Rafaela de Ascanio (b.1986) is a British painter and sculptor living in London. Her work references art historical figures from the Renaissance era and Tarot card illustrations.
Appropriating the reverence of canonical imagery, de Ascanio paints stories depicting her contemporaries, reimagining ancient narratives with female protagonists. She hand-builds clay into anatomical forms which are then glazed and fired to create enduring stone bodies. Her artworks usually references a tropical colour palette, attributed to her early years in the Canary Islands. For de Ascanio, glaze painting is slow and meditative. She welcomes the unpredictable nature of ceramics, noting that you never know exactly how the colours will fire in the kiln. De Ascanio portrays the female in defiant guises, empowering both her and the viewer. Images emerge from autobiographical events, fantastical symbols from sci-fi film and literature, esoteric pagan practices, and ‘fire and brimstone’ altarpieces. 

In de Ascanio’s new body of work, created in response to her recent exhibition Sexing the Cherry, colourful sculptures and tapestries delved deep into the world of Jeanette Winterson’s novel, exploring “the tensions within female idolatry, from the monotheist Minoan snake goddess to pop queens Bjork and Rosalía.” Using experimental glazes and lustres, de Ascanio sculpted her own Twelve Dancing Princesses, splicing art historical tropes and symbolism from Renaissance tarot cards, with iconic imagery from the films of Robert Rodriguez, Matteo Garrone, and cult music videos.  Her tropical colour palette barely concealed heavier themes which emerged; cultural confrontations and females holding positions of dominance, threatening the status quo.


De Ascanio’s painting practice found its way into large-scale tapestries which adorned the gallery’s walls, woven into life from works on paper which act as sketches for her ceramic sculptures. A beating heart, a double headed bull/cow hybrid, a sphinx and a voluptuous female torso are all but a teaser of the variety of sculptural shapes in which de Ascanio manifested her contemporary princesses.

De Ascanio studied at Central Saint Martins (2006), The Courtauld Institute of Art (MA, 2010) and Turps Banana Painting Programme (2019). Recent exhibitions include two-person shows at Aindrea Contemporary, London in 2019 and LAMB Gallery, London in 2018. She has also performed at the Tate (2017) and Peckham Festival (2016).