Cristina Navarro was born in Ceuta. She studied Fine Arts (BB.AA.), at the University of Madrid (Complutense) and the Polytechnic University of Valencia, where she specialised in painting and printing.
Cristina Navarro's workshop and living space – or is it the other way round, that the living space contains the workshop? – may be found in a narrow street in the city of Valencia.
There you may find her immersed in her search for what underlies the landscape of things, its arrangement, order and foundations. The canvasses she paints appear like games of symbols. They achieve a sense of the memory of a child who learned to eat soup while having fun with pasta shapes that danced in the bowl of broth.
In what might seem random the melodic colour on which her signs float is transformed by them into a substance that captures them within circles or allows these geometric icons, or representations of forms of life, heavenly or terrestrial, to slip into the void like particles of the universe.
So beyond their visual evidence these paintings reveal a code, one of elements enclosed in a hieroglyphic language that opens a door just wide enough for us to glimpse the possibility of wider, or universal, dialogue.
Antonio Zafra, Zuheros, 2004
Ceuta: “Growing up in Ceuta didn't influence the surface forms of my work, but I remember that even when I was quite young I was aware I lived and breathed in a cultural amalgam. I remember women from the Riff's hats, and the colours they wore, and the sober dress of a man who came to sell eggs. One felt respect there for the power and richness of these others cultures, which were part of everyday life. I think that instils some sense of moral obligation to be culturally open.”
Circle: “Circles appeared in my work in a series called Agalma , which I began in 1990. In Proyecto Envero the circle is used in a quite different way. The Mediterranean is a closed circular culture for me. By a closed culture I mean one that may receive incursions, and these may enrich it, but don't change it. I also mean a ring of linked and united cultures. Those are two things we take for granted about the Mediterranean.”
Colour: “I think colour is something ancestral. We may believe our choices are personal, but our memories of colour are received…. In painting, yes, there is a more conscious analysis of colour and ambiguities. The sun's colour is also that of olive oil. The colours of ‘Mare Nostrum' – the sea and the sky – are the same as one another.”
Painting: “When I paint I can feel more or less where I am beginning and where I will end, but I am not aware of what is happening while I paint. Looking at the Proyecto Envero work I can see, for example, I was discovering some sense of union and diversity though I wasn't aware of that at the time …. For instance, I'd outlined each symbol so they were all separated, keeping their own identity, but also attached to the neighbouring ones.”
Process: “The most important element in my preparation for these paintings was the discovery that of olive oil's important role in Mediterranean culture. It brought richness and trade and it symbolized blessing. When I say richness, I don't mean only economic wealth – I mean cultural exchange. Olive oil was important in every ritual blessing from birth to death. It was also the everyday source of light. That's something we forget. The other important discovery was that wheat was often perceived as a gift of the Gods. All that history attracted me, and I wanted to reach out to that. So I read a lot before I began to draw. ”
Symbols: “In my early paintings, I told anecdotal, intimate, personal stories with figurative element. As time went on, I realised experiences are more general or shared. That and the influence of primitive cultures' use of symbols, tilted me towards abstraction. Undoubtedly I was influenced, too, by visiting a major Paul Klée show in Berne. My paintings' symbolic language emerged spontaneously in various phases from a need to link my inner and outer worlds.”
Extracts from a conversation with Vicky Hayward, Valencia, 2005
MEMORIES, DAYDREAMS, OFFERINGS
Art is her life, and she always knew it. Cristina Navarro's motivation is a deep desire to communicate her concerns and interest in transformation, and this provokes and enables her work.
Her artistic development runs through three clearly defined cycles. The earliest and most recent ones are informed by introspection. The middle one is shaped by the need to look outwards and explore the external world.
Her early work recreated experiences, caught figuratively, as if to preserve fleeting moments she did not want to lose. She worked in pencil on squared notebook paper, reinventing comic art, developing a disciplined style that used the squared paper to tell a story.
So opened a long cycle in which we find people, animals and easily recognisable everyday things. It is a clean, almost ingenious, carried out with delicate lines on pastel backgrounds. Significantly titled works are Memories (1975), The Fiesta (1977), Wild Nature (1977) and Garden of Farewell (1978), which is a prelude, in a certain way, to the following cycle.
In this cycle, marked by a new openness to the external world and other forms of expression, two important influences are poetry and ancient civilizations's cultures of symbols: Egyptian, Phoenician, Aboriginal Australian, African and pre-Columbian Latin American. They lend new tensions to an artistic vocabulary that dialogues with contemporary art.
Poetic daydreams are sources of inspiration in this new imagined world. Her work follows a new heartbeat, but the change is as gradual as closely observed human growth. The subtle discontinuity with the earlier cycle is not one we easily perceive, from one work to the next. The squared use of space and sequences continue, but lose the line grid. Most works, now abstract, are driven by colour, especially a rich range of blues with diverse subtleties. Significant titles include Altazor (1982), Dream (1985) and Marine Cemetery (1987).
As if discovering that the external world is an inner one, in the Hindu manner, Navarro goes to live in another city and, once again, changes artistic cycle. She begins a selective return to an inner search. The final realist elements disappear, symbols proliferate, the square fades, the spiral appears. She acquires an ability for distanced abstraction and produces Branch of Desire (1989), Insistence of the Sign (1991-2), and Agalma (1991-2).
Inner silence, love and decoration elide in the series Inner Time (1995) and a sustained evolution carries through to Threshold (1994), a series in which she symbolically opens her door to the unknown, stating the idea that everything is already present, but latent, until made visible by the artist's decision and brushes.
An emotional fluidity continues, expressing itself in Change (1995), a series in which the colour black appears for the first time, as shadow predicated by light.
She changes city, focus and materials again for a new series of painting: Forms of Impermanence (1996), using silver leaf and azure paint, its colour suggesting the infinite. Stable States of Permanence (2000), uses red and gold, warm colours, alive, signifying the sun's energy, heat, emotions.
She then begins to prepare a new change and series: Circle of Light …..
Estil EMB , Valencia, 2003