Glenn Arthur is one of many artists showing in the Beautiful Bizarre curated group show Femme to Femme Fatale here at Modern Eden Gallery this month. Collectors swoon over his sleek, intricate acrylic paintings of feminine beauty in stylistic twists. With a tremendous fan base and following, Glenn’s work speaks for itself. But we are curious to dig a little into the nature of his work ethic, freedom, and enjoyment after having arrived at this level of admiration and artistic success.
Interview by Jessica Violetta.
All images courtesy of the artist.
JV: I am personally a big fan and have enjoyed watching your work progress, always becoming more beautiful and refined. How does this growth resonate with you, if at all? Do you ever notice yourself experiencing drastic changes in your art and/or reflecting back on the progress you have made?
GA: Recognizing my own growth as an artist is a strange thing. I never notice it happening until I look back at my older work and see all of the differences compared with what I'm currently working on. I do constantly strive to improve my work so it's always nice to see that it has happened although I can never really pinpoint when it's happening. Of course, as an artist, I'm never satisfied with making just one type of art. I like to try my hand at several mediums which pushes my growth in different directions that I might not have thought about on my own. Surprise growth is just as welcome as intended growth!
JV: It also seems that artists like yourself are able to increasingly indulge in the aspects of the art-making that you personally enjoy, the more your fan base expands and support is received to literally watch you do….whatever it is that YOU enjoy to do! Is that a fair assumption or do you feel there is some freedom left to be desired?
GA: The fan base is always a factor for me when making my art, but not in the way that it dictates what I choose to make. I'm a multifaceted person with a lot of different interests so I'm always aware that some of the art I make will get a huge response and some will get a very small response. I know the true fans of my work understand that I love creating everything from surrealistic art to anime fan art to sketches of hummingbirds as silly characters. I've never felt stifled when it comes to creative freedom. If anything, the people who enjoy my work continually encourage me to try new things and I love that.
JV: Your work often infuses what you’ve referred to as your “signature” hummingbird. What is the story behind incorporating these pretty, playful birds?
GA: I always feel bad answering this question because I feel like people are expecting a deep response about some kind of personal symbolism that hummingbirds portray for me when in actuality, I just think they're super cool! I've been fascinated with them for as long as I can remember. They're such fast little birds though and out of sight in an instant, so putting them in my work is a way for me to keep them around longer. It's also just tons of fun to dress them up and give such tiny creatures a larger than life personality.
JV: I think many people, including myself, truly enjoy looking at artwork that is primarily about beauty, femininity, tasty details, and the dedicated craftsmanship behind it. Have you ever felt pressure to deliver work with different subject matter and/or what would you say to aspiring artists who also desire to focus on beauty and craft like yourself?
GA: The art that I share publicly is the art that truly inspires and speaks to me aesthetically and emotionally. What a lot of people don't know is that I also do a lot of private illustration work which gives me the chance to explore a lot of art that I wouldn't normally make. Of course these illustrations look nothing like my personal style, and I don't share them publicly, so even if someone saw them they probably wouldn't know it was made by me. Being given opportunities to make so many different kinds of art really makes me appreciate my own personal style so I never really feel pressured to deliver anything different. The best advice I can give to any aspiring artist is to be prolific! I make some kind of art every single day. I may not share it all publicly, but a day never goes by without a pen, pencil or paintbrush in my hand.
JV: Again, just based on observation, the enjoyment you take in your work really seems to show. There are plenty of theories about the importance of artists being able to fully indulge in what they do and that coming through to the viewer. But you also claim to be a perfectionist and your discipline is evident too. Is there anything you can say about balancing these two dynamics in artmaking - pleasure and discipline?
GA: I have a saying that I always refer back to when it comes to discipline. "Practice makes proficient." Although I do consider myself a perfectionist, I know that perfection is an unrealistic goal. I'm also my own worst critic which renders perfection unattainable in my mind. So the next best thing is proficiency. To me, being proficient in something that brings me pleasure, so I guess the more I strive for it the more I enjoy it. I don't know, maybe that makes me some kind of masochist? I also have an undying fear that I'll forget how to make art if I ever stop which might factor into my strange views of pleasure and discipline.
