Published Jan. 30. 2015

Artist of the Month - Sonia Gil

I was born in 1961 in Salvador, a colorful, vibrant city on the northeast coast of Brazil, a cultural melting pot, strongly influenced by the African culture.

When- and where were you born?

- I was born in 1961 in Salvador, a colorful, vibrant city on the northeast coast of Brazil, a cultural melting pot, strongly influenced by the African culture.

Where do you live now, and how long have you lived there?

- I came to Rio de Janeiro, where my family was originally from, as a small child and have lived here ever since.

Today I live in Copacabana, but I grew up in the suburb of Rio, in a semi rural area. When I was ten years old, I moved with my family to London for two years, because of my father´s work. This two year experience in a cosmopolitan city like London influenced me profoundly. I fell in love with big cities and it´s rich cultural life and I ended up studying Architecture.

Living in Copacabana is wonderful, it is a very interesting neighbourhood, I love it´s diversity! Every morning I go for a walk at the beach, and this, besides being a great outdoor exercise, fills heart and soul with pleasure and inspires me to start off my day!

How did you become an artist?

- I like to draw and paint since I was a child, but because of my love for cities, I decided to become an Architect. While at the university, I started taking part in art classes and experimenting different techniques. Watercolor seduced me completely! I love it´s transparency and luminosity, and the surprising effects which you just cannot control!!

I graduated and started to work with urban planning and sustainability, but I never stopped painting.

I worked with watercolors for a long time, then I moved on to large format canvases, using diluted acrylic paint to continue exploring transparency effects.

When I was working with territory analysis and coordinating a group of geographers and urbanists on a project, I started to develop a growing interest in the connection between maps and art. So, I started to work with digital collages, mixing urban maps with digitalized paintings and watercolors.

It was then that I decided to reinvent myself and become fully an artist. But I still work as an architect from time to time. In 2013 I took part in an exhibition called ‘The Artist Architect’.

What is your motivation to make art?

- I think that making art is part of my life, I cannot imagine myself without it. But it has never been something easy, it is something that I have always struggled with. I am not a very focused person, I like to work with several projects at the same time and this is something that is never easy to handle.

So, what I can say is that my motivation is an internal call, something that I feel I “must” do. But it is not always pleasant, as some people might think. It´s like searching for something in the dark, you cannot see your way clearly, but something tells you to keep moving forward.

How would you describe your style?

- I would describe myself as a colorist. I love colors. My work is color oriented, I like to play with lively colors in a very intuitive and quick way.

Matisse said that colors are energy, and they are combined according to inspiration. I just love this!

Rio de Janeiro is a very vibrant and sunny city. I like to think that this may have some influence on my work.

Tell us about your inspiration, and what you find particularly interesting to investigate in your artistic work.

- Cities are my inspiration. Cities and colors. I´m very interested in maps and city plans and their patterns. I love to investigate the beautiful city drawings, of the many different cities around the world, the differences between  the urban fabrics of old cities and new planned cities, and the difference between the formal planed areas and the informal organic urban design, like in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro. These beautiful designs are my starting point, but then, I am “taken” by the energy of color and they become the leading forces of my work.

You made artmoney for many years. How have you used artmoney? Do you have any suggestions on how other artists can make the most of the artmoney?

- I have been making artmoney since 2007. I have sold them at the artmoney website, exhibited them with other artmoney artists in Denmark and given to friends as Christmas presents. I also gave artmoney to my daughter when she went to Copenhagen for a ballet audition to pay 50% of her stay at the Ibsen Hotel.

Also, I like to work in small sizes, to experiment and discover with graphics and colors, so, I use my artmoney production as part of my working process.

I also like to photograph or scan my artmoneys to add to my digital palette, a collection of images which I use to make my digital collages..

I think there can be many different ways for artists to use artmoney, organizing exhibitions and spreading the word about it. The more artists involved, the more it gets known around the world, the better!

When you are not "The Artist," who are you?

- When I am not an artist I am an architect, I am the wife of an author and I am the mother of a classical ballerina. I like to think of my small family as a troupe of artists.

I am also an Airbnb host in Copacabana, I rent a small apartment which I call The Ballerina Apartment. I take care of everything myself, I enjoy creating a cosy and comfortable place to welcome travelling people. It was my former studio, and now it is my daughters holiday apartment , as she is living in Germany. I have decorated it myself, painted some crackling parts of the walls with my bright colors and refurbished an old wardrobe. And is filled it with some of my daughter´s old room objects, prints and point shoes!

So, all my activities have to do with art in some way, even when I am working as an architect, my motivations, my working process, is always very much “artist like”.

What are your personal hopes and dreams?

- I have made lots of new plans for 2015! Besides working digital, I am getting back to the old canvas and to small format watercolors. I kind of want to be able to do a bit of everything and I hope I can handle it.

I also have some work partnerships, so, collaborating more is a hope for 2015. I have developed a work with my daughter, called The Ballerina Collection Project, I take pictures of her in point shoes in urban scenes and create digital collages by adding images from my digital palette.

Also, I am co-founder of a group of international artists called Urban Dialogues, ten artists from  different cities and cultures, a global art collaboration network. We have been working together virtually for a long time, now some of us will be meeting personally in Berlin in February. I am hoping to work together on new projects and to make an international exhibition of the group work.

What are your dreams and desires for the world we live in?

- This is hard question, the world is in such bad shape…but having worked for many years with sustainability, my dream is that the world could make a shift to a more sustainable path. We have destroyed our cities with too many cars. All around the world we are trapped in traffic jams. That is so stupid! We need to rethink and replan our mobility, our energy production and our garbage disposal and water supply.

The American car oriented model, urban sprawling, shopping centers, office parks, gated condos and highways to connect them, has disfigured the cities.

The most interesting cities have high density and mixed use. I think cities need to have diversity. We need to reinvent our cities.

What will you tell the reader, if you get totally free speech?

- Sometimes I get really pessimistic about the world. The recent terrorist attacks in Paris and Pakistan and the Boko Haram massive killings have shocked the world. We´ve been through two world wars, we´ve been through a cold war and the threat of a nuclear war. And we continue to fight over territories, power, ideologies, and religion!! So much intolerance and hatred.

I would say we need use intelligence to fight the fundamentalism, but at the same time we must remain tolerant. This is a great challenge.

And I think we need a new generation of politics with new ideas and visions, That´s a heavy heritage for the future generation.

My way to cope with this complex and very difficult reality is to make art.

Buy Sonia Gil's ARTMONEY here