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Interview with Guadalajara-Based Artist Rocío Sáenz: Exploring Chaos and Power


Rocío Sáenz Carrillo artist
Rocío Sáenz Carrillo in her studio in Guadalajara, Mexico. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Meet Rocío Sáenz Carrillo (b. 1971), an extraordinary artist born in Chihuahua, México, now based in Guadalajara, Jalisco. Her work is a breathtaking exploration of chaos and the process of construction through destruction. In her paintings, filled with satire symbolism, she delves into the borderlines between realities, the allure of the "other" or the strange, and the dark humor that lingers in our everyday lives. Through captivating symbols and imagery, Rocío masterfully weaves together a parallel world where imagination knows no bounds, and anything is possible. Her art becomes a profound mirror, inviting viewers to question and challenge the status quo while exploring the depths of their own understanding.


Rocío Sáenz Carrillo holds a Master's in Fine Arts, specializing in Plastic Arts, from ISA (Instituto Superior de Arte) in La Habana, Cuba. Her artistic journey has taken her across borders and continents, with her work being showcased in both solo and group exhibitions on national and international stages, including Mexico, the USA, Europe, and South America. Rocío's talent and dedication have garnered her numerous accolades and prizes, including the prestigious FONCA Young Creators' Scholarship in 2003-2004 and the coveted Winner of the 2006/2007 VSC MexAm Fellowship. In 2009, she was selected by renowned artist Jannis Kounellis to participate in a workshop organized by the Marcelino Botín Foundation in Santander, Spain. The recognition of her exceptional talent continued in 2010 when she secured first place in the II Bienal de Pintura Pedro Coronel. In 2020, she represented Mexico in the Third Bienal de Asunción (BIA) in Paraguay and was also selected for the prestigious Bienal Julio Castillo 2020. Her artistic excellence was further acknowledged in 2021 when she became a selected artist in the Trienal Internacional Pictórica de Tijuana.


In this exclusive interview, we delve into the world of Rocío Sáenz Carrillo, a prolific artist whose work transcends borders, capturing the essence of her experiences and reflections in a captivating and enigmatic manner. Discover the brilliance of her art and the intricacies of her creative mind as we explore the journey of this exceptional artist.


 

Rocío Sáenz Carrillo art
Courtesy of Rocío Sáenz Carrillo

Can you tell us about your trajectory and artistic formation, specifically your experience studying for a Master's in Fine Arts at the ISA in Havana, Cuba?


My trajectory is mostly self-taught. I started very young as a child, learning from private teachers in my hometown of Chihuahua. I have always been curious and interested in literature and cinema. One of my earliest influences at the age of 8 was an encyclopedia of art history at home, which opened my eyes to a parallel world. As part of my formation, I attended workshops with renowned national artists like Aceves Navarro and Luis Nishizawa, and I traveled to places where I could explore the works of great masters, mainly in museums in Europe. All of this was self-arranged, as there was no financial support at home. I obtained the young creators' scholarship from the state's FONCA (National Fund for Culture and Arts) and later had the opportunity to study the Master's program at the ISA. During that time (1999-2001), the SEP (Secretariat of Public Education) granted a scholarship to the Faculty of Fine Arts in Chihuahua, and five local creators, including myself, were accepted to pursue the Master's in Arts in Havana. It was an extraordinary experience with ambiguous nuances; both the Cuban teachers and students of my generation were highly cultured and entertaining. My expectations of Cuba were entirely different, encountering strange contrasts that are not commonly heard. At times, I found myself in truly absurd situations that made me question why I wanted to continue in the art world. However, above all, I gained enriching experiences that helped me understand where I wanted to take my work.


Rocío Sáenz Carrillo art
Courtesy of Rocío Sáenz Carrillo

Can you provide information about your experience as an artist in Guadalajara, Mexico, a culturally vibrant city with a thriving contemporary art scene where you currently reside and work?


Guadalajara is a city with a rich and fascinating identity, shaped by its historical significance as one of the most important centers during the colonial period. Its overly Catholic nature caused society to erupt like a pressure cooker over time, giving rise to diverse alternative proposals. There's a mix of kitsch beliefs, faith, superstitions, and a thriving cultured scene of people who create contemporary art without losing touch with the roots and memory of the great Jaliscan artists who left a significant legacy to the world.


Rocío Sáenz Carrillo art
Courtesy of Rocío Sáenz Carrillo

As an artist, what are some recurring themes or concepts that you often explore in your work, and what particularly attracts you to these themes?


