Interview to the Asturian artist Elisa Cepedal

The exhibition “Ocho visiones de un paisaje que nunca se termina de hacer” has opened at LABoral only two weeks ago and among all the works the short film "Ay pena" stands out, by Elisa Cepedal. We interview the artist to learn about her ideas, influences and the ideas behind her work.

Published: Apr 13, 2015
Interview to the Asturian artist Elisa Cepedal

Image of Ay Pena / © Elisa Cepedal.

By Naiara Valdano, Art Gossips, @art_gossips

Some years ago I read a quotation by Juan Ramón Jiménez that has remained in my head ever since: “No two landscapes are identical through the varying personalities of musicians, painters and poets.”(1) For a single place is made up by many elements and each artist usually emphasises what he finds appealing, thus representing his own vision of the world and her own sensitivity. Therefore, it is not surprising if we ask several creators to represent the same forest at the same time of day, the results are completely different. Whether we like it or not, subjectivity is part of our nature and there can be as many forests as people watching.

The quotation of this Spanish writer could be the point of departure of the last exhibition at LABoral Centro de Arte y Creación Industrial that opened in March curated by Alfredo Aracil. Under the title “Ocho visiones de un paisaje que nunca se termina de hacer”, this exhibition shows how eight artists see their natural, virtual and human environment. And, despite the diversity of proposals, they all have in common an almost-archaeological point of view: They want to analyse not only the most recent surface in their environment, but rather probe deeper and reflect upon the different layers of the past of these places or their inhabitants.

But, who are the eight creators taking part in this show? They were all selected among around the 200 names included in the Archive of Asturian Artists (2) and their names are  Ramón Lluís Bande, Elisa Cepedal, the collective DK, Cristina Ferrández, David Ferrando, Alicia Jiménez, Marcos Merino and Amalia Ulman. They are all very good, however I would like to focus on the Asturian Elisa Cepedal (Barredos, 1982) as I really like her work. A graduate in Fine Arts at Universidad del País Vasco and in Filmmaking by The London Film School, her works have been shown in several institutions such as the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) or The Film Society at Lincon Center and in festivals such as BAFICI, Anges Premiers Plans or Raindance (3). Now she returns to her homeland, Asturias, to present at LABoral the work Ay Pena, a 20-minute short film made in 2012, a film that makes you fall in love due to its realism and the careful way in which she builds her characters.

12345 Elisa

Elisa Cepedal.

This piece tells the story of a return to the past. An emigrant, Lucía, returns to her hometown after a long time gone and she finds again the landscape and the people of her childhood, thus running into a conflict between her childhood souvenirs and the current reality. She is returning to the same place she left but inevitably everything seems to be strange. The life of citizens has stopped in her absence and she has also changed. Therefore, “acquaintances become strangers” while the space that she used to be familiar with “changes and becomes something new” (4).

This story reminded me what John Banville wrote in the introduction to his book “Images of Prague”: “Cities provoke a strong and weird fascination, but no fascination is as strong and weird as the impact of Prague in the heart of a homesick traveller (…).When he returns, he feels he has never gone away, however he feels guilty for his oblivion, abandonment and infidelity” (5).  And it is true that any emigrant feels that his hometown is home and cannot help feeling nostalgic and attracted to that place, but he will never feel the previous familiarity after a long time gone. Like in “No two landscapes are identical through the different temperaments of artists”, nobody can see the landscape the same in different periods of his life

Following these thoughts, it is interesting to know Elisa into more detail. We wanted to interview the artist, and she has been so kind as to answer our questions about her story, references and even the work she is presenting at LABoral. Enjoy!

Hi Elisa. You studied Fine Arts at Universidad del País Vasco and your career has focused on filmmaking. What has filmmaking that made you take it as your profession?

Photography is what made me study Fine Arts, but then my interest in filmmaking started to take over. I had a teacher who introduced us to great classics such as Ford or Hawks. At that time, we would go almost every day to the cinémathèque and we saw full series of Rouch and Godard. Soon we started making short films among friends.

