in conversation with Lena Brazin
“There is a reason why Earth is called Mother Earth.”
How did you first get interested in art?
I had fallen in love with the art twice and the act of expressing myself. In between, there was a quite long period of 7 years in my life when I got detached from it almost completely. I was a very active and creative kid, with many diverse interests, from doing all kind of sports to visiting evening art school. I believe that the fact that I became an artist is a result of me being an observer first and foremost from the time I can remember. I was always curious about everything, trying to analyze things from every angle or different points of view. In my case, it was a natural development towards expression once I collected enough data in life. Life itself is a creation and so I feel very connected and in tune while creating. I consider myself being a polymath artist but my main focus always has been painting. Especially after my detached period after the second “falling in love with art”. So yes, I can say I got interested in art twice. First time as a child with almost none life experience but a lot of curiosity and playfulness and the second time as an adult who has been through her ups and downs.
What attracted you to painting specifically?
“I had fallen in love with the art twice”
Right before I started to paint I was interested in making mosaics from ceramics. In the beginning, I was buying ceramic tiles from bathroom studios and workshops, then smashing them with a hammer and mounting small pieces into big pieces on the walls. I made about 8 of those in about 1 year and realised that if I really mean it I need to take it to another level. To do that I knew I need to study it, preferably in Italy or Greece. It was at that time when I was still studying economics and management at University back in my home country of Slovakia. I still had 2 years before finishing my 5 years course, so I just decided to go back to my childhood evening school to regain the skills that have been left in cold for some time. I thought of preparing myself, sort of as a foundation year in the UK, before I apply to Fine art degree abroad. During those 2 years, I started to gravitate more and more towards painting as I felt like it is a field that offers me the most freedom in expression. After I finished my Uni, I had a few months to decide what’s next. That is the time when painting found me. I took a trip to the South of France with the intention to earn some money, reinforce my French and maybe find some cool artists that could help me to show me the way. I found everything I expected. Most importantly, 2 painters that saw some talent in me and were kind enough to support me on my path during my stay there. In the end, I spent 5 years living and working in between France and Slovakia. Painting and working for one of them in the studio. I gained a lot of knowledge through this experience about what it means to be an artist and a painter.
How does autobiography enter into your work?
“To celebrate women and the ancestry and lineage of every human being.”
People that I have met were always my main source for work. I am a portrait and figurative painter. Ordinariness and everyday moments of life were present in my work for very long. I usually started with the picture that I took of my family, friends, strangers as a reference. Then I manipulated it digitally and repainted the final proposal in a very loose manner. It only has been recently that I am interested in painting my life experience and encounters from a metaphysical point of view. I was resisting to implement this into my work for quite some time but I feel like there is no other way now. I am not religious but a spiritual person if it means believing in one consciousness that is waved through the universe. I believe in the seen as I believe in the unseen. It’s really just a different frequency of the “matter” with infinite potential. I understood all of this through my own life and spiritual experience and it has an impact on my today’s work. I am very much a fan of Hilma af Klint among others and I think artists are channellers that bring the unseen into the seen and create pieces that are relatively tangible in our world.
Your latest works depict scenes of motherhood and duality. Where do your images come from and what is your process creating these paintings?
These paintings on motherhood and as I like to call them “The heritage of She”, were made in my first year in Turps Banana studio program in 2018. First I would like to say why. I felt a need to paint this Thing down, to celebrate women and the ancestry and lineage of every human being. We still live in an era where minorities need to fight for their rights and half of the globe, meaning women are not truly accepted for who we are. I am not a fan of radical feminism where women end up imitating men to prove their worth or substance in today´s society. We all have different abilities that are more or less natural to each gender and so we should just embrace those. Women are constantly undermined to this day and this needs to change if we want to flourish as humanity. Patriarchal society nor matriarchal society is good. There needs to be Equal Society of equal rights but maybe with different roles but free will to choose. So far, we have been failing and I believe this inequality is a deep root that has grown into this mess of today's world we live in. As a result, people suffer. If not physically then mentally. Poverty, anxieties, depressions, stress, unfulfillment and ugly stuff like famine, modern slavery aka #1$ a day contract, human trafficking, sex trafficking, organ trafficking, drugs, wars, gangs, mafia. We have been sucked into the system of politics, religions, corporations ignoring simple rules of existence and coexistence with nature. There is a lack of respect for each other. Maybe the task is ours, women need to unite and say no to any sort of exploitation. The way we live right now is unsustainable. There is a reason why Earth is called Mother Earth. She is a giver, a nurturer. We abuse it with no sense for the balance. I think capitalism messed up the situation big time. Basic values are being lost for greater material gain. That’s sick behaviour. Unbalanced. If you take, you need to be able to give and share back. So all of this was my drive to paint a series on mothers and daughters. And with a methodology. The process of creating these images was like any other work I did before. First I chose a base portrait around which I developed background scenery through a technique of a college. I played around with it digitally, finding the right composition and symbolism. Once I was happy with that, I proceeded to an act of painting loosely as possible with lots of layering of paint involved. I use photos as triggers and create collage drawings intuitively which means my paintings are being rehearsed in a sense. In most of my paintings, there is a narrative to them
What are you working on right now and what is next?
As I mentioned above, in today’s work I am very much focused on bringing the unseen into life through pictographs. I have developed these Spirits, cartoon characters, which represent the unseen and painted the first few paintings solely touching their own universe or dimension if you want. The next step is them entering the world of my already established imagery and merging these two together. I now explore the effects of harmonised aesthetics on to the observer through clean graphic language, geometry, repetition and symmetry and use crossed wooden frames as a profound base in the final presentation of the work to enhance icon/trophy/totem-like symbolism.
Why do you think art is important and what does it mean for you?
“My advice to people that look for an escape through drugs, try art instead.”
Art to me is like a life within life. Life and Art both consist of creation and destruction. Therefore I believe art can give us the answers to what Life is and means, so one can easier bare with existence. It can be an escape from the rigid, structural reality, so my advice to people that look for an escape through drugs, try art instead. My personal reason why I have chosen to be an artist is the sense of freedom that I get while committing to it and playfulness which is a side effect. I would like to be able to reflect this in my work and so to share it with an audience so they can interact with it on a conscious or unconscious level.
Lena Brazin’s practice is centred on figurative painting whilst exploring the existential themes of human life. An intuitive and instinctive approach to painting goes some way into visually unpicking the visible world we find ourselves in; vivid colours and bold drawing go to merge figures and spaces into one entity. Exaggerated personal, mystical and symbolic imagery evokes questioning and opens up an imaginative space for the viewer to occupy. Multiple layers of paint and fast, instinctive, often random brushwork reflects the intensity, physicality, and complexity of the reality we live in. She is trying to tap into metaphysical themes in my most recent work whilst committing to use of the most honest and pure language to describe characters which I now call the Spirits. It is a very natural process which includes photography, collage and spontaneous drawing where two seemingly disconnected worlds of seen and unseen (etheric) collide and merge together. Crossed wooden frames play a profound role in the final presentation of the work as they enhance icon/trophy/ totem-like imagery. She explore the effects of harmonised aesthetics on to the observer through clean graphic language, geometry and symmetry.