Casting an eye on life under the surface
Andrea Soler describes herself as hyper-meticulous and organized. She likes things in their proper place, contained within boundaries. Blame it on a brief stint years ago as a banker.
That’s why it came as something of a revelation when she eventually threw caution to the wind and allowed herself to literally paint outside the lines.
“According to my art instructors I was a bit too rigid,” she says of her experience taking independent studies courses in painting and printmaking at the U of A. “They told me to mess things up a bit, and I was so angry and resistant. But look at me now.”
An internal communications associate for the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry by day, Soler counts her messy moment as a breakthrough in her development as an artist. The results were recently on public display at the Milner Gallery, part of a show called “Out There,” and mounted in collaboration with two recent graduates of the university’s bachelor of fine arts program, Camille Louis and Kim Lew.
According to their collective statement, the show’s title refers to a need for escape, “mentally traveling out of the city into an introspective space that might remind the viewer of places they have been or that they would like to be in.”
And as one might expect, Soler’s paintings are anything but constrained, reveling in an exuberant use of colour and free-from expression.
“My artwork is about life beneath the surface, be it wetlands, forests or microscopic views of nature and the human body,” she says, adding that “life forms we cannot see at first glance” are of particular interest to her. Her latest work shows a fascination with human biology, such as bacteria and cancer cells. One piece, “a bit X?rated” she says, is called “The Race” and captures the moment of human conception.
Trained since high school in a number of media including painting, printmaking, sculpture and film in her native city of Bogota, Colombia, as well as in Richmond, Virginia, and in England, it was while living in Toronto, working towards a public relations certificate at Ryerson University, that she first heard about the international reputation of the U of A’s fine arts department, especially its print-makers. So when her husband was transferred to Edmonton, she couldn’t have been happier.
“The facilities here are the best I’ve seen anywhere,” she says of the U of A’s fine arts studios. “Taking independent studies here was a positive experience overall. I learned so much from everyone in the department.”
About a year ago, Soler landed her communications job in the faculty. Like many accomplished artists, she is forced to pursue her first love on the side, but she adds that her profession and her art are simply different points on a wider creative spectrum.
“I’ve always liked all forms of communications,” she says. “Art is just one. A lot of my job right now is very creative. It’s good to know my creative skills are so transferable to practical things like a newsletter or website.”