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Artist Spotlight Series: Conchita Bardají

Step into the captivating world of Conchita Bardají, where hyperrealistic landscapes reveal the subtle beauty of nature through meticulous graphite artistry.

Brown Ochre, Diptych. Conchita Bardaji. Color pencil on paper glued to aluminum dibond.  60 x 81 in
Brown Ochre, Diptych Color pencil on paper glued to aluminum dibond. 60 x 81 in

Conchita Bardají, born near the Pyrenees Mountains, developed a profound appreciation for nature from an early age, influenced by the breathtaking landscapes surrounding her childhood home. She pursued her passion for art by studying Fine Art in Bilbao, Spain, where she honed her skills in capturing natural scenes with graphite.

Azul Indantreno. Conchita Bardaji. Color pencil on paper, glued to aluminum dibond. 23.6 x 23.6 in
Azul Indantreno Color pencil on paper, glued to aluminum dibond. 23.6 x 23.6 in

Bardají's connection to nature is central to her work. She views her artistic process as a dialogue with the environment, a means of communicating with the divine within nature. This deep bond is evident in her meticulous attention to detail, as she strives to portray the natural world as faithfully as possible. "My love for [nature] makes me represent her as she is, wanting to reproduce all her splendor," Bardají explains, emphasizing her commitment to depicting the beauty of nature in its purest form.

While her landscapes are hyperrealistic, Bardají approaches nature as an abstract concept rather than depicting specific locations. By de-contextualizing her scenes, she aims to capture the essence and beauty of the natural world. She believes her strongest connection to her subject matter occurs when she creates a sense of reality through her art. Bardají's use of pencil contributes to the "subtle, elegant, and ethereal" quality of her landscapes, allowing viewers to feel as though they have discovered an enchanting new world.

Caput Mortuum Violet. Conchita Baradji. Color pencil on paper glued to aluminum dibond. 47.20 x 47.20 in
Caput Mortuum Violet Color pencil on paper glued to aluminum dibond. 47.20 x 47.20 in

Bardají's work has been showcased in numerous group and solo exhibitions, including "Modportrait" at the European Museum of Modern Art in Barcelona. Since 1998, she has been living and working in Pamplona, where she directs the Conchita Bardají Drawing and Painting Workshop, nurturing new talent and continuing her exploration of the natural world through her art.

In Conversation with Conchita Bardají: Hyperrealism and Nature

How has your artistic process evolved since you began your career? Can you walk us through some key changes or developments in your approach to creating art?

Portrait of the Artist Conchita Bardaji in the Studio
Portrait of the Artist, Conchita Bardaji, in the Studio

I started drawing when I was a child, my parents say I was drawing all the time.I went to a painting school for children, as an extracurricular activity, since I was 7 years old, where I had a great time. I always knew that I was going to study fine arts at the university. I started my fine arts studies very excitedly, I learned and enjoyed the experience a lot, and during those years, and the following years, I went off the path of drawing and painting, experimenting with a more avant-garde art. I don't deny it, because it taught me to look and understand all kinds of art, and I opened my mind to things I didn't know, but it took me several years to resume drawing and painting, with which I really feel more identified, and which is the most authentic part of me. Drawing and painting is where I connect the most with my true self.

What drew you to focus on graphite as your primary medium for capturing natural landscapes? Was there a particular moment or influence that led you to choose graphite over other mediums? Have you experimented with other mediums, and if so, what brought you back to graphite?

When I was little, I always drew, and in my adolescence, I loved to draw with graphite and charcoal. I also learned to paint with oil, pastel, waxes, watercolor, ink and I really like all those techniques. Then at the university, I experimented with all possible materials, pictorial and non-pictorial: sands, industrial paint, metal shavings, resins... When I resumed painting, oil was my main material, and it had a style similar to Impressionism, with very loose brushstrokes. I began to have the need for more precise strokes that better define the characteristics of the trees, which was my favorite topic. It was a natural process, since the drawing has always been there, in some times more asleep than in others. My way of drawing, realistic, allowed me to convey the beauty of nature in my works, and little by little I abandoned the oil. Although I really like to evolve and experiment, I do not rule out taking up techniques that I used previously. In fact, I am currently picking up the watercolors.

