Think about the last time you cried. Oh, there are myriad reasons. Life can be upsetting,  life makes us feel nostalgic. We cry out of sadness and happiness, sometimes at the same time. We cry when something is so beautiful it is incomprehensible and, admittedly, we cry at the heinous moments, as well. I bring up this most human act in the dichotomy of Spanish-born painter Cristina BanBan’s newest body of work, a bold and beautiful series of oil paintings, titled Del Llanto, which translates to “from crying.” BanBan’s pieces evoke those complex states of mind when we feel like crying, and how being transported through time can elicit emotions of profound grief and joy. I spoke with BanBan just as she was finishing Del Llanto, in what will most certainly be a watershed moment for her rising career. These paintings tell universal stories in the most personal way.

Evan Pricco: What is it about oil paint that perhaps changed the trajectory of this show? It's the first time you’ve worked this way, right? 
Cristina BanBan: Last year I became bored with my own painting as though I exhausted something within it. I felt the need to step back and make changes in my approach to painting—I needed to get excited by it again. So I turned to a different technique. I like feeling uncomfortable because that’s when I learn. It’s the same as when I meet people who make me feel uneasy in a conversation, and I always end up learning something from it. By using a medium that I haven’t tried before I could put my hands on trial again and take advantage of the mistakes. I had the need to feel I wasn’t in control so that accidents could happen. That is so beautiful. And that’s how it is with oil paint; you never know how it will react.

By the time this interview is out, you will have had your solo show at 1969 Gallery and Albertz Benda. You gave me a tour of the works and I think they’re your strongest to date, so impressive in terms of scale and detail. The vulnerability is just so palpable. You reference honesty a lot, so what do you think this body of work says about you right now? The title itself, Del Llanto, makes quite a statement. 
Thank you! Vulnerability and honesty are indeed aspects I enjoy exploring. This work is a reflection of a lot of time and energy invested in the studio for a year without traveling, and the feeling of being trapped in a seemingly never ending situation with many restrictions. Del Llanto can be understood as an act to relieve a big feeling, whether it’s pain, joy, desperation or sadness… the emotions that we went through since the burst of covid. But I also like to think about all those feelings that came after that big burst, like boredom, fatigue and feeling lost.

To me, the scale of the woman is very important. They are life-size, often bigger than life-size! It was quite impressive seeing them in your studio, just so bold. I assume this is very intentional?
Yes, I choose human size or bigger for scale. I guess it’s a personal preference to feel invaded by the painting. I’m into big brushstrokes and experimenting with different thicknesses. But I also did work on smaller canvases for this upcoming show, some portraits.

There are few bookends at play here: You open a solo show that marks a very fascinating period of time, coming at what has been a remarkable time in NYC in particular. There is a bit of an intimate shift in the works; you got the vaccine the day we did this interview, and now you are going to be going back to Spain after the openings… we both sort of laughed at the idea that an artist needs to somehow dictate time to themselves; this idea that images can appear and reappear over time, and that if you are just dedicated and make work every day, characteristics will emerge sometimes that you haven't touched in a while. Even with another solo show on the horizon, how do you  feel right now, Cristina, about the process? 
I want to keep experimenting and trying different things. After finishing a solo, I like to take a bit of time for drawing or reading. I could see in the process of making the series that I was more focused on the lighting and the contrast of the colors to represent volume, rather than using line work as I used to in the past. This shift made me want to start working with sculpture, which I hope to do in the near future.

Cristina BanBan: Del Llanto will be on view at 1969 Gallery and Albertz Benda in NYC through June 12, 2021.