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Alondra Ruiz on being Mexican-Canadian artist in London

by Viridiana Marin Marin

Alondra Ruiz Hernández is a Mexican-Canadian artist based in London, she studied painting and drawing in Canada and the program in Social science and Fine Art at Chelsea College of Arts in London. As the second generation of Mexican migrants in Canada, Alondra grew up with a special interest in Social Structures seeing the difference between Canadian and Mexican Culture and the way how they relate to life and death.

Her work was part of the exhibition at Somers Gallery for the activities of the Day of the Dead Festival, with a Day of the Dead Altar she invited people of all backgrounds to see the death in a different way through her eyes. In this interview she talks about what her ‘ofrenda’ and how her Mexican roots define her work.

Alondra Ruiz Hernández

Alondra has participated in exhibitions in Canada and the UK, her work was exposed during the activities of the Mexican day of the Dead at Somers Gallery, the Ofrenda that she built is inspired by Mexican colors and traditions and her personal experience with death. “There’s an incredible thing about the day of the dead because it’s a celebration of the unknown, death, is a reality that is shared, it is a mutual experience” Alondra told me in an interview zoom from her home in London. 

She realized that contemporary western culture tries to avoid death and not to look at it or don’t feel the grief in contrast to the Mexican culture, where they not only have a positive relationship with death, but a positive relationship with life as well; “when there’s a more openness, and a more conversation, you still hold this love that changes how you experience death and how you experience reality”.

What inspired you to make this ‘ofrenda de dia de muertos’?

I think death isn’t just the physical death, there are lots of different types of death. For example, you have the death of the body, but you can also have psychological deaths that occur in the psyche all the time, that is what I found really interesting.

Can you explain what the ‘ofrenda’ is about?

The idea is to contemplate death, our own mortality, and also our own psychological transformation while we are alive. I made this ‘ofrenda’ as a space where everyone can safely contemplate death with others. Is the possibility to take away the burden of having grief on your own and brings the community together.

Alondra Ruiz Hernandez ofrenda

Why did you choose your image instead of an image of someone who passed away?

The reason I chose this image of myself and deeply photoshopped it was because I think is important to first face your own death in a symbolic way. When you face your death, you can see your present and how you want to live right now.

If you look at the picture you can see all the colors, is an hybridization between a contemporary art and photography, those colors represent my Mexican roots, I’m pointing towards myself as a gesture saying: ‘this will become you as well’. 

Alondra Ruiz Hernandez

What do the other elements on the ‘ofrenda’ mean?

I wanted to create something organic and something that feels very new at the same time. Some of the skulls are very realistic, and others more deformed to create something contemporary. I chose a white structure to make an echoes with the colors as a base, and some others bones hang out around as well. The marigold flowers that are very representative from ‘dia de los muertos’ and the centerpiece with a traditional embroidery help to highlight the colours.

How does Mexico influence your work?

It’s funny because even if I consciously put it or not, my Mexican roots are always part of my art. For example, the color has always been a strong element in my work, I used to see colors when I was going to Mexico and in my house in Canada as well, I can’t really explain, but it is as if they are melted into me. 

What is your goal as an artist?

I’d like to contribute to a more equitable and sustainable world. My parents always cared about the community, for example my dad became a doctor and spent his entire time working with communities when he was younger, and my mother is an art therapist, she uses art to help the community. That’s what I want to achieve as well.

For Alondra is very important to stay connected with her roots and the Mexican culture, and the space at Somers Gallery help her to bring the community together and show them more about her Mexican roots through her art. For the future, she is planning a collaboration where she can keep showing more about death and spirituality.

Alondra recently moved to London and will continue to do exhibitions and solo shows, if you want to follow her work, go and visit her website or follow her on Instagram.

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