JV: We are looking forward to having your solo show here at Modern Eden in May 2017! Have you begun to prep for this yet, even just in brainstorming or sketch phases? Give us hints of what to expect!
GA: I'm ridiculously excited for this show! I've recently become obsessed with growing succulents and cacti and I'm planning on painting a whole series inspired by these gorgeous plants! As with all of my work you can expect a touch of surrealism and whimsy and of course hummingbirds! I've already got a bunch of sketches and studies in the work and can't wait to get started on the full paintings!
JV: Lastly, I believe you are currently living and working out of northern California. How is this, in your opinion, compared to being in the LA area right now? (Clearly we are a bit biased…)
GA: I was born and raised in Southern California living most of my life in the Orange County area. I still love it down there, but at this stage in my life I really wanted to slow things down and enjoy more nature which the Bay Area is perfect for. I'm specifically in the East Bay which I have fallen in love with and it's great that San Francisco is only a short drive away so that I can get my fill of big city life when I need to.
Intertwined by Glenn Arthur
On view through October 8, 2016 at Modern Eden Gallery in San Francisco for Femme to Femme Fatale curated by beautiful.bizarre Magazine.
(September 17, 2016)
This past Saturday, we rolled out the red carpet to welcome an international roster of artists and collectors for our latest exhibition, Femme to Femme Fatale curated by Editor in Chief of the Australian-based art publication, beautiful.bizarre Magazine, Danijela Krha.
As soon as the doors opened, the gallery was buzzing with excitement. Artists delighted in meeting Krha while fans of participating artists were thrilled by a chance to chat with and see the artworks in person.
Femme to Femme Fatale is on view through October 8, 2016 at Modern Eden Gallery in San Francisco.
Red Carpet Fun:
Handiedan is a Dutch collage artist based in Amsterdam we are excited to have as part of our next group show Femme to Femme Fatale curated by Beautiful Bizarre. Her work impresses with its ability to exercise a refreshingly unique approach while maintaining a truly pleasing aesthetic regardless of how near or far we are to it. Intrigued by both the beauty and the process, we’ve had the opportunity to interview her for some elaboration.
Interview by Jessica Violetta
All images courtesy of the artist.
JV: It comes as no surprise that your work will be featured in a show with this title and theme. “Femme” seems to be a common theme within your work but so does “Femme Fatale”. Is there anything you could share with us about your choice to so often include a pinup style female (or more than one) in your work?
H: To me, I like how the sensual female form can symbolize both soft and strong, radiates both power and vulnerability. An origin of softness and growth, a purity, sexuality of beauty and decay. I like to use the classical pin-up because of the high cultural value and they exhibit a tasteful response to female sexuality. To use this as the basis of my work and translate/transcend them into a new aesthetic form surrounded within symbolism.
An extra aspect is when you look at a technical aspect. As an extra gift, when digital reproducing these magazines with a scanner: a graphic moiré pops up. It’s sort of a tiny graphic grid. I love it how this moiré works on the paintings and how it interacts with the pixelation of low resolution web images in my digital collages.
JV: The way you are able to entice a viewer into your artwork with such overall charm and then have us come to find that you have actually hand cut and carved the components with mastery, it feels to be a gift that keeps giving. Do you find similar satisfaction with this duality when creating the work?
H: I love the fast and intuitive way of designing and montaging in the computer. It gives unpredictable outcomes that surprise me. It sometimes feels like my unconscious is able to become conscious and appears right in front of me while I create my originals.
I love the timely part of my hand cut collages. It slows me down and lets me go deeper into the meaning of the piece and the process towards the final result.
I love to combine the autonomous techniques of hand cut collage with the modern possibilities of the digital collage techniques. It gives me a definite satisfaction to combine these two techniques, and to see how they complement each other both in the layering of the artwork and in meaning and technique.
JV: You have had the opportunity to show in various forms - from gigantic outdoor murals to small scale gallery works. Do you have a favourite experience so far?