Throughout my career, I have explored many themes, and some of them resurface after being archived for a while. All of them come together under the overarching theme of chaos and the process of construction through destruction. I delve into the borderlines, the "other" or the strange, the everyday absurdity, dark humor, the satire on the institutions we've created, the seemingly banal daily rituals that inhabit our lives, and how we disguise ourselves to play power games, among others. I enjoy mixing or overlaying these ideas using symbols that I associate with to create a parallel world where anything can happen. Perhaps the idea of transgressing rules and my internal struggles with authority are part of the concepts that drive some of my pieces.


Rocío Sáenz Carrillo art
Courtesy of Rocío Sáenz Carrillo

In your exploration of power dynamics and social critique, how do you find a balance between provocation and accessibility in your work? What do you hope the audience's response and interaction with your pieces will be?


Finding a balance is challenging, even in life, but I try. I like to create an object that contains an idea or justification to support the elements it displays. Some pieces tell a story within a context, while others merely associate images and become a visual code. It is essential for me to understand what I want to convey first, so I often write down the idea and select the elements or symbols that represent it. Then, I create the atmosphere or context in which they will exist. While painting or drawing, I edit, add, or remove elements to strike a balance between my thoughts and how I materialize them. I don't expect anything specific from the viewer; sometimes, our reflections coincide, but what matters to me is connecting and somehow engaging with others. I hope that people who see my work will have a personal experience or internal conversation triggered by it.


Rocío Sáenz Carrillo art
Courtesy of Rocío Sáenz Carrillo

Is there any particular artist or artistic movement that you admire or draw inspiration from? If so, who are they, and how have they influenced your work?


There are many artists who have inspired me, and the list would be extensive if I mentioned everyone that comes to mind right now. From the great masters like Caravaggio, Artemisia Gentileschi, Vermeer, Hilma af Klint, Goya, or El Greco to the Mexican muralists, especially Orozco, who has been a significant influence. I am also fascinated by the art produced in Japan related to the "Floating World" due to its mysterious harmony and strangely ordered elements. It is always present in my imagination, along with other more contemporary artists like Paula Rego, Lola Álvarez Bravo, William Kentridge, Marlene Dumas, Alice Neel, Graciela Iturbide, Gerard Richter, and many others. These artists represent or represented specific moments or circumstances in a unique and highly personal way, incorporating elements from everyday life and expressing the circumstances of their time, creating new ways of seeing the world, sometimes from the simplest and crudest perspectives, and at other times, through powerful denunciations. None of their works bore me; there is always something that clicks and connects, even if it's just a bizarre grimace on the observer's face.


Rocío Sáenz Carrillo art
Courtesy of Rocío Sáenz Carrillo

Can you share details about your daily life as an artist? What is a typical day in your studio like, and how do you maintain your creative drive?


I have always loved the craft, and I have been working as a professional painter for over 30 years. I enjoy exploring other disciplines for inspiration, drawing from people's lives and experiences, whether they are artists or individuals with various types of work or even beings without apparent "purpose."


My days start very early after dropping my daughter off at school. I do some exercise, and a double espresso is a must to get me to the studio (a creative impulse I cannot miss). I generally work throughout the morning until 2:30 pm and often another two or three hours in the afternoon. The work in the studio involves using my body for hours as a tool between the paint and the canvas while always listening to background music (Jazz, classic rock, and whatever my Mr. Spotify randomly selects from my "Ultrarare" playlist). The work also involves reading, writing, and contemplating seemingly useless things that later manifest into something more concrete and meaningful, like observing the horizon of roto tankers through my window.


I believe that uncertainty about many things leads me to certain obsessions and searches, which later materialize into an art project, and the desire to give form to these ideas keeps me continuously creating.


Rocío Sáenz Carrillo art
Courtesy of Rocío Sáenz Carrillo

Looking towards the future, what are your aspirations as an artist? Are there any specific projects, collaborations, or goals you are currently working on?


My aspirations as an artist are to take it one day at a time, like in a double-A baseball league. I want to ensure that I maintain a constant creative output and create a body of work that holds meaning, primarily for myself and, consequently, for others. Currently, I am working on a project for which I received one of the grants from the National System of Creators, which I will be developing over the next two and a half years. The project will culminate in an exhibition where I intend to document the work for a book.


(Note: The interview was in Spanish and translated by the interviewer & author, Jenny Munoz)


Rocío Sáenz Carrillo artist
Rocío Sáenz Carrillo in her studio in Guadalajara, Mexico. Photo courtesy of the artist.

To stay up-to-date with the artist's career, make sure to follow Rocío here:

Instagram: @rociobsaenzc


 

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