An Interview with Fernanda Morales Tovar, by Michelle Quick, Art Editor

“My paintings…invite the view to interact with the works on their own terms, based on the encounters, memories or experiences…promoting a sense of shared humanity,‎” Fernanda Morales Tovar, Issue 73 Featured Artist


One of the first things I noticed about this series is that while the setting in these paintings may be crucial to their overall aesthetic, place is still wonderfully indeterminate. What role has place played in your development as an artist? How have your surroundings shaped your creativity or your style?

The environment for me is crucial, both the physical environments and those that can be known through archives, because in this I identify: our development as individuals, our footprint, the processes of construction and transformation; as a series of actions that are constant when inhabiting a territory. My approach to this subject, which within painting is a genre: the landscape, has to do with pointing out, interpreting and proposing a series of internal exercises that are detonated from the outside. That is to say, my paintings are intended to be frozen narratives mediated by place and imagination, whose enigmatic notion alludes to being shared scenarios that invite the viewer to interact with the works on their own terms, based on the encounters, memories or experiences that they find of an indeterminate place; thus promoting a sense of shared humanity.


How do you approach a blank canvas? 

My first approach to the blank canvas is from deciding on a colour. A colour leads me to an image. Well, it is from my colour selection that I search among my image archive, here it is necessary to comment that the images (whether they are my capture, from family or public archives) I have previously altered to greyscale, in this way my searching for a colour in the image has to do with recognizing an emotional state that remits the memory or an imaginary exercise when facing and selecting one among these images. Knowing what colour will be predominant on the canvas and having my image selection, now, my approach to the canvas has to do with weighing a similarity of the canvas to a board, since both are defined by a contour and are generally a surface flat. This analogy works as a starting point for me, now I need to select my game pieces (pictorial solutions), from the series of elements that I have in my repertoire. The game begins by choosing a colour. A colour tenses a plane. A plane tensions a form. A shape strains a line. A line tenses the board. It is through a series of turns that the canvas is tightened, both visually and discursively. Well, I intend that these scenes refer us to the random and sometimes defined planes by which we transit, we strain, and we weave in the landscape.

In your artist statement, you wrote that your paintings aim to be a “conduit.” What artists or specific artworks move you in this way?

I consider that the pictorial process occurs not only when we meet directly with works of art or other painters, but that the experiences and images, which are a conduit, are experienced at all times. But there are undoubtedly artists who motivate me and in their works I find a unique aesthetic experience, and like any work that becomes more of a passion, my selection of artists transcends temporal and style definitions, since I find enjoyment both in works of exterior scenes by Pieter Bruegel as in the interiors and portraits by Francis Bacon; in the still lifes by Clara Peeters as in the monochromatic and political works by Kara Walker; or in the religious narratives of Byzantine Art such as in the allegorical narratives by Mark Tansey, to mention some artists.


The colors in your Archeologies series are incredibly vibrant. I was especially drawn to all the shades of blue and how each seems to create additional juxtapositions and intersections that enhance the complexity of the painting. Talk about your relationship to color in art. What effect does it have on mood, meaning, or message?

For me, painting at its most essential, beyond being a surface, are the colours. So, it is through choosing a colour that will predominate on the canvas that I initiate each painting. After this first decision, now my job is to decide if the painting will tend to be warm or maintain an atmosphere that leans towards cold colours. At this moment in my painting, it is through the exploration of colours that I make the series of decisions on the canvas. I make these decisions directly in the act of painting, sometimes correctly or others through error, since sometimes I must modify an entire segment where the colour does not work for the scene. But it is always from the colour that I build the planes, the tones and contrasts. Regarding the message of my scenes, colour helps me enhance my interest in the scene, for example if I want to give visibility to a series of daily activities such as moving around the environment, colour in its saturation works for me, because It allows me to point out the movements, contrast the shapes and generate a step from being an image to becoming a painting with an emotional charge and coming from an imaginary.


Tell us about the first piece of art you remember creating. How has your experience with creating evolved since then? 

My first approach to the disciplines that are linked to the fine arts was in childhood, through the realization of sculptures of small format with moldable pastes. Based on this, and when I decided to enter the Faculty of Arts, my first ideal practice was the three-dimensional, but when I went to the painting workshops I knew I had found something. Something where the three-dimensional is still present, but now, through its elements, its contents, my questions, my processes and the support, my action is to present the meaning of the real (the three-dimensional) on a surface (the canvas). It is from these initial reflections about real space and how it is possible to talk about it in a two-dimensional space, reflections that have to do directly with the medium: painting, that reflections about being and its future in the landscape were added from one’s own memory and imagination to be shared. From these concerns I started the series of paintings: “Archaeologies of the Environment”, from 2014 to my current work, and it is at that moment that I identify that both my motives of searching in art, the need to talk about what surrounds me, talk of what I found and fascinates me in the same contents of the painting, and the ways to solve these questions began to dialogue in the canvas; I could say that from that period I assume myself as an artist.


In your bio, you mentioned that you taught painting classes. What do you emphasize to your art students? Any tips, tricks, rules, etc., that you could share?

The comment I always made to my students, is that you should enjoy what you do, because I think this has a lot to do with motivation, and required to keep you very motivated to start and make each painting. It should be remembered that the advantages or disadvantages of painting, in the beginning, do not respond to a cycle of demand of the object for a market. So, deciding to start each painting must respond to a series of actions that, among them for me, is enjoyment. So, my comment was that if your mood didn’t match what you were painting at a certain time, or if you’ve stopped for a long time on a painting, you can leave that painting for a while and go back to it at some other time, even if it involves months, or even years. Another of my advice is to be disciplined when painting, that is to say, to keep fixed times when it is only time to paint. I also think it is important to keep you surrounded by things that motivate you all the time, things that raise questions and that these questions can be taken to the canvas to problematize or simply to share.


I love how unsettled I feel engaging with your work, as if the stories within are infinite. The figures in the paintings heavily contribute to this sensation. Your artist statement mentions embracing the intersection of “spaces, the human being, the stories, the ruin, and the landscape.” How do these influences work together and against each other to bring a painting to life?

I think of painting as a space in which everything fits. For me, thinking about painting reminds me of the previous paintings, to the images that I have seen before and to the mental images that are triggered when seeing images or facing various experiences. My interest in talking about the individual and environment, has to do with being an analogy that I directly find with my work as a painter, since I make the painting in a delimited space (the canvas) from decisions that are intertwined, translated, contrasted and that are constructed from layers. These same activities I recognize in the environment, since they are delimited spaces (physically or mentally) that we are building from our own stories, the ruins of the place, the inhabitants, the modifications of time and those created from the ideals of the individual. So, by thinking about these relationships from the environment, and at the same time in the process of making a painting, it allows me to generate a series of essays, which I named pictorial archaeological essays. Essays that come together from the same process of pictorial construction, but whose possibilities are defined from each painting, allowing me a wide field of exploration in both directions.

By Michelle Quick

Michelle Quick is art editor at Mud Season Review. She has led a kaleidoscope life, from a classically trained chef to an outdoor guide. She earned an MFA from the University of Nebraska Omaha, where she is an instructor, advisor, and graduate student (again) in social work and anthropology. Her writing appears in Jabberwock Review, Camas, Moon City Press Author Series, and Laurel Review, among other places. Her prose and poetry have been nominated for Best of the Net and awarded an Academy of American Poets Prize. She has designed and photographed for national magazines like Food & Wine and Midwest Living and international organizations like Convoy of Hope. Michelle is the founder of The Howler Project and Magpie Zine. She is a sucker for riot grrrl bands, found objects, and fresh air. She can’t wait to see your creations.