Carla Gabrí: A multi-faceted artist without reservation

It is rare to meet someone who is extremely focused at such a young age. But that is how I would describe the young woman I met via Skype last week. Already at 11, she was pushing herself to her limits by taking up playing the bugle once she had heard the instrument was extremely difficult to play. She went on to play this same instrument for some time in an orchestra, and later the guitar. Languages have also not alluded Gabrí who started learning ancient Greek at 15, and more recently Hebrew. Never tell her she can’t do something!


Not someone to be boxed in to one particular artistic discipline, Carla has continued to move fluidly artistically, and without reservation. This may be because of what a bassoon player once said to her when she was perplexed to catch him playing the piano. He simply said he plays many instruments because, “I am an artist.” Now in the final stages of an Masters of Art in Film and German Literature, Gabrí’s artistic leanings are deeply rooted in study and academic excellence. She’s driven by her self-discovery of finding profound ways to express herself. Although she’s practiced many art forms (writing, theater, film), it’s painting that has provided her a unique freedom in self-expression.

Like many Artisster artists, she intuitively joined the platform after being approached by founder, Sandy Banic. “It was Sandy herself that got me. Her approach, her vision, and how passionately and clearly she explains [the concept].”


Once she sat down to select pieces from her portfolio, she wanted to show a mix of her work, yet still present signature works from the last two years, like “Dice” and “Tower”. There’s a beguiling quality to “Akt IV” which might remind you of Japanese paintings relative to style and color palette. All pieces which reflect her self-defined style: aesthetic, minimalistic and conveying an incompleteness. Talking to Gabrí you understand her intention: that this incompleteness forces a certain interaction between the painting and the viewer. “When you see these figures without faces, it makes you fill in the blanks with your own ideas of beauty,” she says.


The best part of my day


Being an artist is not something she does, it’s something she is. She finds it personally gratifying to be able to work in a field that she loves. And her everyday life, entrenched in painting, is very rewarding and positive. But she’s doesn’t see her work as a solitary endeavor, and finds painting and selling her work an astounding way to connect with people. And being creative is something that comes instinctively for Gabrí. She doesn’t need a lot of preparation before she puts paint to canvass (“I never sketch a figure first, and I rarely have someone sit for me”). She “just starts” and is extremely free when she begins. “I know where I want to go. I know what to do, and [maybe more importantly] what not to do,” says Gabrí.


The essentials


Music is an essential component she needs when she’s working in one of her two studios–in Zurich and another in a secluded mountainous area of Switzerland. The rural studio was renovated by her father. A mechanical engineer, he built up sturdy walls suitable for hanging art and refashioned a work bench to make a table and an easel. A clear indication of the support she has from her family. In her father’s former work space, Carla now creates another type of art. In fact, it was he who gave her an invaluable piece of advice that she has clung to since adolescence: it’s important to be humble. Perhaps that’s what keeps her life and work in perspective; ever-questioning and critical. She’s not afraid to be self-critical and understands that no matter how successful she becomes, there will always be something more important than she is. Gabrí says she’s now interested in figuring out a way to show that same biting criticalness in her work.


She’d like her work to been seen as minimalistic and works at making her work appear simple when in reality each painting is densely layered and painstaking to produce. It’s something she herself took away from one of her favorite contemporary painters, Matias Spescha (1925-2008). “He was able to reduce everything in the end; they look simple and easy, but you know the creative process behind them absolutely was not,” Gabrí says.


If you ever find yourself in the Romansch-speaking hills of Switzerland, don’t be surprised if you hear Grandmaster Flash or Slick Rick blaring from a pasture, Carla says she’s known to balance out her artistic mood by playing old school hip hop.

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