Artist Profile: Chati Coronel

I know I haven’t done an artist’s profile in a while and I felt there was no better reason to revive this much-loved series for me then with dear friend and all around beautiful person, Chati Coronel.

A few years ago, I came across a painting that called to me while checking out a quaint little shop in Alabang called Bungalow 300. I immediately fell in love with its colors and beautiful interpretation of trees and birds, but alas, wasn’t in the right time in my life to consider a piece of that size and beauty. Here is a picture of the painting I saw. Just seeing it again is making my heart hurt with longing.

Surprise Me (2011)

A few months later, I was introduced to the lovely artist Chati Coronel and when her husband Edber showed me her work, I couldn’t believe that the painting which called out to me had come from her brilliant mind and hands. My husband Carl and I will always will be her fan since that first day of meeting her.

If you ever have the privilege of meeting Chati in this lifetime, you will meet one of the loveliest of souls with the gentlest of voices. Fast forward to the present and I’ve been fortunate to now call some of her other pieces my own. It still breaks my heart that the piece I loved is no longer available, but there will always be time for more magic from Chati in the future. Enjoy her beautiful answers below about her work and process.

Blush (2012)

When people ask you “What is it you do?” what is your go-to answer:
I say I’m a painter. People are generally happy to meet painters. I’m not so sure why.

Mint (2012)

I understand you have a degree in architecture. Tell us a bit of how your career started and evolved into becoming a professional artist?
Architecture will always be my first love. Space is an amazing, intricate language for me. But I discovered painting and that was that. For my thesis in Architecture, I made a design for a library and museum for the arts. So, for research, I was reading all kinds of books about the proper way to present art. I came across a tiny photograph of Van Gogh’s sunflowers. I was in an old musty CCP library and I was that crazy girl, in tears from seeing a tiny image of Van Gogh’s work. I knew what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I finished school, started painting and didn’t look back from that point on.

Powder Blue Rainbow (2012)

Red Velvet (2012) 

Did you attend any schools to sharpen your skills? Are there any teachers you had that helped shape your art?
I grew up around my Grandmother who was a retired Art Teacher. That was my homeschool beyond school. It was never really serious art. I just drew a lot, made a lot of things, from papier mache sculptures to little leather wallets. After I graduated from Architecture, I attended U.P. Fine Arts for about a month and then I quit. I didn’t want to dissect art and figure it out. I wanted art to come from somewhere else other than my mind. I had a strong feeling that art came from somewhere bigger than me and I just went with that.

What really helped me was being awarded a grant to go to The Vermont Studio Center a few years after that. I stayed in a small town called Johnson, Vermont for a month. There, I had my very own legit studio with so much space (I had a tiny little garage studio at home at that time) and I just painted. It was such an amazing feeling to be working around these great artists. I knew magic was happening in each of those studios there and it propelled me to work (not harder, as I don’t associate painting with difficulty or suffering. It’s all joy!) more earnestly, more diligently. When I came back from Vermont, painting wasn’t just something I messed around with. It was my career, my path.

Skin Space Skin (2012)

Vanilla (2012) 

What mediums are you most comfortable working with? Why?
I work with acrylic because I create a lot of layers in my paintings and I just really don’t have the patience to let oil paint dry. I need the immediacy of acrylic so I can run after ideas!

Are there any local or international artists you look up to?
I love the work of Cy Twombly. His paintings just have this otherworldly zing that I can’t explain. And there is something about what I can’t explain that sticks to me and haunts me. I guess that’s why I quit art school, I didn’t want this grand, divine thing to be reduced to some person’s explanation of it. I want that haunting quality in my work.

Dripping Divine (2016)

Can you share some of your previous exhibits and the inspiration behind them?
Each exhibit is really a train of thought, a slice of whatever I am fascinated with at the time I paint the paintings. My last show was called, “The Way In/The Way Out”. It was inspired by a book by the Philosopher, Rudolf Steiner, called, ‘Cosmic Memory”. This was a trippy book about the evolution of man even before the physical world existed. I instantly loved the book. It made so much sense to me that we are more than our physical make-up. Why should history start with Biology?

The part of this book that became the impetus for the show was that intimate link between human development and the perception of color. I think this book was written in the 1920s but it’s only now that science is starting to prove Steiner’s theory that we can only perceive the colors that our brains are able to process in that particular stage of evolution. For example, there was a time in human history when we couldn’t see the color blue. Each of the paintings in my show started with a particular base color. Then, the paintings were arranged according to how our brains naturally evolved, so that you go into the exhibit in that natural sequence. I also connected this with my experience and study of Buddhism, Yoga and how certain colors awaken certain energy centers in the body. The show was then my experiment in moving consciousness through the use of color.

Future Perfect (2016)

Your works have some of the most beautiful color palettes, can you share how you know which colors to play with and when you’ve found that one perfect shade?
The colors I choose probably say a lot about my human development at that certain point in my life. That being said, most of my color references are edible. I am drawn to the color of macarons, cakes, frosting, the rich shades of chocolate or coffee. I associate these colors with happiness and celebration. I think these colors open up another sense in us when we see the paintings. Maybe on some level, the human brain computes each painting as something delicious!

