Studio visit: Aurora del Rio

Peek into Aurora del Rio’s Berlin studio where her epic series “Der goldene Vogel” is brought to life.

Interview + text by Anna Wim, photos by Zoe McArthur

On a warm Sunday afternoon, we visited the Berlin-based artist in her studio in Weissensee, who opened up her creative space as part of the two-day event Artspring. Even though the streets seemed to be slowly melting under the bright summer day sun rays, it was nicely calm and peaceful in all-white Aurora’s studio, with only her mesmerizing paintings of all shades of pastels giving it a decent pop of color. Enjoying the shelter, we stayed for a bit, drank apfelschorle, and chatted about Aurora’s work, upcoming plans, and, most of all, her ongoing series “Der goldene Vogel”.

“Der goldene Vogel” is a project consisting of ten same-sized paintings, based on Grimm brothers’ fairy tale. It focuses on the mutating figure of a fox, which is depicted through trans bodies. Aurora states: “The fox needs his limbs and head to be cute off in order to regain his human identity. I read the need for transformation of the fox parallel to that of a person born in a body which gender does not reflect the perceived identity. Since any kind of transformation has to go through a jump in the void, a willing to be ready to fail and to give up any possible outcome, failure is a theme I am considering.
The idea of failure is a political one. In a society shortsighted in terms of surviving of the planet, where success and power are its main values and where the respect for life be placed at the very end of the scale, I approach the concept of failure as an alternative, a subversive one.”

Read our interview with Aurora and explore her studio where all the magic happens below.

 
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“Der goldene Vogel” is an ongoing project which will comprise 10 paintings in the end. How far are you now and when are you planning to finish it?
Five paintings are finished already, and I am working on two more right now. My process is a slow one, due to the long drying time I need. I am planning to finish the series by the end of the year, or beginning of next year.

 
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Could you tell us a bit more about the process behind each painting?
When I start with a new piece, I begin by describing the figures in a realistic way. The work can, maybe, look already finished after this stage. Afterwards, I need to wait at least one month in order to get this layer completely dry. Then I cover everything with white and I start digging and covering again, making something appear from underneath and marking some cut using red color. When everything is completely dry again, I usually paint over it, in order to create a stable point of entrance, even if everything around is moving.

 
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Your works also tackle topics of gender identity and perception of one’s body. How and why do you include that in your artworks?
Being an LGBT artist I’ve been investigating topics like gender identity and power for personal interest for many years already. I was interested in understanding how gender identity is socially constructed, as well as the subtle way in which power influences how we perceive ourselves and the others. Thinking about the history of discriminations and wars, I was wondering how come violence can be possible and what triggers it, what turns a human being into an oppressor. The question was addressed to myself, since I recognize this matter as a human possibility, totally present. I reached the conclusion that anyone under specific circumstances could become a part of this mechanism.

Meanwhile I identified in the idea of Neutral what can transcend this circle. Neutral is what stays beyond definition, an impossibility, a utopia never to be archived, but a symbolism as well. The beings I paint give up on violence, they surrender into a state of openness and free giving of themselves. They are transforming, offering their wounds and limbs, changing from one gender to the next one. I see them as sometimes caught in an undefined condition.

My artistic research has been rotating around themes like memory, loss and translation. I recall a pre-linguistic state of perception, or the memory I have of it. It is something like a lost heaven, an astonished contemplation of things and the certainty that all the sense resides in trying to go back there. I realized that this state has been lost at the time when meaning took over, meaning being the first form which power can take. So I began to identify some rifts, fissures on that metaphorical wall, through which I could have a glance of this. I find the possibility of non-definition a way in this direction. Non-definition of gender, or any state of incompleteness, where the hegemony of meaning can be challenged.

 
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The colors you use in your paintings are very striking and bold yet subtle, with the contrasting light pink and blue melting into each other through the smudged lines of the silhouettes you portray. Was that a conscious choice of colors or rather something that came to you naturally?
I use cyan blue to represent the skin because this is a color no human skin can have. Even if the figures sometimes show specific somatic traits, my idea is that of representing an ideal human being beyond any race in which anyone is potentially able to identify themselves.
When I use white to cover everything it is an erasing process. Is a sacrifice, and the body becomes the goat. I give away what took so much time and attention; I kill it. Only after that it can become something else. White means purity in the western tradition, yet in Asia it represents death and mourning. I see this two perspectives interrelated. Afterwards, when the red drips and melts with the white becoming pink everything gets softened, so that the first impression one can get from these paintings is that of a safe place, where nothing can hurt. Yet it can.

 
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What are your upcoming plans?
Beside the painting part, the project “Der goldene Vogel” will consist of a video-performative part and a map. I collaborate with a collective of artists called the Snorebarn, and together we are planning a site specific intervention for the North Willows project space in Montclair, New Jersey in October. For this project I am working on a piece which I call the Map. It is meant to describe a path through the figures of my project. The result will be a two-dimensional image printed on plastic, on which I will intervene with collage, painting and text.
 

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Aurora del Rio: Portfolio
Photos: Zoe McArthur
Interview + text: Anna Wim

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