H: My most favourite experience is the combination of both.
The quiet focus of working for months by myself in my studio creating art for a show.
The fast and energetic focus while creating a wheat past mural in one week, with a lot of direct interaction with your audience and the project team gives a lot of energy.
Either way of working gives a new and different energy and the possibility to re-focus. I think combining results for me as a good way to grow, learn and develop my art.
JV: As someone who collects vintage illustrations for the aged aesthetic but also seeks out modern art, I find your artwork to be like a successful hybrid between the two. Have you also been a connoisseur of materials like this before you began to use them to create original work?
H: The original work I’m creating today, is a direct result of what I always have done.
I always had a fascination of things that are aged or ‘have a story locked in time’.
For example, a little piece that fell off an old tree or dried flower, a trashed empty record sleeve or yellowed metro tickets. All to me little treasures.
I can however also see this in modern things that I think are different and raises curious, or that triggers a happy feeling. Like my vinyl toy and crystals and gems collection.
I like to gather things that have a story and it’s even more interesting to combine or compose them together. To see a surprisingly new and totally different story appear.
JV: Being in San Francisco, we know there are both differences and similarities about art and life in Amsterdam. Are you satisfied with the opportunities available for you where you are now and/or have you shown or traveled to other places that seem to welcome what you are doing even more?
H: With my art I mainly exhibit and do projects abroad. I’m very grateful that I am able to do what I love all over the world and meet all these different kind of people.
As a basis, I find Amsterdam a great city to live and to develop my art. A nice and open atmosphere to create. I think a lot of nice things are happening in Amsterdam. Especially the last few years, new galleries and projects full of new art energy popped up.
JV: Aside from the commonality of depicting the female form, are there any overarching themes or concepts that you typically have in mind when making your work?
H: My art works are a treasure trove of symbols and patterns scattered on and through the background. You can find meaning in the tattoos, in patterns of decorative symbolism and hidden meanings, with a focus on Quantum Physics, Metaphysics, Mythology, Sacred Geometries, Cosmology, Astronomy and Space and Time theories.
JV: Your mural in Berlin for Urban Nation is breathtaking. Can we look forward to you creating more large scale public work in the future?
H: Thank you.
After creating the mural in Berlin in 2014, I’ve created several large wheat paste murals for Wall Therapy in Rochester and one for RMP in Richmond this year. Sadly, because of harsh weather conditions these walls didn’t last.
There are plans in the make for a new large mural project in conjunction with my solo exhibition at Jonathan LeVine Gallery next year. Very excited about it!
Flos Vitae by Handiedan
On exhibit for Femme to Femme Fatale from September 17 through October 8, 2016 at Modern Eden Gallery in San Francisco. Inquire for more info
The gallery began working with Danijela Krha and her team at beautiful.bizarre in 2014 as the publication entered its sixth issue. Introductions to Gallery Director Kim Larson were made, and a shared interest in advancing the same caliber and style of artwork was revealed. Over the last several years, the magazine has grown and expanded into nothing short of an international phenomenon. Now in it’s 14th issue, and with well over 600,000 followers combined across their social networks, they serve up a continuous and engaging stream of beautiful and surreal contemporary artwork, which as their name implies—oft trend toward the bizarre. What initially began as a focus on advancing Australian artists on the world stage, became a much larger endeavor as similarities and shared interests were discovered in the US, Europe, Asia and more. Built upon nearly two years of planning and cross-collaboration, this exhibition represents a successful knitting together of a geographically disparate but connected community of artists under a common movement, and another step toward advancing this growing movement in the art world. All images courtesy of beautiful.bizarre and the curator.
Interview by Jessica Violetta.
JV: Danijela, it is very exciting to have you as a group show curator for the first time at Modern Eden Gallery after admiring your magazines on the shelves for a while now. The list of artists you have gathered together for the large group show, “Femme to Femme Fatale” is very impressive. Can you tell us a little bit about the concept of the show?
