Artist Carla Kasseroler blurs the boundary between nature and art. Her work is both inspired by the Mediterranean and is awash with natural elements due to the paint she uses - and mixes herself. An open and free-spirited person, she says that “home” is wherever “my family, my animals, my people” are. Most recently it was a rustic house in the Valencian countryside, where every book, bowl, or plant served a purpose, and fields of orange trees lit up the landscape. We caught up with her there, on the brink of a big change…
How does a day in your life begin?
Truthfully? With my dogs licking my face and the purring of my cat as they climb over me! We have two cats, two dogs and I plan to get more. My dream is to live surrounded by animals and nature.
Tell us a little about your typical routine. Do you paint all the time?
I don’t really have a routine because I approach each day based on how I feel.
There are times when I paint straight after having breakfast, and there are times when I don’t. The most important thing is to listen to myself. Maybe one day I want to read, or take a walk in the mountains or do nothing at all. And I don’t blame myself for that, I think that all of this is necessary. Imagine that I go 4 days without painting anything, and then all of a sudden inspiration strikes and I paint 5 pictures in one afternoon!
Do you see this as a form of escape?
Painting is the only moment in which I don’t think about anything else, which is both relaxing and invigorating. However, without these other things there wouldn’t exist any act of creation. You have to pass through everything first to be productive later.
“Water is the main character in my paintings. It takes control and transforms the work in a surprising way.”
Could you explain to us how you create your own paint? Where did that idea come from?
It arose quite naturally during lockdown.
I’d wanted to get rid of chemicals and toxins for a while. I also didn’t want any plastic to enter my house and I’d had enough of seeing all the bottles of acrylic paint in my studio. So I investigated medicinal plants and natural cosmetics and tried to create my own. Then I attempted to dye some textiles with onion layers, avocado skins, bones and coffee, working on making those dyes and tones adhere to the fabric. With the passing of time, I was able to transfer this knowledge to my canvases.
I’ve also experimented with the density and weight of the paint.
Do you only use natural paints?
Nowadays, yes. I mix calcium and pigments with oil and grinds… the result is exactly how I like it: with desaturated colours that aren’t so bright but rather more natural, like the earth. I think these tones reflect me better too.
First I make denser layers, then I add water, the next day I come back and keep working.
How is the ocean represented in your art?
I identify very strongly with the sea and, though not explicitly, water is the main character in my paintings. It takes control. Once I let it work, it transforms my art in a very surprising and beautiful way.
How do you try to reduce your impact on the environment?
Well, I have a composter at home, so I’m able to return all the organic material to the soil of my vegetable patch. I also buy in bulk and collect all the ‘grey waters’ left-over from washing to avoid waste. Because we use natural soaps, those waters are then suitable for irrigation etc.
And at the level of fashion?
I lean more towards buying second-hand because I like vintage clothing, those unique pieces that last, and avoid overproduction and fast fashion trends. The same thing happens to me with furniture. I now own many pieces of my grandparent’s furniture and I like knowing that each one has its own story.
About the orange fields: do you cultivate them?
The orange fields belong to my partner’s family. They had been completely abandoned after many years of misuse and we discovered that the soil had been exposed to plenty of chemicals and had lost most of its fertility from the practices of previous owners. We needed to bring them back to life! We did it with green cover crops, planting a variety of species and by avoiding pesticides. These days we look after the fields, but the idea is not to intervene too much. They should work like nature does… looking after itself, on its own.
What else have you learnt from nature?
That she is not in any rush, that she takes only what she needs and that she is cyclical, like us.
What was your life like in Bali?
Incredible! I felt complete in Bali.
A few years ago I went to a yoga retreat in Menorca, where I met lots of wonderful women that later became sisters and mothers to me. One of them told me about a retreat in Bali and later I decided to pack my backpack and jump on a plane. It was called “InBreathe” and they taught me about the mindful breathing technique and its benefits, which was life-changing.
I also got to know Bali as a local. For example, I painted a house in exchange for accommodation. I participated in daily gratitude rituals, learned from the people, their tranquillity and peace. Bali is now home, and its people are family to me.
Do you meditate?
Perhaps unconventionally and unconsciously, yes. I stop and listen, also in nature. For me, that’s meditation.
We know that you’re moving to Menorca tomorrow! Why the change?
Menorca has always felt like home. Time doesn’t matter: the people have all but dispensed with it! They’re very close and welcoming, and won’t judge you, they respect the sea and the earth. For those reasons, they’re constantly surprising me.
We’re travelling to Ciudadela, where we will need to start from scratch. It is important for me to feel embraced by my environment. My people, my family, my animals. That’s what I need to feel at home, to feel myself, and centred.
Interview material was transcribed by Ignacio Rocha-Martin who provided invaluable help with the original Spanish.