Through her vibrant and striking portraits of female figures, Spanish painter Elena Gual gives the genre a fresh and contemporary spin. No doubt capturing the emotions of the characters she paints, she uses a distinctive palette knife technique to add interest to the canvas with strokes of impasto – thick layers that are visible to the naked eye.

Her latest series Aura, on show from 26 August at Grove Square Galleries in London, shows a strong attention to colour, light and composition and is inspired by Impressionism. Reflective of her classical academic training, these modern paintings have fiery depth and reveal Gual’s passion for female equality. “My goal is to focus on these women, highlight their shapes, beauty and persona,” she tells Creative Boom. “I want to evoke their aura and I strive for the viewer to appreciate them and their emotions as much as I do.”

With works titled Resilience, Self-Love and Awakening, Gual’s painting is centred around emotional experiences that are inherently female and yet resonate universally with us, the viewer. Born in Spain and based in London, with time spent living in Africa and India, her work considers the myriad realities of being a woman worldwide – as both reflected in her subjects and her own artistic identity.

Trained as a painter at the Florence Academy of Art, followed by courses at Central Saint Martin’s and the Royal Academy in London, Gual developed her unique palette knife technique after developing an allergy to turpentine.

Working initially from photographic material, Gual begins with a charcoal drawing before she starts to apply thick strokes of impasto onto the canvas with a spatula. Often working from oils created herself, this dedicated process requires Gual to wait for the layers of paint to dry before she can continue. The result is an almost sculptural textural effect that brings her subjects to life.

“While drawing inspiration from my travels, I began to understand how women are often treated with so much inequality across many countries,’ says Gual. “My goal is to focus on these women, highlight their shapes, beauty and persona; I want to evoke their aura and I strive for the viewer to appreciate them and their emotions as much as I do.”

Aura by Elena Gual runs from 26 August until 24 September 2021 at Grove Square Galleries, 156 New Cavendish Street, London W1W 6YW. Discover more at elenagual.art.

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