DK: Thank you I am thrilled and grateful to have this opportunity to work closely with Kim and Bradley whom have been major beautiful.bizarre magazine partners for a number of years.
When Kim and I connected on the idea of a beautiful.bizarre magazine exhibition, it felt like a natural step in our business relationship. It has been a real pleasure working with the directors and owners of Modern Eden Gallery, whom are both extremely passionate and professional.
I agree that the artists that have come together to be part of the “Femme to Femme Fatale” exhibition are incredibly impressive. I am honoured that I, and beautiful.bizarre magazine have been able to inspire such a exceptional and diverse group of artists from various styles and genres to come together and explore the feminine in contemporary art and society. I think this speaks to the wonderful reputation that beautiful.bizarre magazine has built over the last 3+ years as a business that truly respects and values artists, and of course is madly in LOVE with the incredible work they produce.
As I'm sure you are aware, the beautiful.bizarre aesthetic is largely figurative and you will see many feminine faces and bodies, lives and experiences grace the pages of our art quarterly and our web and social media pages. As a woman in the modern world I am grateful to have the opportunities in life that I do, and honour those that fought for our current freedoms. I am also intrigued how my sisters experience the modern age across cultures and ethnic backgrounds - are we all facing similar issues? Hence the theme was born in my desire to have the best figurative new contemporary artists look at the women around them, at themselves and at our society and explore and bring to life the many forms of the modern feminine.
"Femme to Femme Fatale : The Feminine in Contemporary Art"
Woman. She is an archetype, a stereotype, mother, lover, daughter, dominator. Larger than life, hiding her divinity, selfie taking, heart breaking and heart broken.
Uncompromising and comprising, a shaper of society.
Within every woman there is a nurturer, and a wild beast! She can be a maid, a princess and a queen, all at once.
Yet some women are still taught it's not OK to have been born a female. They are punished and treated cruelly, a less than human in some societies. While from around the corner we watch, heartbroken at the plight of our sisters. In this modern age, we fight for those who have no voice, rallying together in full circle. Hoping that somehow we can help them break free from their chains and join us in a freer world, one that is closer to equality for the sexes.
In the Western World we are much closer to gender equality, more free to express ourselves – our passions, our dreams, as well as our struggles and fragility.
We are: tattooed beauties, extravagant and defiant, unafraid to stand up and face the world on our own terms; old and fierce, hardened from the pain of taking on the whole world at once, yet we wear our experiences on our faces and bodies with pride; girls with our faces on every page, trying so hard to fit in, selfie taking, insecure and over confident at once; women who are passionate about the natural world and strive desperately to save it for the future generations we will create; the strong and determined career woman who holds up the world on her shoulders, a brilliant example to us all, yet is often tired and lonely inside.
In one lifetime a woman can be all of these things. Big and small, strong and weak, dominant and submissive, leader and nurturer, she shrinks then expands, she grows and evolves.
The life of the modern woman is still riddled with difficulties. We have worked hard to empower ourselves in this patriarchal society. Some have succeeded and others still struggle. Trying to fit in and stand out, to stay healthy, relevant, career driven and nurturing, who are we in today's modern world?
JV: Just like the intention of beautiful.bizarre as a whole, this show seems to gather artists from all around the globe. Was there something particular that you looked for in these artists?
DK: Indeed, beautiful.bizarre showcases the work of leading and emerging new contemporary artists from around the world, and I feel strongly about continuing this in our physical exhibitions. It is also extremely important that the diversity that is showcased in beautiful.bizarre art quarterly is also a highlight of our exhibitions. I want the viewer to see the pop surrealist painting right next to the fine art painting, next to the emerging artist, beside the widely exhibited artist whose work graces the walls of public galleries and museums. It is this juxtaposition, this inclusive and encompassing mantra that is evident in everything that beautiful.bizarre magazine does and has translated beautifully in “Femme to Femme Fatale”.
I also of course considered all the artists who have been featured in beautiful.bizarre magazine in the past 3+ years and those we would love to feature in the near future!
