Raya and Leo are two Venezuelan artists living and working in their studio in Barcelona. While one creates impossibly tiny, yet realistic constructions in paper, the other takes beautiful photographs. Raya and Leo are function and precision united. When an image is not perfectly aligned to the millimetre, Raya can tell, and when she gets stuck in geometry and perfectionism, he offers her an easier way out through intelligent illusion. In their love, these two artists found the perfect professional combination, or was it the other way around?
Inspired by the Mexican architects Luis Barragán and Ricardo Legorreta and Doiy’s recent Scala collection, together Raya and Leo created and filmed an artwork that plays with textures, colours, clean cuts, light and perspectives. The result is a miniature building – or maze – that is not only delicate but visually exquisite in its precision, blurring the lines between paper art, set design, architecture, photography and cinematography.
How did you guys meet?
We met through a mutual friend when we moved to Spain five years ago. I was supposed to help Leo get to know the city and we ended up dating.
Our first conversation was about stop motion and paper. She asked me if I did video so we could do one on her work. And it’s what we do now: she makes paper stuff and I take photos.
What kind of photos do you make?
I started working at a camp with my uncle in Venezuela. It was a team-building project where people from companies would come and do activities in the middle of the jungle. It was amazing. They needed to take photos of what was happening, so they gave us a camera. I liked it a lot, so I stole my mom’s camera, a tiny digital one. I shot a lot of crappy photos but I knew it was going to be my thing. When I came to Barcelona, I did filmmaking. It all combined into what I do now, and it works really well. I think what I try to find is a way to mix documentary with a bit of commercial and artistic photography, and then I use that language for a product.
If you’re making and shooting objects, they must be quite important in your life. Which ones do you like most?
I really like plants and pots. I love ceramics and dishes, pencils and cutters. I have cutters in my handbag. I’ve been stopped at airports because I forget to put them in my suitcase. They’ve always come in handy though.
Just in case she needs to do some paper cutting, she’ll always be ready. Same goes for notebooks. She keeps buying them, even though she already has about a dozen. She has one for ‘Great ideas’, one for ‘People to kill’, etc. It’s funny. I’m more into well-designed elements in the house. I like admiring them.
“I think what I try to find is a way to mix documentary with a bit of commercial and artistic photography.”
“I’ve been stopped at airports because I forget to put my cutters in my suitcase. They’ve always come in handy.”
Are objects necessary to create a mood?
When we started with the studio, I had a table and a computer. Everything was perfect, clean. There was no evidence of work and I felt like I wasn’t part of the space. It was only when I started leaving useful things – paper, cables, some tape – that I had the feeling the table was mine. I clean when it gets too messy, but I like to see my things. It’s what makes you feel like you’re doing things.
I’m the other way around. When I start working, I clean my table and only put out things that inspire me. I need calm. This was a big issue for me when I was in a co-working space because if there was someone next to me that was messy it altered my focus. Generating a mood is important.
How did the paper thing start?
I studied architecture in Venezuela and they have a much more artistic approach than they have here. In Venezuela, they evaluate your models to see if they are properly made and how many you turned in for each project. When you turn in plans, they evaluate your composition, how you set things up, if the plan was drawn, or if you used paint. One of the first projects I turned in was made in paper, and I started finding a professional use for it here about four years ago.
She had an origami phase too.
That was because I was bored.
She would fold stuff super tiny. It was impossible for anyone to fold paper that tiny. It was crazy. She took origami to another level.
My family moved here while I was still living in Venezuela. To sustain myself financially, I started selling models to other students. They would ask me to make their models, and that’s how I survived. It was like an OCD. The things I cut had to be perfect. In the beginning, it worked against me because it was harder to see the bigger picture. I would focus so much on certain details I wouldn’t turn in the project on time.
That’s where you came in Leo?
She had to make a paper laptop for a video once. And she was making each key on the keyboard, the little round shapes and everything. I reminded her it was only going to be shown for less than a second. People wouldn’t have noticed.
I would have noticed.
Does a nice interior require a lot of detail?
I like having objects from other artists. I kind of identify with some
of their work.
Raya sells what she makes online, and buying other people’s work is a way of showing respect. I think it’s part of the networking process and we’ve met a lot of people because of it. A lot of artists have ended up being friends because we connected through what she makes.
Or what they make.
Having those tiny things from different people creates an atmosphere of creativity.
And it’s unique. We might have IKEA shelving, but then we have a print or a pretty object made by someone special. If you have a nice tray for your pencils, it makes your table feel right. I really like the tray DOIY has for the table. It has the same kind of weaving that’s from our grandparents’ time. I think it adds a nice vibe when you’re working. If you have to work with papers, and you have a nice way of working, nice things to work with, it changes the mood of the whole process.
And what about DOIY?
Actually, before we started, my mom gave me some DOIY products that I love. And Leo wears the socks.
No not the socks.
You lie. You go to the gym with ice cream socks.
OK, the socks are cool. They make me laugh. I’m the guy wearing ice cream socks. I’m a walking commercial [laughter].
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