by Emma Renaud
Meet Claudia Faria-Ritelli, a Montréal-born artist. Before moving to São Paulo, Claudia was schooled at F.A.C.E.: a charming, one-of-a-kind school of the arts. She is currently an art student in Montréal, and her work presents a world full of creativity. Her paintings, drawings and collages all have a mesmerizing touch, just like her personality.
Emma Renaud: What’s your background? Why art?
Claudia Faria-Ritelli: I grew up in an artistic environment. At home, we had a piano and my parents were always very musical people. I also went to F.A.C.E., a public school in Montréal where art (fine arts, theatre and music - instrumental and chorus) is the centre of education. We each had an assigned instrument and I played the baritone. As a school, they had a goal of building your soul and imagination more than compelling you to academic rules. F.A.C.E. is a school that allowed us to become independent and creative individuals but it wasn’t the best when it came to basic math or French classes.
When I moved to Brazil, it all changed. I was put into a French school, with a French educational system, much stricter than what I was used to. As for art classes, they were a joke. They weren’t taken very seriously and other classes made me feel like I was in the army - my world was literally put upside down. I had always been told that they were no norms to follow, to think outside the box; to be myself. In the new school, everything I did was within a set of rules. As for my personal relationship with art, it grew over time. I used to doodle from time to time but drawing was never really my hobby. For a while, making art was liberating. Everything I did was based on intuition and feelings. When I had a boost of happiness or when I was bored in class, I’d doodle something on my notebook - just like anybody else.
ER: How do you work? How do you work to bring out your creativity?
CFR: I really started drawing when I was in a dark place in my life. While I was in and out of the hospital, my doctor told me to find something that would get me back to “reality”, to the present time. I have something called depersonalization, which consists in feeling emotions so strong that your brain can’t undertake them. It withdraws from the present time, which leaves you looking at life without being able to experience those moments and enjoy them. This would happen, especially in the beginning, when there were too many people, too much noise or too many strangers. If I felt a little anxious, then my brain would “shut down” and go to that withdrawal state.
That’s when I needed to find something that would get me back to right here, right now. It’s important to be in “the real time” so I started looking for that something. At first, I tried reading or knitting until one day I picked up a pen and drawing came to me naturally. It really was like an “eureka”. More than any medication I had taken, drawing was the only thing that could take me back to the right here, right now. It was a relief to be able to take all those emotions and transmit them onto paper. So I’d say those intense emotions are what bring out my creativity the most. On the other hand, it also depends on what project I’m working on.
I did a series of portraits for my friends and for that, their personality was what boosted my creativity. I would ask myself: “what does this person make me feel?”, “what do I see in this person?” and “how can I illustrate that person so that they can understand my point of view too?”. It can be hard to hand out an abstract portrait of how I see the person. The real challenge is to make it clear enough for them to go “oooh, okay, I see what you see”.
ER: What inspires you most?
CFR: People. Really. That’s what inspires me most.
I try to do my art based on subjects that touch me, but no matter what I do, the human aspect will be present. The environment is also an important part of my work (and life too). If I do a collage for example, I’ll try to show an interaction between human and earth and how they connect with each other. But all in all, what I’m most passionate about and inspired by is creating something for someone and trying to understand people through the art I create.
ER: What’s integral (most important; principal) to your work?
CFR: Art-wise, I’m still at a stage where I’m trying to experiment as much as possible and get out of my comfort zone. Although one thing that comes out often is the contrast between two different media. Whether it’s mixed media, a collage, or a painting, there has to be a contrast. If I’m working with a marker, I like the black and white contrast, if it’s an aquarelle background, I’ll mix it with a collage on top to make it pop out or if it’s a simple acrylic background, I’ll incorporate one big paint mark.
I enjoy associating different styles and mediums - I feel like they’re paradoxical, yet they go with each other. On the other hand, if I decide to work with only one media then one element will stand out (like [using] acrylics with a brush and a spatula to create two distinct textures). There’s also coherence between what I’m feeling and the material I’m using. If I need to release something, then I’ll use a more fluid material like acrylic, but when it comes to making a collage, then I’ll need every detail to be perfect.
ER: What do you think is your role in today’s society, as an artist? Is there a message you’d like to give through your artwork?
CFR: Today, artists are much freer than before. Through art history, we see how, if artists who made art differently than what society was expecting, they wouldn’t sell or be appreciated. There were always rules, whether they were set by society or religion or any other form of constraining. If you wanted to fit in, you just had to go with the flow and accept what was expected of you.
All of this makes us realize, as today’s artists, that we’re lucky to be living in a time where any type of art is accepted. From street art to trash art to collage, we really are free to create anything we’re capable of making. All in all, I don’t think we can still be artists today, without being politically engaged. What makes art what it is, is that art is transmitting something. Something that makes people react, that makes them think. It’s not complicated to make a drawing; anyone can do it. But what makes it art is that if you have the talent and the conviction to transmit your thoughts, then as an artist it’s your duty to transmit them, whatever they are.
Of course, we wish they could all be pro-environmental, filled with positive thoughts, pro-social… But then again, we don’t all think the same. In my work, there’s always going to be an element of nature to show my love and engagement for it. My go-to doodle has always been mountains. Even now, if I’m doodling in my sketchbook, it’ll probably be mountains. And the importance I give to nature and the environment is a predominant part of my work. If I’m making a drawing or a collage for someone, there’s always going to be an element of nature in it.
ER: Do you have any mottos? Or any encouraging thoughts while working?
CFR: It’s not really a motto, but when I’m working on something, and I want to experiment with new materials, then I try to get out of my comfort zone rather than sticking to what I’m good at. It would be boring otherwise. On the other hand, I’m trying to find my style and it’s still all a mess!
ER: What would you say is your favourite artwork (that you’ve created)?
CFR: I don’t really have a favourite one per say but the paintings I do for my friends are the ones I enjoy doing the most. They’re works into which I’ve put so much pleasure and time. Especially when they’re for people I love. It might be cliché to say this but I really put my heart and soul into them. But it’s true and in that sense, they’re definitely my favourites. Ultimately, none of them are my [absolute] favourite because they’re all different.
Some inspirational words from Claudia…
CFR: Art isn’t only something beautiful, something familiar, something that makes you think. It’s also the only human trace we leave on earth. Whether it’s a written work, or a painting, or music, everything we have from the past is art. I’m also the biggest believer in art therapy - art heals. If I hadn’t started drawing and painting, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
Merci, merci, merci Claudia.