JV: I’ve noticed that your magazine is open to submissions from anyone. It must be both exciting and overwhelming to fish through and choose what gets published. Do you ever notice having a hand in getting emerging artists to a more established position of their career by featuring them in group shows or your magazine?
DK: We receive hundreds of submissions each week and the task of going through them is passionately and diligently done by my Submissions Manager, Susan Santamauro who loves art and the creatives who bring it to life as much as I do. Susan and I appreciate that all young creatives start at the beginning, and it is through encouragement, practice and experimentation that successful artistic careers are born. It is very important to us to ensure we encourage those just starting their journey and help those that are on the cusp on a new chapter grow and evolve.
We have many examples of beautiful.bizarre’s influence in the art community - it is a wonderful and humbling testament to my team's passion and hard work. Many emerging artists that have been featured in beautiful.bizarre magazine have seen their artistic careers take off following their exposure through our publication and media network both in relation to salability and exhibition rosters. I am ever grateful that I am able to help others in this way!
JV: On the other hand, I am sure you are able to establish relationships with artists that you work with on ongoing basis. Would you say that your curated shows, like this one, are primarily made up of artists whom you have already worked with?
DK: Oh yes, as I mentioned above, all the beautiful.bizarre curated exhibitions feature artists we have worked with in the past, that we love and respect. As well as those we wish to create that enduring relationship with. I am very fortunate to have been able to build an exceptional network of artists, gallerists and of course art lovers/collectors that are supportive of beautiful.bizarre’s mission and vision.
JV: Being based in Australia, I know that you are fond of bringing Australian artists to light. Are there any Australian artists showing in “Femme to Femme Fatale”?
Great question and thank you for raising it. Being an Australian company, it is very important to us that we do our best to raise the profile of Australian new contemporary art and artists both locally and internationally. To encourage their creative process and support their careers. We do this in multiple ways, including features in beautiful.bizarre magazine, sharing their work on our socials, articles/interviews on the beautiful.bizarre website and of course inclusion in our curated exhibitions.
I have a huge sense of pride and am extremely honoured that we have a number of exceptional Australian creatives in the ‘Femme to Femme Fatale’ line up including Bec Winnel, Graeme Balchin, Julia deVille, Marie Larkin, Nicole Watt (aka Mahlimae) and Pippa McManus.
I am very excited to have this opportunity to introduce their work to the San Francisco art scene.
JV: With the intention of focusing more on alternative forms of expression, it is fascinating that beautiful.bizarre has made such a presence for itself within the current art scene. Does it come as a surprise to you that so many people are interested in art that is more “bizarre” than mainstream?
Actually no, since I myself feel this way I am not surprised that many others do too. I always thought I couldn't be alone in feeling uninspired and bereft when I left many of the more traditional mainstream galleries. I didn't feel a connection with much of the modern work being shown. However, we have seen significant change in the last decade and the art scene is still evolving thanks largely to social media. We are seeing a returned focus on representational figurative art which is beautiful.bizarre’s main aesthetic, and to work that acknowledges and celebrates the mastery of artistic skill. We as consumers of the visual world now have a powerful voice through social media to shout from the rooftops what touches us - what we love! We no longer have to accept what others tell us we should appreciate.
beautiful.bizarre embraces many forms and genres from fine art to low brow, from the beautiful to the bizarre, however what is clearly evident is our love for figurative art. We the viewer can see ourselves in the work, how the figure sits or interacts with the the scene/landscape - we project our own experiences, emotions and values onto the piece - this is why figurative art is so engaging and so powerful. I believe our focus on figurative art is one of the main reasons beautiful.bizarre has grown so quickly in the last 3+ years - because we can connect with it as human beings.
I hope you don't mind, but I would like to take the opportunity to publicly acknowledge and thank my management team whom are the most passionate, dedicated and amazing people I know! beautiful.bizarre wouldn't be where it is without each and every one of these exceptional people. I am incredibly fortunate and thankful to have them all with me on this exciting and rewarding journey: Richard Purssey [Co-Founder & Technical Director], Bella Harris [Online Editor], Jeanette Bartholomew [Finance Manager], Susan Santamauro [Submissions Manager], Miu Vermillion [Public Relations Manager], Hieu Nguyen [Designer], and finally my brilliant Executive Assistant Kylie Dexter who has helped me bring this exhibition to life. I would also like to thank all the beautiful.bizarre Online Authors and Guest Contributors for sharing their love of art/photography/music/film/wearable art etc with the world through the beautiful.bizarre website.
