More than Muses
11.05.23 Words by Hannah Valentine

More than Muses

In her new series of 15 paintings, Marta Leyva Ortiz confronts her love of Picasso’s art and her mixed feelings about the artist himself, putting the spotlight on the women featured in his paintings.
11.05.23 Words by Hannah Valentine

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Pablo Picasso’s death, and Spanish artist Marta Leyva Ortiz is commemorating the occasion with a series of paintings that pay homage to the controversial artist’s female subjects. In her paintings, each of the women are surrounded by the portraits that Picasso painted of them, whilst they go about their daily lives – painting, reading a book, or sipping a glass of wine.

Full of the earthy terracotta tones and sky blues that immediately conjure up the Spanish countryside, each of Marta’s acrylic paintings has its own unique spirit, capturing the individuality of the women. With their simple shapes and cheerful colours, these paintings offer Picasso’s women a new way to be remembered.

We talked to Marta about her complicated feelings towards Picasso, her painting process, and her love of the Barcelona sun.

Tell us a bit about yourself and your practice…
I’m a painter and illustrator based between Barcelona and Stockholm. I studied translation at university but everything changed when I picked up a pencil for the first time in 2017. I started to paint as a hobby but, when I got clients thanks to social media, my practice began to grow and my life changed! Now I’m a painter 24/7 and I’ve exhibited in Barcelona, Madrid, Ibiza and Stockholm and worked for clients including Vogue and Harper's Bazaar.

Where do you work from, and what's your normal daily routine?
My studio is in my apartment. I love to work from home; it’s a big room with a sofa, a table, two easels and a window giving me the natural light I need. When the dark Swedish winter comes then I substitute that natural light for a big LED lamp and I put sunglasses on to convince myself I’m in Barcelona. I have to confess that when that doesn’t work I just go to Spain and work from there. My normal routine starts with waking up around 8am and going directly to my laptop where I answer emails and update my webpage or catalogues while eating my breakfast. Then I go to the studio where I prepare the materials I will need for that day. I always listen to podcasts when I paint. Around 2pm I get my lunch (it might seem late but, remember, I’m Spanish!) and then continue in the studio until 5-6pm. After that I work out or do some yoga, before coming back home to prepare dinner. Then it’s sofa time and I finish my day watching a series on TV and eating something unhealthy but very yummy.

We'd love to hear about your latest project 'Picasso's Women'. What's the idea behind it?
I’ve always been interested in Picasso's work and life, but last year I attended a seminar in Barcelona's Museu Picasso about the misogyny and sexism of the artist, and began to think and read more about the women who surrounded him. I was inspired to create this series of 15 paintings that pay homage to all these women he left behind, and the tormented lives that they lived as the price of these remarkable artworks.

Do you have a favourite painting from the series?
It’s very hard to pick only one since I put so much love and time into every one of them. I do have a special admiration for Françoise Gilot, a painter herself who had two children with Picasso, so maybe I’d choose my piece “Françoise Painting”. But I really like how the paintings look exhibited all together. They have a special balance of colour and shape that I simply love.

Marta Leyva Ortiz
"I was inspired to create this series of 15 paintings that pay homage to all the women Picasso left behind, and the tormented lives they lived."

You mentioned to us having love/hate feelings towards Picasso. Has his work been an inspiration to you? And which other artists, or things, inspire you?
Picasso’s work is inspirational to me in many ways because I am drawn to his cultural references to Spain and depictions of women. But in this particular series of mine, his influence and presence are even bigger than usual, since all these women are surrounded by Picasso’s portraits of themselves that we can see inside every room in the paintings. I love to follow other people's work so it’s very easy for me to get inspiration from other artists or even from moments in everyday life; trips, movies, books, people around me. The inspiration can come literally from everywhere.

Finally, what materials and creative processes do you use to make your art?
I like to work in different mediums but oil and acrylic paints are the ones I use the most. I create a digital mood board with all the ideas I get from that topic or the painting I have in mind, then I sketch digitally over and over again until I’m happy. Only then do I start the painting process. Even then, sometimes my carefully worked out idea will change during the painting process since I’m very visually minded and if I think something different will work better I’ll just add it without doubt.