Listen to the conversation between Rosanna and Diego Hernández Beauroyre.

Diego Hernández Beauroyre paints graphic abstractions of the natural world, tapping into our instinctive understanding of its shapes, forms and lines to create compositions that we recognise immediately. “I am fascinated with the shapes in nature, and how they may or may not be a specific plant; I like the ambiguity of those shapes. They are shapes that you know are from nature, yet it’s not a specific plant, or leaf, or seed…”

Smooth organic shapes repeat over the canvas, gently touching at their edges, like clusters of pebbles or scattered grains of rice. Beauroyre enhances the graphic qualities of his subject with a pure and monochromatic palette, communicating each form solely through line and rhythm. “Studying design, I was always told that my work must be functional, that it needs to serve a purpose – and that the viewer or user needs to understand it – and so [in my artistic practice] I like to have a more free interpretation of graphic patterns and shapes.”

“I like to play with repetition, making different compositions with shapes that I take out of nature.”

Carrying a sketchbook with him at all times, drawing and observing from life is elemental to Beauroyre’s practice. “I keep sketching and sketching – that’s the most thorough part of the process – and from there, I like to select from those sketches, hanging them around the studio to see which ones I might transform into a painting or a larger-scale drawing.”

Ellsworth Kelly, Etal Adnan and Agnes Martin have been informative figures in the artist’s life, drawn to the painters that have an uncanny ability to deconstruct the world around them in order to reassemble it in their own terms. The distinct graphic qualities of Kelly, Adnan and Martin can also be observed in Beauroyre’s work – an elegant interplay of abstraction, figuration and pure pattern.

“I like to find the grey areas, the overlapping shapes in nature – that could be coral, or branches or moss.” By zooming in, rotating and simplifying these shapes, the artist strips away any unnecessary detail to reveal its most basic structure. Stones and pebbles, grains and seeds, coral and seaweed, branches and leaves – these objects are instantly recognizable in any culture or climate – however, some of Beauroyre’s work does speak specifically to the Mexican landscape, having presented abstractions of the corn husk and the cactus in his earlier work.

“It always starts with a small drawing on paper”

Balance and composition are considered in advance, worked out on paper before being committed to canvas. “I think I spend more time sketching – and then selecting and refining the sketches – than I do actually painting the larger piece. I really enjoy the process before [I start to paint] – I like to have this intimate document that I can go back to if I want.” Using Indian ink, many of Beauroyre’s sketches share the same gestural lines and characterful compositions as his paintings, yet their simplicity creates an atmosphere of calm. “Painting is definitely meditative for me; the [process of] painting is kind of fast paced, but it is still meditative in the way these shapes barely touch together, or slightly overlap – it is those really small details that are the most satisfying to me.”

“I am interested in the elemental and original shapes – I want to achieve a really graphic expression of the subjects that I paint and draw.”

In simplistic terms, Beauroyre paints in black and white – however, his sensitivity to texture and tone has led him to make adjustments to both elements. Avoiding pure white for the ground of his paintings, Beauroyre, “adds some shade or colour so that it becomes slightly creamy … I also found this really thin, amazing soil when I was hiking on a volcano near Mexico City – it’s the perfect hue – and so I mix that into the acrylic to add a little colour and some texture to the background.”

The solid black shapes that dance across the canvas are also heightened with a touch of colour, which is so subtle that it is not quite perceptible. For Beauroyre, these tweaks and additions result in a far greater sense of depth and warmth in his work – “I like to mix in some pigment – cobalt blue, or sometimes yellow, depending on what I want. I need a small touch of hue within the black – it feels dry, too flat, without it.”

Colour is becoming a greater consideration in Beauroyre’s work, who is experimenting with making his own pigments and inks – “I like the idea of not only using plants as subjects for my drawings and paintings, but also as an ingredient or as a material for creating them.” Working with plantlife in this way – foraging, gathering, preparing – the artist is able to transform it into liquid colour. “I feel like a sorcerer making potions,” notes Beauroyre, who is currently working with Cempasúchil, the vivid yellow-orange flower that is often used in ceremonial altar displays, as well as the Mexican Honeysuckle – a shrub with small orange flowers that produces a subtle palette of grey-blue inks.

Strengthening the relationship to his subject, and creating a more meaningful connection between nature and culture, Beauroyre’s exploration of plant-derived inks was the logical next step in his practice – and a deeply poetic gesture. Speaking from his studio in Mexico City -strewn with plants and bathed in light – the artist concludes that his work is an attempt to, “make the impermanent more permanent, and the seasonal more perennial.”

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