Apollo
Interviews

In the studio with… Hulda Guzmán

17 March 2022

The Dominican artist Hulda Guzmán’s fantastical paintings of the jungle – sometimes spied through the windows of her studio; sometimes placing the viewer in the thick of the trees – point to the disconnect between the complexity of the natural world and the efforts of humans to impose a more simplistic order upon it. She draws from a large box of perspectival tricks, taking impossible vantage points and playing various architectural games. She draws on Surrealist influences as well as the Mexican muralists, Caribbean folk traditions and medieval bestiaries. ‘I seek to feel like an instrument of nature, especially when I am painting,’ she has said. Guzmán’s first solo exhibition in the UK, ‘Meet Me In the Forest’, is now at Stephen Friedman Gallery in London.

Where is your studio? 

Lanza del Norte, Samaná. Dominican Republic.

What do you like most about the space?

It is surrounded by wilderness and it was designed by my dad, the architect Eddy Guzmán.

What's my Drag (2022), Hulda Guzmán.

What’s my Drag (2022), Hulda Guzmán. Photo: Todd-White Art Photography; courtesy the artist and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London

What frustrates you about it?

Nothing at all.

Do you work alone?

Yes, completely alone.

How messy is your studio?

It isn’t at all. I clean up every morning before starting to paint.

What does it smell like?

It smells like ocean breeze.

(2022), Hulda Guzmán.

Jusqu’ici tout va bien (2022), Hulda Guzmán. Photo: Todd-White Art Photography; courtesy the artist and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London

What’s the weirdest object in there?

Probably the gifts that my cats bring in from the garden (lizard tails, for example).

Which artistic tool could you least do without?

My water spray bottle.

What’s the most well-thumbed book in your studio?

Book of Beasts – The Bestiary in the Medieval World.

Dancing Cocks (2022), Hulda Guzmán.

Dancing Cocks (2022), Hulda Guzmán. Photo: Todd-White Art Photography; courtesy the artist and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London

Do you pin up images of other artists’ works?

I look at many artists’ works, but I have all my collections of references in my computer.

Do you cook in the studio?

I’d rather be fed by my family. They are amazing cooks.

What do you listen to while you’re working?

I listen to the birds and ocean sometimes. Other times to different kinds of music that really move me. And sometimes I listen to lectures, podcasts or comedy.

What you see is what it is (2022), Hulda Guzmán. Photo: Todd-White Art Photography; courtesy the artist and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London

What do you usually wear while you’re working?

A little fresh linen dress, and my apron.

Do you ever sleep in your studio?

Yes, I designed the couch to also be a bed. It’s a transformer.

Who’s the most interesting visitor you’ve had to your studio?

Children are most interesting.

Is anything (or anyone) banned?

Most people are.

‘Hulda Guzman: Meet Me in The Forest’ is at Stephen Friedman Gallery, London, until 14 April. 

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