Lena Yokoyama on making art with scarce resources in a retreat to the Colombian mountains

Lena Yokoyama on making art with scarce resources in a retreat to the Colombian mountains

So much of London-based artist Lena Yokoyama’s work stands out for its texture: each work laden with careful colour, shape and print choices that make them feel surreal yet tangible. Even better is the artisanal effects of Lena’s works being elevated by the themes they seek to portray. “My themes are usually related to culture, community and communication, whereas the visual rendition of these themes may often vary,” the illustrator and Riso-printmaker tells It’s Nice That. Often, these themes guide Lena around the world from Japan to Austria, London to Colombia. “My work is very inspired by location and by the available materials,” she says. “It adapts to the feeling of a place as well as its colour scheme.”

Lena’s latest work in Colombia particularly stood out to us, wherein she’s swapped digital and print-based works for painting. “I don’t usually work with paints and my access to materials or wifi was very limited when I was up in the Colombian mountains,” she explains. “There weren’t any art shops around and the place was too remote to order anything, so I had to work with the three tubes of blue, red and yellow that I managed to bring with me.” The limited materials allowed Lena to decide on a strict colour palette early on during her time there, and it also brought a more cohesive nature to the series. “In the nearest town, I found a children’s school supply shop where I bought some crayons to work some texture and shading into the paintings. I worked with whatever I could find, including leftover materials from previous artists, materials found in nearby towns and the small amount of things I brought with me.”

So where and when was such a series produced? Well, it was all thanks to ArteSumapaz, an arts centre in Cundinamarca, Colombia – way up in the Andes. “I went to ArteSumapaz with the intention to learn about a culture and a country through visual recordings, which would become translations of my experiences,” Lena says. “For a long time, I was just experiencing the beautiful nature around me, making little sketches in my sketchbook.” She also recorded every interaction she had whilst in the remote area, and after two months she had translated them into paintings for a visual series.

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