Intertwined Islands (2016)

Licorice and Neon (2016) 

What are you currently working on? Do you have any exhibits coming up?
My next exhibit is in February 2018. This “what now” stage is one of my favorite parts of the process of being an artist. I am exploring my fascinations right now. Also I have been reworking some of my old paintings. And by reworking, I mean destroying. This is also an important part of my process. I need to wreck my own ideas. The layering that I do with the paintings is a meditation in letting go. Killing my old work is my way of taking that up another notch. I think a lot of old habits, old concepts that keep us from evolving are hidden under something good or beautiful. I need to break through that veil to allow something better to come through. I think it’s the only punk left to be– to be able to kill your own precious ideas in order to evolve.

Walk (2016) 

Your pieces are often described to be Koan-like layers. When does a painting feel done to you?
I like the idea of Koans because they contain layers of truth. The layers in the paintings aren’t there just to create visual depth, I think they deepen the perception of truth. Like Koans, there are often illogical aspects of the inner images in the paintings. Sometimes, you would see a hand where a heart should be, or three hands instead of two. Then the viewer would have to look more closely and be drawn in. I play with what is hidden and what is revealed within the piece. I play with a familiar visual cue, like a form or a word, that serves as a gateway or a kind of “rabbit hole” to fall into.

A painting is done when it can change the energy in a room. Again, from my experience with Buddhism and Yoga, I know that I am working with atoms and molecules and connecting on this level. I am forming light configuratuions that change the light waves in a space around the painting. These waves go through you through your eyes. This work is atomic.

A Kiss Is Also An Island (2014)

A Kiss Is Also A Map (2014)

Your works are often on big frames. Can you share why creating big pieces attract you more than smaller ones?
I want the paintings to transcend the object-ness of being acrylic paint on a piece of canvas. I’d like the viewer to forget that the painting is there and to be immersed in it. This is why I make work big enough so it seems like people can step into it. These things come to my studio as huge pieces of canvas but when they leave, they are portals.

Carmine (2016) 

Can you share what a regular day as an artist is like for you? Is procrastination something you face? Do you ever have those days when you just HAVE to create?
This is where I am a mother before I am an artist. My schedule works around my daughter, Mecca. Mornings are spent prepping her for school and evenings are for prepping dinner and spending time with my husband and Mecca before bed. In between that, there’s yoga, meditation, chanting. And then I have about 6 hours of painting time on weekdays. That’s all I need. I’m a happy camper.

I’ve never had problems with procrastination. I like to work easy. No drama. I rest when I need to rest and work when work flows out of me. Days when I just have to create? That’s every day! My Grandmother painted every day until she was in her 90’s. I’m lucky I got that from her and I’m lucky to be in this life as an artist. I get to explore everything I’m fascinated with, I get to experiment, I get to be introspective, I get to think about meaning and purpose. It’s hard to stop!

Sometimes Only The Space Between Us is Kissing (2014) 

How has your work evolved since you began to create?
My work had more angst when I started out. I think that’s just an age thing. I learned how to meditate, chant and do yoga and then my work got more peaceful and joyful. There is so much that life experience gives you when you are artist. You realize it isn’t about skill or talent. Anyone can learn skill. Talent is cheap. Art is about meaning. It’s about being connected to something bigger inside yourself. It can’t just be pretty or even beautiful. I have to go for the sublime.

Remembered Rooms

When you look at a blank canvas what runs through your mind before you pick up the brush?
A blank canvas is in a state of pure perfection. Then that punk inside me makes the first stroke to kill that perfection. Then it’s mine. The stroke of my hand initiates some kind of imperfect transformation. Now, THAT’S exciting to me. Things have to break before transformation can take place. There is a Japanese word that I love: Kintsukuroi. It’s the process of repairing broken pottery with powdered gold. In a sense that’s what I do. I break the canvas and then I try to achieve a more sublime perfection in the imperfection of the strokes of my hand.

Remembered Rooms 2

What is one of the nicest things someone has said about your work?
During my Vermont residency, one of the artists there who I really admire came to visit my studio and he said “When you go out there, people will tell you a lot of things. But whatever they say, just keep doing what you’re doing. You’re onto something great here.”. And recently, someone who was inquiring about my work sent me a private message on Instagram, saying, “Know that you make a difference”. It’s easy to be self-absorbed in this line of work and you rarely see how the work affects others. So that really made my heart happy.

Is there anything else you’d like to add about your work?
I love what I do and I know that my hand imprints this joy in the paintings that I make. I hope that somehow, people receive that when they see my work.

Divine Fire (2016)

Where can people inquire or see more of your work?
People can view my work at Silverlens Galleries. My show is in February 2018, but you can request to see the work that I have with them. Also, if people want to know more about my process and see some studio fails and victories, they can follow me on Instagram (@chatishine). Thank you for this, Cat! this was a great experience.