JV: Do you have any personal all-time favorite artists/creatives or pieces?
I have WAY too many favourites to even begin recounting here, but let's just say that ‘Femme to Femme Fatale’ is showcasing a large majority of my current “Art Throbs”.
JV: What initially drew you to the task of curating gallery shows?
DK: To be completely honest with you our major gallery partners/advertisers have in each circumstance approached me with the offer, and I believe it is a wonderful and natural extension of our close partnership.
Plus of course it is a real thrill and an honour for me personally. I am humbled by each and every artist’s original creation for “Femme to Femme Fatale”. Their time, energy, creative vision and expression is something I value extremely highly.
JV: We are looking forward to having you here in San Francisco. Besides the opening, do you have any fun plans while in town?
DK: WOW myself and Richard Purssey, beautiful.bizarre’s Co-Founder/Technical Director and I are incredibly excited about our visit to San Francisco! We leave just after our wedding and will arrive early in the week prior to the opening on 17 September. So San Francisco and the opening will be part of our honeymoon!
I am thrilled that so many of the exhibiting artists will be attending the opening and I will finally have the opportunity to meet them, and Modern Eden Gallery Directors Kim and Bradley. At this stage we have not yet made any “touristy” plans but I have been googling like a mad woman, so would appreciate any/all recommendations re what we should do and see while in town.
I can't wait to see all the fabulous folks of San Francisco on 17 September at the opening of ‘Femme to Femme Fatale: The Feminine in Contemporary Art’. Please do stop in and say hello, I would love to meet you and hear what you think of this, the first beautiful.bizarre exhibition the US!
Femme to Femme Fatale will open September 17, 2016 at Modern Eden Gallery in San Francisco. The exhibition will be on display through October 8, 2016.
We are delighted to be partnering up this September with one of our favorite publications, Beautiful Bizarre Magazine at the gallery. This amazing group exhibition, Femme to Femme Fatale will feature works by over 60 of the finest new contemporary artists from around the world working with the theme of a modern woman and the dual archetypes of femininity and strength.
We are fortunate to get a glimpse inside the artists' studios and sample a preview of this prodigious exhibition. For inquiries on any artworks or for more general information, please contact us at email@example.com.
All images courtesy of the artists.
Femme to Femme Fatale: The Feminine in Contemporary Art will debut September 17, 2016 at Modern Eden Gallery. The exhibition will be on display through October 8, 2016.
Delighted to have the company of friends far and wide, last week we gathered for Jana Brike's latest solo show as well as an intimate musical serenade by Anomie Belle who sat beside a wall of artwork from her new album "Flux".
Jana, here all the way from Latvia, embodied the same poise and intricacy as her work while graciously mingling with collectors and other visiting artists. Her beautiful oil paintings fill the majority of the gallery, seeming to take us through a fairytale-like experience from an intriguingly conscious perspective.
Adjacently, a colorful wall of work features the same subject seen by 14 different artists, many of which were in attendance. Toward the end of the evening, Anomie Belle sat with her acoustic guitar and sang beautifully for the crowd. Hearing her while seeing the work brought out the beautiful commonality, confirmed by Anomie, which is a feeling of appearing and disappearing simultaneously.
Various conversations being had between artists and friends.
Jana Brike with her piece "The End of the Lonesome Road", a feature of her show "Superabundance of Ordinary Being"
Another angle of art discussion and camaraderie.
Musical artist Anomie Belle with feature solo artist Jana Brike.
A glimpse of the two shows at once.
Admiring a colorful corner of Jana's work.
Anomie Belle singing and playing beside the collection of work for her new album, "Flux".
