Rocio Navarro
Rooted Embodiments

April 21 - May 27, 2023

A conversation with Rocio Navarro.


You grew up in Mexico and earned your BFA at TecMilenio University in Chihuahua before moving to Toulouse, France, where you currently live. How has your work changed with the move to France?

I started dedicating more time to painting in my second year living in France. When I first got here I was discovering and adapting to the new environment. I spent my first year in Toulouse, and in my second year, I moved to the countryside, to a very beautiful rural area. I grew up in a city, so this was very different from what I was used to. Looking back I think this change offered me the time I needed for introspection but also acceptance of my separation from my home country and my family. During this time, painting became a daily activity that partnered and mirrored all these surrounding changes.


Your paintings bring to mind the work of Alfredo Ramos Martinez, especially the ones that include flowers or floral patterns. How do you see your work in relation to Mexican modern painting?

I have certainly absorbed all the symbols and images of Mexican folklore. The muralist movement had the very purpose of cementing the Mexican identity. After the Mexican revolution we needed to have a very clear idea of who we were, our past, and where we were headed. The force and reach of this instrument, I think, extended into my generation, I don’t know so much about new ones but I am convinced it is in the collective imagination of my generation and previous ones.  Amongst my favorite Mexican artists of the last century are Rufino Tamayo, Siqueiros and Olga Costa.


Can you tell us more about the woman or women depicted in your paintings? Are some of your paintings self-portraits?

I am constantly exploring different aspects of myself and my environment, and my paintings are a reflection of this exploration. I consider some of them to be self-portraits and sometimes I choose to depict other women in my life. I try to be economical in my composition. I include only a few hints that subtly point to ideas from my past and memories, also to some projections for the future.


Your paintings are grounded by recurrent visual motifs of foliage and detailed garments. These elements play an important role in establishing a certain style for your work. How did you arrive at your particular style of painting?

I have drawn portraits since I can remember. When I first started painting I was inclined to a more realistic style that was dissimilar to my drawing. I have been trying to re-approach the freedom that drawing holds. However, I love to paint detailed textiles, and contrast them with some abstraction of the facial features.

I have a fascination for bright-colored fabrics and elaborate patterns. I often tend to choose garments that I commonly use and feel a connection that I want to project. I pair this with plants which are an important part of my personal spaces along with animals. They are a daily and valuable reminder of what’s important in life.


Can you tell us about your working process? How do you start a painting? Do you use photographs? Do you make a line drawing on the canvas before moving to paint?

I begin the process of creating a painting by visualizing it through a combination of photos I take and drawings I make in my sketchbook. These two methods are interdependent and inform each other in a continuous feedback loop. I sometimes start by taking photos and then I sketch them, while other times, I sketch first and then take photos to have a reference. Once I start working on the canvas, I typically begin by creating a line drawing to block in all of the elements in the composition. This helps me establish the overall structure and proportions of the painting before I start adding color and detail.