Luisa Rivera’s Lyrical Sonnets

Contemporary illustrator and painter Luisa Rivera was born and raised Chile, and works today in London. Almost all of the of the artist’s pictures show female protagonists, a choice Luisa feels is at once intuitive and authentic, the human body standing a universal motif. Many of the portraits are lyrical is style, inflected with a flat graphic magical realist iconography, some figures are surrounded by generative symbols that seem to celebrate women, and tie the feminine to the natural world. As well, there are works that seem to point the ways in which these gendered roles and traits often come with restrictive circumstances.

In my work, you might find traces of magic realism and folk culture, which create uncanny or strange atmospheres.”


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The Bond was made for a special thematic exhibition that explored the world of dreams (Midnight, Light Grey Art Lab, 2016). Luisa’s painting plays with motifs and symbols that once occurred in the artist’s own dream about the relationship between duality and unity.


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The picture Bonsai Keeper shows a tension and a kind of contrast between constraint and freedom.“Bonsais are a strange thing to me, because they are beautiful and require so much love, but at the same time those are species forced to grown in restraint.”




The ongoing series Human Island function as an expression of the experience of solitude, described by the artist as a state of mind when – “body becomes container, a refuge, and a home. The story behind this series is the following: When I first moved to London, I felt lonely and rootless. Even after connecting with other people, the sense of belonging I’ve had elsewhere faded a bit, and I felt a bit like an island, really isolated. However, this series emerged, and I was able to see that, although the body as an island indicates solitude, it’s also a space of intimacy and protection.”



Nourish Blindly was made for a show about Stockholm Syndrome, MCAD, Minneapolis. In this work, Luisa intends to show the hostage and captor as one person.


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Spreader was a15-feet wide mural at the Public Functionary Gallery (Minneapolis, USA). Made with hand painted paper cut-outs. and wheat paste it had to be destroyed upon removal. Its transitory character is also a reflection of Luisa’s abiding interest in the cycles of the natural world.





Half Rescue shows a woman emerged in water holding and breathing into a purple egg. There is a feeling of commune with the water, and motifs of birth, mothering and healing pervade this folkloric image.


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Rosa: Tell me a little your illustrations of  Gabriel García Márquez’s book 100 Years of Solitude Project for Penguin Random House. 

Luisa: It’s one of my favorite books, so it still feels like a dream. Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial (Spain) invited me to illustrate this edition, celebrating the novel’s 50th anniversary.  The typography of the book (Enrico) was designed by Gonzalo García Barcha, the author’s son.I reread the book, and studied the descriptions. Also, I let Gabo guide me: through interviews, reports, and readings, I understood better his interest in the story. I wanted to avoid preconceived ideas, which is very difficult when working with a book that is so deeply rooted in my culture.


Fortunately, magic realism is a world where I feel really comfortable and free, so it was wonderful to work with this story.




“We chose a unifying palette, which means that all illustrations are interlaced throughout the book. The colors represent the geographical space, but also add something strange, typical of magical realism. In this genre the strange is expressed as an everyday occurrence, and the illustrations would convey that idea.” (Luisa)





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RB: Even as you watch the mass migrations (often under duress) your image Migrar es Fluir maintains your lyrical style, and yet touches on a very important issue. What are your thoughts about the migrant crisis today?

LR: I think it’s very sad, and it’s a reflection of how humankind has created limitations based purely on fear. I like the verb migration, because it describes a movement, which applies not only to humans, but animals, like birds. However, the noun immigrant connotes other things.

We are all moving around, and we’ve done this always. If you look at your family tree, it’s very likely that at least one generation traveled around. Maybe not your parents or grandparent, but you’ll find it. Even before that, the world was nomad, and it seem we have forgotten that meaning. Our continents were populated thanks to that movement, so it’s strange to be afraid of it now.

Therefore, in this painting, I wanted to depict migration as a natural process. This process involves taking your home with you to a new place, even if that home is only your body. There will be differences (in the painting you can see that the house is slightly different), but all in all we are the same.


You may visit the artist’s work on her website and follow the processes on the blog as well. 

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