Redd Walitzki, one of the group show artists, with her lazer cut and mixed media piece "Anomie Belle 004" in the background.
Enjoying the rare acoustic sounds of Anomie Belle, who typically plays electronic music.
The front of the gallery showing four of Jana's larger pieces in a peaceful natural light.
This August brings the San Francisco debut and the gallery’s first major solo exhibition of new works by Latvian artist Jana Brike. Fifteen new oil paintings will be on exhibition, including several major works on aluminum that stand out as some of the finest pieces in the artist’s respectable oeuvre. In 'Superabundance', the artist is in her stride, working with a deft hand, she weaves a soft and supple, hyper-visual narrative. Her dream-like subjects are wrapped within the forest’s lurid color and pattern, where certain revelations are both discovered and feared. The works explore the overwhelming range of emotions, from the innocent to the ecstatic, sorrow to joy, and peak at the place where sensationally charged beauty meets a dangerous and wild nature.
Interview by Jessica Violetta
JV: Your new series, Superabundance of Ordinary Being, appears to still capture the beauty and innocence of your previous works but also feature a much more obvious reference to female sexuality. Was this intentional and, if so, what was the driving force behind that imagery?
JB: There is always this juxtaposition of two sides. One is being “sexy” or an object for the viewer. The other is a sexuality that is deeply internal, inherent, and almost primeval that comes from a sacred, creative force. More like a physical self-awareness that I believe exists in all things alive in this universe, non-dependent of a partner or a viewer.
The first one is what I feel is expected from a woman. It is like there is a prism through which society filters images of women that often surprises and even scares me.
But the second is all still heavily tabooed: female sexuality strongly centered within itself, with its wisdom of nature cycles, unapologetic with no obligation. It has no wish to concede or show off but to simply exist within the female body as it is – with its blood, sweat, milk, fur, marks of childbearing, and marks of aging.
I believe this awareness and understanding is part of the real self-power for a woman. This is not what I paint directly, but it is the climate in which I have grown to be a woman, and aim to come to terms with in my own body and self. I am honestly just starting to find out what it even means to be woman as a vessel for the female energy of everything living rather than simply what society defines my role as (ie. mother, wife or lover). I am still on a path of discovery toward being a woman internally, and the sacredness of it. And these discoveries are so deeply experiential that they are beyond verbal description.
JV: Another interesting new detail that we noticed is your use of imaginative “tattoo”-like drawings on the skin of the figures or animals in the artwork. Is there symbolism behind this for you?
JB: Yes, skin is a big and important organ that is both a wall of protection and an important interaction with our external environment. It is like an imagined border. Therefore, painting the skin of my characters has always been important to me. All the little details - hair, scratches, bruises, pimples, moles, scars, bluish or red blood-vessels, dirt, cosmetics and now lately…drawings. I just find it fascinating how drawing on skin is used to convey a message – with tattoos existing from the beginning of civilization, kids scribbling all over themselves, or the way a young girl would write a boy’s name on a secret spot of her body after first discovering affection. It is like externally displaying what is going on inside, as if you can’t hold it in any longer. Important stepping-stones, interactions, revelations, or discoveries leave permanent marks inside of you and are now being shown to the world to be “read” like a book.
JV: This series features several pieces where more than one figure is in the scene. Is there a significance in the interaction between the characters?
JB: There are, of course, times where you just need another. It is not a need so desperate that you are incomplete without them but rather a need that derives from their ability to bring out certain properties in you that are hidden yet full of goodness and potential - catalysts for your experiences, understandings, feelings, and new beginnings. But the number one relationship in life is with the self and all external relationships just grow out from there. I honestly believe that no other person can give you what you haven’t already developed within you. So the vast majority of my paintings feature just one figure, one human, and their environment.
