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Cecilia Flaten: Painter of the Magic Lights

Cecilia Flaten is a prolific painter who focuses on the natural elements of the environment to create her expressive and emotional landscape paintings. Inspired by Scandinavian Mythology, the Patagonian landscape, as well as other natural phenomena such as the aurora borealis, Flaten emphasizes the contrasts between light and shadow and imbues each painting with her own personal touch. She has exhibited her work all over the world, from New York, to Paris, to Chile.

Portrait of Cecilia Flaten, courtesy by the artist

What artists give you inspiration? Where else do you look for inspiration?

During my Impressionist period, two painters inspired my artworks: Camille Corot and J.M.W. Turner. I was not familiar with Turner until I had my show at Agora Gallery in New York in 2006. In their press release they compared my skies with Turner’s. That was very high praise for my artwork.

At the beginning of my Neo-Impressionist period (from around 2000 to 2008), the fundamental theme of my artworks was Scandinavian Mythology. After 2008 my influences shifted again. Some of my inspirations included: the midnight sun, the northern lights, fjords and lights of the Arctic, "Boreal Patagonia", which is a bridge between the Poles across the land of Patagonia (southern Chile), and the northern lights of Northern Norway, the land of my ancestors. These themes continue to be a part of my work today.

Portrait of Cecilia Flaten, courtesy by the artist

If you could exhibit your work anywhere, where would you choose?

Throughout my career, my artworks have been exhibited and sold in many countries in Europe, in the United States and in South America. However, my blood and spirit lead me to prefer exhibiting in Norway.

What is your process like? How long does it take you to complete a painting?

The process is very magical. It depends on my mood. I always say "if the Gods don't speak to me, I don't paint." The work is born from my soul, from my mind, and from my spirit. But each one has its own true birth and story. There is never a defined or predetermined time for it to be finished. The work speaks for itself, announcing "I am ready! Let me free for others to see."

What drew you to landscapes? How has nature influenced your work as a whole?

I have been united with nature for as long as I can remember. I love the earth and I wake up every morning grateful to the "Pachamama" for being alive. I have been my own gardener for around 50 years, and each plant that I grow gives me life. The skies are a fundamental source of inspiration for my artworks. They are perfect subjects, none the same as the other. I love the trees and their shapes; they talk between themselves, making forests a magical place. I have had a fluid dialogue with nature for many years.

What reaction do you hope to get from people viewing your work?

The truth is that I do not expect any reaction. However, when someone stops in front of one of my artworks in an exhibition and they are almost paralyzed and can’t look away, I think it was all worth it.

The main thing I want to achieve is to have the artwork speak for itself. Even if it is very small, if it does not say "hello, I'm here, ... look at me" to the spectator, then the artwork did not succeed in its purpose, and the energy I put into it was not enough.

Have you always had an interest in art? What are some of the pivotal moments that affected where you are in your practice today?

I was 4 years old when I started studying classical dance. My mother was the first dancer at the Municipal Theater of Chile, so I had the opportunity to see all the best dancers in the world. After dancing as a soloist for many years, I studied theater. I then returned to dance, but this time to study Dance Pedagogy at the University of Chile to help me become a teacher and professional in the field. This led me to dance on television and to teach many choreographies in a youth program.

It was in 1990 that I picked up my brushes and canvas. I did my first stage of painting, the “Scandinavian Tales and Legends” in the Naif style, a technique of genre painting. From 1993 to now, I have done oil on canvas, often adding the pigment of Lapislazuli (the blue stone of Chile). I like to focus on light and shadow and the environment in each of my paintings. The natural world and the unique aspects of each scene bring out the “magic lights" in each of my works.

The Dwelling of Hela I, courtesy by the artist

Do you find it more challenging to paint the same location multiple times or to paint from a new location you are unfamiliar with?

Obviously painting on a subject already dealt with several times is very pleasant and has many advantages. However, moving forward and beginning new searches is exciting and gives us such an adrenaline rush. While new directions may seem difficult, they are necessary to help us grow internally and to reach new horizons.

The Bows of Tyr, courtesy by the artist

What do you find most challenging and most rewarding about being an artist?

Being an artist in today’s materialistic world is a fight for survival. You must keep assessing your dreams day by day. However, being able to create and have the freedom to do so is priceless. It is not easy being an artist, as there are moments of glory and moments of suffering. But if we weigh the positives and negatives, the positives are surely greater. It is a blessing to be a true artist, and a special gift worth cultivating.

The Power of Heimdall I, courtesy by the artist

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