When I moved to London, filmmaking was so important for me that I decided to attend the film school. Then when I learned about the technical part, this more ideal interest turned into a profession and this almost incomprehensible enthusiasm started to make sense.

During your career you have worked as shortfilm director and editor. What do you like about these two roles and which one do you like better?

What I most like, no doubt, is making my own films. I love having control over the whole process, from writing to post-production, and the materialisation of what start as insignificant ideas, that start growing with time and end up becoming an expressive need.

I think editing is very interesting and, in addition, I can make money on that, something that seems impossible with directing or, at least, directing my own projects which are the only ones I want to direct. May be what I most like is editing my own movies.

Regarding filmmaking, what would be your references or inspirations?

I like authors whose work propose a new way of seeing reality and even transforming it. I like authors related with realism that understand cinema an element of resistance. Formally, most of them tend to creating images focusing on movement within the take, and not on movement in the camera.

I also explore the interpreting styles of actors outside naturalism. Jean Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet are a good example, and also Pedro Costa or Bresson.

On the other hand, even if Godard’s work emphasises editing, something I don’t do, he is probably my main influence at many levels.

Eventhough you were born in Asturias, you currently live in London. What made you leave Spain?

When I finished university I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but I knew it was the end of a stage and, after five years in Bilbao, I wanted to explore a new place. Moving to London was an impulse rather than a long-term plan.

Even though you live abroad, you are included in the Archive of Asturian Artists, an archive created in 2011 that gathers creators that are either born or living in the region. What do you think of this initiative?

Being in contact and working with Asturian filmmakers is a satisfaction and makes me feel I belong here, I belong to something bigger and more important than one’s individual and lonely creation, especially when you live abroad. And if artistic creation outlines history, the memory of a place and a time, there is where the relevance of the archive lays. Being a piece of this puzzle that helps leaving an impression and seeing the Asturian reality in another way, in my view, is related with this feeling of belonging here and this is priceless.

You are presenting your work Ay pena at LABoral, in the exhibition “Ocho visiones de un paisaje que nunca se termina de hacer”. What inspired you to make this short film?

It’s hard to remember this first insignificant idea that took me to make Ay Pena. It was the need to film something at home, to explore this feeling of returning to a place where one doesn’t live anymore but where one still belongs.

What is autobiographical in the story?

One cannot help but using personal experiences when writing. The ideas and affections of Ay Pena came out of me, as they are fully related with my life, but I think that what is important is not where they come from but rather where they are headed to. This ideas change with the contributions of all those who took part in the film and they finish their transformation in the eyes of the viewer. The plot of Ay Pena is fully invented and I could have been filmed elsewhere.

The main character is confronted with a landscape that she knows, but has changed since her childhood. Do you believe that it is a conflict for the emigrant to re-encounter the elements of her past that often are not familiar anymore?

Rather than a conflict it shows a new.  and different way to perceive things. Being outside gives you a distance that sometimes is necessary. The advantage is that when you need to see something close, you can always return and come closer.

And last, what other projects do you have in mind for the future?

I am preparing a long film. It will be filmed in Cuenca and the main character is a miner.

I hope you have enjoyed this interview. If you want to learn more about Elisa, click HERE and enjoy.


(1) Quotation by the Spanish poet Juan Ramón Jiménez

(2) The Archive of Asturian Artists was created in 2010 with the purpose of being an “essential tool for mapping the Asturian culture”. For more information, I recommend you to read the following article by Montaña Hurtado in 2013:

(3) More information on Elisa Cepedal en:

(4) Words written in the press dossier of “Ocho visiones de un paisaje que nunca se termina de hacer”. More information on:

(5) John Banville, “Imágenes de Praga”, Herce Editores (Madrid), 2008, page 11.

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  • 33203 Gijón (Asturias)
  • Spain
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