WORDS by Leticia Nguyen
PHOTOGRAPHY by Gary Parker

Truly inspired by the ocean, Luly began painting waves during her visit to Puerto Escondido and shows us that fleeting moments of inspiration are capable of leaving an impressive mark in their wake.

[T]he midday sun is beating down in Puerto Escondido and I walk into Hostal Tlalacan hoping to find some relief from the temperature outside, but instead I’m bombarded by swarms of mosquitoes, two energetic Irish wolfhound puppies and the stagnant heat of the entrance ironically referred to as the ‘chill out’ area. It’s hard to imagine this time of day would be conducive to anything but drinking the hostel’s ice-cold beers or taking a siesta, but alas, amongst the overgrown flora in the backyard I find Luly, happily painting away. Lourdes Villagra, aka ‘Luly’ is an Argentinian lass who, at the time of the interview, was enjoying her sojourn at popular surf destination, Puerto Escondido, home of the ‘Mexican Pipeline’. A place she had been dreaming of visiting for a long time, Puerto beckoned and she couldn’t refuse the opportunity to spend a couple of months there during her university break. “I have always wanted to know Mexico and my brother had surfed at Puerto before” she tells me while she completes the finishing touches on a set of speakers she is painting. “I always like to know places where you can practise surf, not only because of the waves, but also because of the good atmosphere and good energy that you get from the people who practise this sport.”

“Here the ocean has an incomparable force and energy, which made me feel I had to transmit all of these sensations that it gave me.”

As Luly begins to tell me about her varied creative background, I start to think of her as an artistic chameleon who switches between different art forms when the desire strikes. Although she is currently studying architecture (on account of appeasing her parents’ wish for her to enter a ‘stable’ profession), Luly’s passion lies in performing arts. “When I am back home in Argentina, I study. I study and learn everything that I can. I am a very active person and always have to be doing something. I study architecture at university, but I am also involved in dance and musical theatre in my spare time.” It is these things, along with painting and travel, that offer Luly an escape from the stressful life as a student of architecture. Growing up in the coastal city of Mar del Plata, Luly has always loved the sea and comments that she grew up with a strong connection to the ocean. But when she arrived in Puerto, she was immediately taken aback by the sheer force and energy of the waves. “I was amazed by the massive size of the waves. Here the ocean has an incomparable force and energy, which made me feel I had to transmit all of these sensations that it gave me.”

After one week of arriving in Puerto, Luly’s newfound awe of the ocean inspired her to begin painting a subject she had never focused on before—waves. “I remember how I made the first sketches and showed them to Rodrigo, an Argentinian I met. He paints similar subjects to me and so we started to share ideas and motivate each other to start drawing. He helped me with the materials and made me familiarise myself with other perspectives of the waves.” Within a short time, she had numerous paintings under her belt, injecting her personal style and flair into her depictions of waves. Luly’s interpretation of the splendour of the ocean reflects her deep-rooted sentiments. “For me, the ocean means freedom, strength, energy and life. I was born with the ocean at my side and whenever I’ve looked at it, it makes me feel that it is limitless, where you can see where it begins, but not where it ends. It invites me to think that I can flow like the waves with the wind. Everyday the ocean looks different; it changes its colour, swell, force, just like life.” I watch people’s initial reactions to the paintings and it is little wonder how these seemingly simple paintings have the ability to produce pure stoke. The combination of bold colours and distinctive line work burst from each painting and emanate the love and good vibrations she has bestowed upon each piece. Barreling waves of epic proportions roll into beaches that are complete with palm trees and sunsets, each of her works possessing a carefree and experimental quality, much like her overall approach to art. I ask her about her prior artistic experience and she recalls that when she was 7, her grandma gave her some acrylic paints and watercolours and from this point she started to paint and never stopped. “I have always drawn and painted since I was small, but I never had the opportunity to do a course or learn the techniques. I have always had a natural approach; when I wanted to, I painted. I have painted abstract paintings, landscapes and also drawn pictures with pencils”. Most of the works have been produced using acrylics on small pieces of plywood and I marvel at them all, noticing how her skill has developed with each piece. When I comment on how impressed I am by her work, she smiles and becomes bashful, which gives me the impression she is truly humbled by the compliments and kudos she receives.

As well as the plywood paintings, Luly has used the hostel guests’ surfboards as her canvases. “My favourite pieces during this trip have been the surfboards, especially the first one that I did for Jimmy, because he had faith in my creativity and he made me experiment with his board, even though I had never painted with this type of surface before. He was very grateful when I finished it, which was a very happy moment for me!” While you can walk down the main street to see fellow travellers trying to make a buck from selling artwork, photographs and other handicrafts, Luly has no intentions of making money from her creations in Puerto. She admits that most paintings are destined to be presents for friends and therefore the most important goal for her is simple. “Like the majority of my works, as they are for gifts, I simply try to make the person feel happy when they receive the final result of my efforts. I use a lot of colours so that the designs are happy and transmit good energy. It makes me feel good that the person feels their piece is unique and made just for them.”

“Everyday the ocean looks different…it changes its colour, swell, force, just like life”.

Luly’s genuinely cheerful and compassionate disposition extends to her dream for the future; to establish a school of the arts, an idea she says is not only to be open to the general public, but also accomodates to the needs of individuals with different disabilities. Her vision is that one day she will be able to provide a creative hub in which students can study from a range of disciplines in visual and performing arts and where they can have exhibitions and express themselves freely and share their creativity. In the meantime, I ask her where she plans to go with her painting, curious if she will continue to paint waves when she returns home. “I’m not sure that I will always continue painting waves, as my desire to paint different styles depends on the place and the moment in which I am living in, but I am definitely going to continue painting, drawing and experimenting and developing in other art forms.”

To see more of Luly’s work you will have to try and meet her on her travels, as she does not have a website, and also likes to paint for people she meets.  To see more of Gary’s photography head here.