Bianca Batlle Nguema is an African Barcelonian artist who paints breathtaking portraits of black women, depicting their power. Naima Karp connected with Bianca for an exclusive interview to discuss her portraits, two heritages (African and Barcelonian), creative process, and much more.
After reading our Q&A with Bianca Batlle Nguema, connect with her on social media and her website, where her artwork can be purchased.
How would you describe your art and why do you paint? Can you tell us about how you first started painting and how it turned into a career?
I describe myself as a expressionist African artist, who is emotional and visceral and puts that into my work. My first inspiration is people - their eyes and the emotion behind them, and what I feel from them. I began to draw as child, but when I began drawing women, I felt a powerful sensation and it excited me when I saw the result. From that moment, one of my uncles enrolled me in a summer art program. This was my first experience of feeling the paintbrush and canvas come in contact.
Painting was always a hobby, but in 2010, I was the owner of a therapy space. I soon began painting the rooms in the space, and started selling paintings as time went on. Shortly after, I sold the business and found a workshop in my village. Painting became a career even though I wasn’t actively looking for it, but I am very happy with it.
How do your two heritages (African and Barcelonian) affect your art and identity as a painter? Can you tell me about you heritage and how your family came to Barcelona?
My mum was from Guinea Equatorial and arrived in Barcelona in 1967. She was part of the first generation of immigrants that worked the streets of Barcelona and was sent here by my grandmother to complete her education.
My mother, for her own reasons, never told me about my roots and I was never involved with the black community, like most of the Afro-descendants who were born in Spain between 1970 – 1990s. Therefore, I wasn’t really connected with them. After my mother's death, I started a journey through art to discover my African roots. This was important for me to discover my identity, as I am a mixed race.
Women are the subject of your work. What does being a woman mean to you, and why do you choose this as your main theme?
First, I see myself. Every black woman that I paint makes me see my roots - with every eye, hand and body I paint, I feel it speak to me about myself. It began with self-portraits, followed by my mothers’ portraits and then my grandmothers’, leading me to continue painting my aunties and so on. Currently, I paint women who inspire me - this allows me to learn something about them and myself.
I feel that black women in Spain are invisible - the Spanish people don’t acknowledge that we were born here. I want to try and make us visible and show our color and our power. We do exist, and we are wanting people to hear us and recognize that.
Do you listen to music when you paint, and are there any other aspects of your creative process?
I turn on the radio station and listen to Radio 3, which also lets me measure how long I’ve been working. Having a well-lit space with a lot of sunlight helps with my creativity. Sunrise gives me a positive energy to see the vibrant colors and this allows me to focus better.
How do you depict the power of black women in your work? (in style, medium, content)
I like to use big canvases to depict their power. I start by making black and white sketches with a pencil, followed by sketching on big papers with acrylics. Once I feel the energy from the model of my portrait, I start on the canvas, applying all my energy into each brushstroke. I love to use saturated colors, as they show the contrast between lights and shadows.
Do you think your art will be viewed differently in different parts of the world?
My art has connected me with the black community all around the world and this fills me with joy. I’ve been alone my whole life without that side of my family being around me, now with this, I’m feeling closer and more connected.
Of course, I know everyone will have a different perspective and view my art differently, but I think we will all feel a similar connection. In the end all we are children of the diaspora.