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Nadia Hernandez Creates Art That Starts a Conversation

It might look cheerful, but this work conveys a serious message.

by Maggie Coggan
17 July 2018, 5:02am

Photography by Thomas Robinson

This article is supported by HP’s new OfficeJet Pro 8700 Series Printer, designed specifically for small businesses. In this series, Print People, we meet a bunch of Australians who incorporate print into their creative practice.

Nadia Hernández’s art is hard to miss. Bright, colourful, and abstract in design, she works in large scale murals, paintings, and paper construction with print at the centre of her practice. But despite her work’s cheerful appearance, it covers heavy themes, detailing the social and political upheaval of her home country, Venezuela. Now based in Sydney, Nadia gained massive exposure when she was selected as the official New Year’s Eve artist by the City of Sydney and had her works splashed all over the city.

We asked her about her connection to her home country, navigating through different mediums, political awareness on a global level, and how technology enables her to create her work.

VICE: Your work is inspired by Venezuelan folklore and social/political change. Did you always want to make that your focus?
Nadia Hernández: Yeah, it was always the intention. I needed to pick a focus when I was studying, and in my final year I went back to Venezuela and worked with an artisan, Carmelo Alizo, in my hometown. I’d always made things with my grandma and Mum as a child, so the relationship I formed with Carmelo was really special. Living in Sydney away from my family, as the situation in Venezuela progressively worsened, made me feel like I was losing a sense of myself. I wanted to retain my sense of identity and maintain a connection, but also comment on what was happening.

Seeing as your audience is predominantly in Australia, what’s the decision behind having the text in your works in Spanish?
I think it’s important to have a really strong message, but when it’s in a different language it makes the audience either actively translate it, or ask me about it and start a conversation. I see most of my work as being the combination of a message or text and symbols as a gateway into a bigger conversation. I’m always happy and open to talking to people so I can actively remind people about what’s occurring in Venezuela.

Do you find that people know about the issues affecting Venezuela?
There are many countries in Latin America, and we often get roped in together and stereotyped maybe due to our explicit similarities, such as the majority of countries sharing a language, however each place has different issues and cultures. I try to talk about the specifics of my region and emphasise that we aren’t all the same. I think it’s really important to also understand that. I’ve been thinking about the separation of families that's happening on the US border at the moment and how so many Venezuelans are having to leave their country by any means possible, then, of course, Australia’s harsh and harmful policy on asylum seekers. By making those connections between issues, we can step outside our day to day to see we are all on the same earth essentially.

Your use of bright and wild colour contrasts to the heavy tones of the political themes in work, why did you choose to do that?
It's like a trick: it gets people’s attention through the boldness and brightness, but then you look closer and you see it’s actually quite frightening. It also reflects what people perceive as being Latin American art, like, ‘vibrancy, festivity’ and bright colours, but the message actually talks about the reality of living there.

How do you go about your design-based work in comparison to your more artistic pieces?
I think that even though it’s design-based, it still really reflects my artistic style. Having printing and scanning technology is integral to the process of making all this work, like when I’m sketching and cutting things out of paper that has to be scanned, then warped, and resized. There’s a lot that goes into this design process and it’s so much easier with this technology.

How has this changed the way you create your designs? Has it made room for you to be a bit more experimental?
Yeah for sure, and also way more efficient. I love making things with my hands, but being able to easily and efficiently manipulate and test my work through a printing process is both super helpful and can lead to new ideas and surprises!

Follow Nadia Hernández on Instagram

This article is supported by HP’s new OfficeJet Pro 8700 Series Printer, the trusted printer used by innovative small businesses. Find out why it’s rated so highly here, and check out more Print People content here.