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Robbi Carvalho


How would you describe what you do?

I’m a visual storyteller who celebrates the feminine.

What was your most recent project?

I’m developing the art I will paint on my studio wall – painting murals is something I want to do more and more.

What project have you worked on that you’re the most proud of?

“Freedom”, which is the mural I painted in the Boxed Quarter. The painting is a naked woman who escapes Eurocentric aesthetic standards, flying on a bird towards the sun. Having this art on the street means a lot to me. I want it to provoke the questioning of what freedom is – for us and others.

What is essential for creatives to have in their life?

Diving deep makes it possible for an artist to find their own language, which genuinely expresses their path in art.

What inspires you about Ōtautahi?

I am fascinated by the Avon River. River is movement. It’s fabulous to have the river running through the city, nourishing us with circulating and pulsating energy.

What piece of advice about your creative work has served you well?

It takes discipline and planning to work with art. It’s not just talent, mastery of techniques and inspiration.

What’s the biggest misconception about your creative work?

I paint women, and they are naked. But this nudity is not at the service of the other – it symbolizes their freedom, self-care, weaknesses, and strength. My painting has a female gaze on the body, it’s a desexualized look. But a client asked if it was possible to cover the nipples of one of my paintings. A person offended by the nipples in my paintings does not understand my work.

What Christchurch artists do you most admire?

Many, but within figurative art, I really admire Aiko Robinson, Jessie Rawcliffe and Christiane Shortal.

What artwork/piece of music/performance has taken your breath away?

To paint, I love listening to Deep Throat Choir, an all-female singing collective with just voices and drums. The “graphic novels” by Audrey Niffenegger and Isabel Greenberg inspire me a lot. And Frida, always – all of her paintings touch me deeply.

What do you wish you’d have known about creative work when you were younger?

I was professionally unhappy for many years (I’m an architect) because I thought I had to have a job in a good office and a good salary to fulfil myself professionally. When we’re inside the system, it’s hard to break away from it. But when we dare to do so, it is liberating. Working with what we love, with our purpose, there’s no money to pay.

 What’s your favourite hidden secret in Ōtautahi?

Ōtautahi has fabulous places, and I can’t get enough of its landscapes. I love biking on Bottle Lake. The landscape changes; there is the forest and the beach. I like to go a bit aimlessly and get lost there.

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