Gabriela Bettini is known for her hyperreal paintings which appropriate the aesthetics of archival photography, naturalist illustration, and museum displays to comment on ecological issues, colonisation, and memory.Read More
Bettini was born in Madrid and is of Argentinean descent. In 2001, she gained an Honours degree in Fine Art from Universidad Complutense de Madrid. The following year, she completed an MA in Theory and Practice of Contemporary Arts at the same university. In 2004, Bettini gained an MA in Fine Art from the University of East London.
Bettini's paintings recall a vast range of visual referents—from austere documentary photography, to the picturesque landscape painting tradition, or the meticulous rendering of early zoological and botanical illustration. While at first appearing simply to mimic these genres, Bettini subverts her imagery to bring forth observed relationships between historic events, colonialism, and environmental crises and critically examines the role of her medium in carrying specific narratives.
While at the Royal Academy of Spain in Rome in 2015, Bettini developed a series of paintings derived from her research into 19th century Roman enclaves. Referencing historic photographs, Bettini reproduced images of enclaves in oil paint on canvas, subsequently superimposing her present-day observations of the same sites in a thin, translucent layer over the top to subtly reveal changes over time.
Bettini's project Larga Distancia (Long Distance) (2015) explored tensions between aestheticisation and migratory histories in a series of works examining a former hotel for immigrants in Buenos Aires. Grand hotel interiors that were once a site of refuge are presented as eerie architectural spaces divorced from their social realities. Large-scale hyperreal paintings such as Columnas (2015) and Immigrant Hotel (2015) stand level with the viewer, who is confronted with the absence of life or activity within these transitory sites.
Later works demonstrate a shift in interest towards ecological histories and the effects of colonisation on species and the environment. The collage-like layering of landscapes and vistas in the artist's 'La memoria de los intentos' series (2017) highlight the contrasts between historic and present-day views of the land, while problematising the colonial gaze inherent to the landscape painting tradition. Once-thriving forests and lakes are revealed to be destroyed or desecrated. David Barro has written: 'This representation of landscape works more as a collage, but also as a pictorial assembling of experiences and fragmented memories. It also hides two very distinct times, one past reflecting a colonial and naïve gaze from who captures the image with its prejudices and stereotypes, and the other from the artist's critical view.'
Bettini also contemplates agriculture as an extractive, homogenising colonial practice which continues to suppress the growth and flourishing of species, while commodifying vast areas of land and its inhabitants. Works such as Musa paradisiaca (2018) (the scientific name of the banana tree), or Zea mays (2018) (the scientific name for maize) depict exotic insect and plant species, partially overlaid with bright colour blocks as though redacted from visual memory.
Similarly, the 'Sample of American Birds' series (2021), which depict unnaturally clustered birds of various sizes, draw from the artist's observations of natural history museum dioramas and displays to consider the erasure or loss of species.
Katrin Steffen has written: 'Gabriela Bettini's works offer an opportunity to critically scrutinise traditional scientific views of the world and to rethink the possibilities for a new ethics of partnership among humans and between humanity and nature.'
Gabriela Bettini has received numerous awards including the Derivada Prize (2020); DKV Prize (2019); and Obra Abierta First Prize, Caja de Extremadura International Visual Arts Prize (2017).
She has held residencies in Spain and in South America, including at CCE Santiago (2018); Les Cliniques d'Es Baluard, Mallorca (2017–18); Addaya Centre d'Art Contemporani, Mallorca (2013); and URRA International Residency, Buenos Aires (2010).
Bettini has exhibited internationally in solo and group exhibitions since the early 2000s.
Solo exhibitions include: Topografía del borrado, Sabrina Amrani, Madrid (2020); Contact zone, Tasman Projects, Madrid (2019); Primavera silenciosa, Galería silvestre, Madrid (2018); La memoria de los intentos, Galería silvestre, Tarragona (2017); Paisajes de excepcion, Galería silvestre, Madrid (2016); Larga distancia, Galería silvestre, Tarragona (2015); La casa roja, Mundo Nuevo gallery, Buenos Aires (2013).
Group exhibitions include: El crimen perfecto, Conde Duque, Madrid (2021); BUM BUM BAYE [Under pressure], Sabrina Amrani, Madrid (2021); Ver versus ver I + II, Sabrina Amrani (2020); Lenta explosión de una semilla, OTR Espacio de Arte (2020); 14ª Bienal Martínez Guerricabeitia, Universitat de Valencia (2019); and 34º Premio BMW de Pintura, Casa de Vacas Cultural Centre, Madrid (2019).
Bettini's work is held in public collections including the Madrid Museum of Contemporary Art; Conde Duque; Centro de Arte 2 de Mayo; DKV Collection; Basmoca Museum, Jeddah; Fundacion Bancaria Caja de Extremadura; and the Spanish Royal Academy in Rome.
Gabriela Bettini's website can be found here, and her Instagram can be found here.
Misong Kim | Ocula | 2022