Clara Rubin’s work is rooted in painting. For the past 4-5 years she’s been using predominantly gouache on paper while experimenting with other mediums such as colour pastels and oil colours. The themes she explores revolve around ideas of home and identity, family and neighbourhood, nature and the man-made. She has depicted locations that are personal and well-known to me, and I celebrate the experience of the place. Through her work, she often looks at the borders that exist between people, and she reflects on the act of introspection and intimacy where we feel most comfortable. In particular, delving into feelings of safety and security, but also spying and surveillance, and the existential idea of being watched by something that we can’t see. Her main source of inspiration is images from everyday life. I am often attracted by natural phenomena like reflections or transparencies that suggest something mysterious.

Luca Attilio Caizzi: Time plays a fundamental role in each story. What’s your present time like, Clara? How are you getting through this period?

Clara Rubin: I love the question. I couldn’t agree more. From a personal standpoint, I am now 35 years old. Since January this year, I have been trying to evolve my work/making a transition from a long period of time doing illustration commissions to drawing and painting. My work is rooted in painting and a career that has always been my real dream and goal. I think my way to start working as a visual artist, when I started a few years ago, was to work on illustration commissions. I have always incredibly enjoyed it. I have always liked the inclusiveness of art directors and how quick and direct the process can be of working on an illustration project. I think the art environment can be quite insular and it is a much longer process to work with professionals like gallerists and curators. So at the beginning, I was a bit intimidated and thought to start my process by working on illustrations commissions while painting in my free time. But they are two different kinds of practices/careers so I think if you wish to have a career in fine art and painting, your studio work, and your curriculum will require different criteria from illustration. For this reason, I decided to take a leap in that direction. Even though I have always drawn and painted my personal projects when I could, and researched contemporary art a lot. It feels like I am starting from scratch a little bit but I think it is worth it. I realise the first step to promote my work and draw attention to art professionals, like gallerists, is by curating your own group shows alongside other emerging artists. I am currently organising a group show which will take place in London this November. Besides the show, I am applying to many open calls organised by art institutions and also by artists-run projects. I find that so useful because even if your work may not get chosen for the open call, very often you still have the chance for your application to be mentioned by the institution on their platforms. This is still a great opportunity to put your work in front of the right professionals. To get back to the question, I’m in my 30s, precisely 35 years old, which is a time when I am evolving.

LAC: In which space do you create? And what’s your favourite moment to experience in this space?

CR: I am currently adjusting the illustration studio habits to the painting practice. As I have been used to working on design briefs, I mainly only required a desk and my gouache colours. You can be very tidy with gouache, as they are water-based colours, and they don’t permanently stain or stink at all like oil colours do. I am used to working at my home studio on my desk in a very intimate way. I use relatively small size paper, usually not bigger than 65 cm. I love the intimacy of small works. And I think it has been my starting point working like this because it matches my personality a bit. I am quite shy and my confidence in the work grows slowly and progressively. I noticed after a few years of practising, I feel more confident now in my work and so for a long while I have been meaning to work on more significant scale pieces. Especially I now feel the need to use proper painting colours like oils and acrylics. I just moved house and I will have the chance to use a tiny room in the house for this purpose. But I am definitely looking to find the chance to get a proper studio as soon as I can in the next months/ year or so. My favourite time of the day to work is definitely in the morning, as my concentration level is very high, usually between 8:00 AM or 9:00 AM and 2:00 PM. I love the energy I get in the morning.

LAC: How relevant is photography in your personal artistic approach? How much of what you depict is true and how much is a figment of your imagination?

CR: I have been very inspired and charmed by photography since a young age. I used to do so much research on photographers’ work when I was at university. I think my work tends to be inspired by a lot of photography I have been researching and memorising throughout the years. However, for painting, my goal is to get imaginative and quite abstract, like not realistic. I like the idea of making subtle figurative work, something that lives interpretation to the viewer. I am looking to be slightly mysterious in the outcome. I often use my own photography as a starting point, with images I personally take on my phone. I also enjoy working from life a lot, it helps my imagination more because when I look at a three-dimensional subject, there’s maybe more detail to it compared to the photo. The eye has a chance to interpret the subject with more inspiration I find. Although I love using photos too and it is so useful when it is not possible to work from life. I guess I always start from something real that captures my attention, and then in the work adding a lot of imagination and visuals from memory. Now that I made this transition to painting, I would like to increase the abstraction in the work

LAC: How much does Italy affect your newest approach to the art you make?

CR: I think being born and raised in Italy had a major influence on the work. The choice of colours and mood is so connected to living in this environment. I was just thinking about this the other day when I was listening to an amazing podcast I truly recommend called “Talk Art” by Robert Diament and Russell Tovey. They were interviewing an artist I love, Paula Siebra, from Brazil. Her work is stunning. The artist talked about how she gets inspiration from the misty light you get in Brazil. The dark and mysterious allure from the light and colours she’s surrounded by at certain hours of the day there. This makes her naturally inclined to choose that mood to inform her work. Indeed she mentioned that when she had a residency in Italy for a while for her it was such a different environment. As it was quite hard to adapt to the intensity of the light we got here. She obviously was in love with Italy but said at some point found the brightness overwhelming. She is used to darker colours and tonalities. I thought this was so true and interesting to think about, relating to the work we do and the environments we live in. Being in Italian I am so used to seeing really bright and intense colours and lights all the time here. It comes less naturally to me to pick darker moods. But listening to the podcast, actually made me reflect on how I would love to explore and use those more mysterious colours and subjects too. I am actually quite determined to make slightly darker works. Also considering that sometimes misty and darker tonalities can be more magical and charming in the work.

LAC: What are you working on while answering these questions?

CR: I am making a painting inspired by an evening scene at the new place I just moved to in Milan. It is an interpretation of the vegetation in the dark and this balcony with Ste, my boyfriend sitting there. I would like to make a completely new series for my group exhibition in November.

Clara Rubin‘s painted still lifes explore inherently Italian scenes, domestic settings, and the everyday intimacy of the home. Born in 1988 in Milan, Italy, Clara graduated from Camberwell College of Art in 2011. She lives and works in Milan.