Can you explain your thought process when beginning a new piece? What are some specific challenges you face when trying to represent the essence of nature authentically in your art, and how do you overcome them?

Untitled, No. 4. Conchita Bardaji. Black pencil on paper. 16.10 x 12.25 in.
Untitled, No. 4. Black pencil on paper. 16.10 x 12.25 in.

My inspiration begins with my nature walks. I am lucky enough to live in a place where I am surrounded by beautiful forests, and I take my walks every day. I take photographs of the vegetation, and I think about how beautiful they could look in a drawing. I like abstract compositions, where there is no specific landscape scene, with a horizon or a perspective. Among the weeds I intuit disorderly compositions, which in my head are ordered by composing a scene. My drawings start from the photographs I take.

How important is it for you that viewers interpret your work in a certain way, or are you open to varied interpretations? What feedback have you received from viewers that has resonated with you or impacted your work?

I believe that in my drawings the beauty of nature is transmitted, and I think I transmit it in its most serene state, the one that gives peace to the soul. It is the way I like to see nature and enjoy it, and without intentionally doing it, I have ended up transmitting those feelings in my drawings. I see nature as a pleasure for the soul and body, as a place of peace, where we reconnect as human beings with our essence. When I draw it, I express these feelings in the way I know best: drawing is something natural for me. The response of the public is of admiration and surprise at the realism of my drawings, as well as a romantic feeling of serenity and beauty.

Hooker's Green. Conchita Bardají. Colored pencil on paper glued to aluminum dibond. 30 x 30 in
Hooker's Green. Colored pencil on paper glued to aluminum dibond. 30 x 30 in

Is there a specific exhibition or event that stands out as a turning point in your career? How did this experience shape your perspective or approach to your art?

I learned painting as a child at the art school, Olga Rubio. It was my favorite place in the world; my place of play and learning, and where I reaffirmed that I wanted to dedicate myself to this. When I finished college, I had to look for a way to live and work related to art, and I opened a school inspired by Olga Rubio. Thanks to this, I started my working life strongly, as the school works very well. Soon my personal work began to take shape, and I began to exhibit with the Ormolú gallery in Pamplona, where I live. There I did 4 individual and several collective exhibitions, and during this period, my work was evolving. From 2020 I started exhibiting in the United States, with two galleries: CK Contemporary, in San Francisco, CA, and Meyer Vogl Gallery, in Charleston, SC. I feel very fortunate that my work can be enjoyed by an international audience, beyond my city.

How do you see your work evolving in the future, and are there new mediums or styles you are interested in experimenting with? How do you anticipate your connection to nature influencing your future projects?

I continue my work on drawing, but recently I'm experimenting with watercolor, I want to debug the technique, and use it in a way more approximate to drawing than to painting, but I'm on it. I still have to work a lot until I get where I want. Another topic that I love, and that I have never completely abandoned is the portrait, I have always painted portraits, in some times more than in others. I have a great time doing them. At the moment, nature is my favorite subject, but we will see in the future, you never know what will happen.

Lapiz #2. Conchita Bardaji. Color pencil on paper glued to aluminum dibond. 40 x 40 in
Lapiz #2. Color pencil on paper glued to aluminum dibond. 40 x 40 in

Do you have any exhibitions and/or fair participation on the calendar for 2024? If so, can you share some details about these upcoming events?

On June 7, a collective exhibition opens in my beloved gallery in Charleston, SC, Meyer Vogl Gallery, in which I participate, entitled "Yellow Is". Katie Geer, the director of the gallery, proposed the color yellow as an inspiration for this exhibition, and I have made 4 pieces based on this color. On June 21, a collective exhibition called "Luna en el Agua" opens at The Museum of Navarra, in my city, Pamplona, where I show a large-format drawing. In this exhibition, the curator, Celia Palacio, has proposed the theme of Nature as a common thread for the exhibition.


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