An encounter with Victoria Calleja
Updated: May 11
Victoria Calleja is an artist of Chilean origin who came to live in Brussels in the mid-80s. She comes from a family with a strong inclination towards the visual arts and, from a young age, she knew that she wanted to dedicate herself to painting. Her approach was merely intuitive. She has a very solid academic background that she started at the Faculty of Arts in Santiago, Chile. Subsequently, she continued with studies at the prestigious Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Brussels as well as at La Cambre. She is currently a professor of drawing and painting at the Watermael Boitsfort Academy of Fine Arts.
(At the beginning of the 1980s, while Chile was immersed in a dictatorial regime, there was a strong inclination towards conceptual art. However, Victoria - faithful to her interests - continued with easel painting, in which she had a strong inspiration of Francis Bacon. In Belgium he studied monumental painting and engraving.)
We had the opportunity to visit her workshop in St Gilles, a space full of light, that light that she captures in an extraordinary way in her works. Victoria is a multidisciplinary artist who constantly renews herself, experiments with different techniques and brings her works to life with different materials. That incessant search and use of different materials, even some years ago led her to create her own brand of pastel colors. It is not surprising that she has also dabbled in sculpture, in which she uses, among other materials, resins and pins.
Victoria concentrates on working with light and shadow in her works, the colors underlining that contrast. A strong influence on her work has been the great Flemish masters of the 17th century. In particular, Peter de Hooch - a contemporary of Vermeer and Rembrandt - whose small-format work presents us with extraordinary spatial depth. Peter de Hooch's interiors invite the viewer to look out a window and discover the intimate spaces and the environment in which the characters interact. This same sensation gives Victoria's work in the series of paintings that we have presented throughout these weeks on our Instagram account, in which she develops spatiality with a singular skill and that she builds from transparencies and layers of paint. Her source of inspiration are the images that she records in her daily life, visual moments that upset her unconscious and that she transmits from her work. This environment in which her characters develop is accompanied by stories that invite us to empathize with the experience of her characters that dissolve in the context.
It has been a great pleasure for us to know more about her work and to know her more as an artist and of course as the great human being that she is. Finally, the “Hugs” series caught our attention by representing a moment so longed for today. Victoria was inspired by them -curiously not in the times in which we live- but in the nostalgia that her return to Brussels caused her after having spent time in her native country.