabra University and later specialized in Design at Elisava University.
For a few years, I felt comfortable working as a designer and illustrator. I learned a lot about image composition, drawing, color combination… but something inside me was telling me I was not being true to myself. In 2015, I found myself in a very good career position, working inside a famous design corporation. I was a well-respected member of the company and I had a position of great responsibility, but I felt completely empty inside. It was time to devote myself to what always moved me, and so I made the decision to quit my job and start on the path I had always wanted.
With a lot of effort and dedication, I began to develop my career as an independent artist. From then on everything began to make sense. I feel at peace even though every day is a new challenge.
Describe your work in three words….
Essence, minimalist, natural.
What is your creative process?
I love my work to show values that are important to me. I am still in the process of learning, so this is a way for me to have these values always present and continue this personal evolution.
The value of simplicity, authenticity, naturalness, the importance of finding beauty in irregularity, the acceptance of the passage of time… I am not good at writing stories or composing music so my way of sharing this is through sculpture or painting. The values are always the same and from there I develop different creations. I work to explore natural materials, combining them and giving them shape, while respecting their original form. I find a balance between geometry and texture, simplicity and essence. It is important for me, working with my hands, to put my own personal energy into what I do.
What are you most proud of?
I’m proud that it seems I’ve kept up a very similar train of thought and style in my work. I have a painting I did when I was 17 that looks just like work I do now. It comforts me and motivates me. I also have a messy portrait I did of a young Matisse, and he still influences me today. That might still be my favorite small painting I’ve done. I’m really proud of the projects I’ve gotten to collaborate on and all the artists I have met who push me to keep working. I know my greatest work is still ahead of me.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
Nature. The essence of everything is in nature, and we ourselves are also nature.
We need to accept that time passes by and consider it an element of beauty. Showing our scars makes us stronger. All these concepts concerned with being in harmony with life are what I am trying to communicate in my work.
You recently transitioned from designer to full-time artist. What led to this change?
I believe that in our current society, productivity is highly valued. We are always doing things with an objective, occupying our time in something productive. But that sometimes makes us forget other very important things like expressing what we really feel or who we really are, or just taking time to look and appreciate what surrounds us. We see things but we don’t take the time to look at things and appreciate what is different.
I had a hard time accepting this coming from a profession, graphic design, in which everything has to be very justified, very conceptualized and has to attract a real client. For me, art is freedom and I needed this freedom in my life. I don’t mean that I don’t like design – I love design – but I feel a need for creation that is more pure, more authentic, and in my case can only be found in fine art.
For me, art is a vehicle that creates beauty without a specific goal, with the sole purpose of making people think and feel.
What influences do traditional cultures have on your work?
I am fascinated by the Japanese view of beauty, specifically by the ‘wabi-sabi’ movement and their admiration for imperfect, mutable, and incomplete things. It is so different from the admiration of perfection and the fear of the passing of time we have in western cultures. Another concept I love in Japanese culture is ‘kintsugi’, a technique to repair fractures in ceramics with gold sprinkled resin. It suggests that breakage and repairs are a part of the history of an object that should be shown, instead of being hidden.
Your newest figure drawings are in a beautiful shade of blue. Is this color significant to you?
For me, the blue color is very special because it combines the duality of vibration and calmness. It is a lively and powerful color, that gives vitality to the very soft and delicate lines that I create, but at the same time, it is the color of the sea, that evokes the peacefulness of the water.
I am from Barcelona, so living near the sea has always been very important for me. This shade of blue reminds me of the feeling of freedom I have when I walk near the sea on summer nights, very similar to what I feel when I paint.
Simplicity is a fundamental theme in your work. Is this something that you explore outside of your artistic practice as a larger philosophy?
Sure. I try to apply this simplicity to all areas of my life. I believe that if we remove all ornamentation, we come to the truth of things, their nature. I like people who show themselves as they are, without pretence, although it is often not easy to show our weaknesses. It is, for me, the only way to live as our true selves.
I also like to keep this simplicity in spaces, especially in my studio and my home.
What messages or emotions do you hope to convey to your audience?
With my work, I would love to share the importance of getting to the essence of things and not just staying on the surface; the value of respecting nature and understanding we are a part of it; the appreciation of the beauty of imperfection, irregular and simple things and the passing of time; and the importance of being true to oneself.
How do modern consumption habits affect your work?
I feel deeply saddened by the way we consume in society today, where natural resources are exploited indiscriminately and quality is undervalued. We prefer to acquire many products with a short lifespan, without considering the consequences for our planet. I want to think we are changing this mentality and I hope my work contributes to making this possible.
I focus all my work on natural materials like wood, rocks, metals and natural fabrics like cotton and linen. I normally use rescued pieces of wood or marble in my work, and I try to find beauty in discarded elements, like deformed pieces of metal, and give them a new life.
Who are some contemporaries or figures in art history who have influenced you?
The artists that leave a mark on me with their impressive ability to me feel something are Barbara Hepworth, Jean Arp, Constantin Brancusi, Alexander Calder, Helen Frankenthaler, Eduardo Chillida, Pablo Picasso, Ellsworth Kelly, Henri Matisse…
I am also especially inspired by architects of the modern art movement including Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, Tadao Ando, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Alvar Aalto.
And finally, I admire the Bauhaus way of seeing art as a whole, mixing architecture with painting, design, sculpture.
Are there any quotes or mantras that you particularly connect with?
There are a lot. The ones that come to my mind now are…
“Where you cannot love do not delay”- Frida Kahlo (Spend your time in what you really love).
“Creativity takes courage” – Henri Matisse (We should be brave to do what we feel).
“There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth: not going all the way, and not starting.” Buddha (The importance of starting what we believe, being patient and perseverant.
What makes you excited about the future?
Investing my time in what I really love, making a living from my passion and pursuing my dreams.
Article first published here. Images via Carla Cascales Alimbau.