I painted this entire series while in an extremely difficult internal place. I have had to come to terms with receiving negligence, rejection, and a lack of love as extreme opposition to my own offering of true love, daring to be open, and vulnerability of one soul to another. And while I consider it to be sacred to connect with another soul, it is cast away by the recipient like disposable excess in a world full of competition for achievement, without even a few kind words. Being in this place has felt like hitting rock bottom of everything I used to believe in. Risking and losing it all completely has left me with the same broken self as before, numb in disbelief, and an impossible mission to find ways to love that rejected self and the beauty and worth of it regardless of external acknowledgement. In that place, even the idea that you can learn from every experience is shattered, because what is there to even learn here? Is it a survivalist lesson that you should not love so sincerely anymore? No way.
But I’ve learned what may be the ultimate lesson – the fact that life breaks us and it hurts. And not even solitude can save us because the yearning for expansion, sharing, and adventure break us just as badly. So we dance the dance of life, fall, and get back up when we can, dance again, sometimes with broken legs or arms or hearts, and if we open our eyes, we see that the whole world is a part of the same broken dance. The flowers are wasting their sweet petals and the fruit is wasting their sweet flesh, decaying and turning into new life in a bittersweet cycle and when we look long enough, we start to notice that we are not just the dancer, but also the music, the space in which it is happening, as well as the viewers watching it all happen.
It is pointless to complain and just wait for the world to be perfect before we really start living, because life will never be perfect and the only life is now.
I do not have all the answers, I am just on a journey like everyone else, and all I can say is that the superabundance of feelings and living a life through our human self, acknowledging that no one is singular or alone, allows us to all hold hands together. And I can’t convey all this through my paintings, but I believe they can connect some of these points through which our hearts meet most genuinely.
JV: You’ve been so kind as to share a glimpse of your studio and work process with us. Could you share a little more, in words, about the way you work and what your studio is like?
JB: In the wintertime, I am actually in the worst “hermit mode” and all time spent in the studio goes according to my personal ritual. I actually start by burning candles or a fragrance of some sort, do a short breathing meditation, eat very light, and work very long. I do that daily. In the summer I am much more flexible. Sometimes I paint outside by the countryside or travel with my smaller works and it is all way more playful. I don’t get as much done as the winter, but it helps me to not get burned out. My studio is a big mess when I am in the middle of working on a series. It starts with an overall feeling, state of mind and heart, and then the images come flashing in my mind. Then I sketch, gather reference material, and paint until I am happy with the emotional vibe it conveys.
JV: Do you typically work on one piece at a time or are there several in progress at one time?
JB: If it is a set for a solo exhibition, I work on them all at once. They are like chapters in one whole story, complete within themselves, but integral parts of a bigger picture. I need to work on them all together.
JV: Do you listen to music while you paint? What is your favorite?
JB: It depends on the phase of work. When I am working on the ideas, I like silence or just sounds of ordinary life around me. If I am just starting on a painting, where I’m still making decisions, I like classical music with ambient vibes like Chopin or Satie -something peaceful and beautiful. If I am painting things mechanically, which takes the longest, it can be many things –various kinds of music, audiobooks, lectures on countless subjects, and sometimes even movies.
JV: In all of your work to date, we see a clear and wondrous nod to childhood, innocence, and fantasy. Would you say that this is one of the biggest influences for your work?
JB: All the heroines of my current exhibition are young adults but I would agree that there is an aura of innocence, hope, and naive love and trust in them. I can’t say it is an “influence”, because “influence” suggests some external element that was not initially mine. It is more like a way of life through the things I search for and fall in love with in others – openness, rawness, an unguarded soul shining through – something I find to be way more common in children and more of a treasure in adults. There is an undeniable beauty in childhood, with its wish to touch the world in an unguarded way, its authenticity, and its hope and trust in things to come while fully living in the present. Adults are too fearful, armored, and protective of our personas. We lie and pretend and wear masks and are too guarded and disappointed to dream. I am not nostalgic though, because it is not the simple-mindedness or ignorance that I long for, but rather what I would call the “innocence of maturity”. It is a place where I have seen life, know what it brings, know that I can be broken by it, but still have goodness and the bravery to fall in love or dream. So my models are always adults in their late twenties or thirties at least, I just distort the proportions and the way the skin captures the light. I like to think that I paint portraits of souls more than bodies.
Maybe, somehow, I work with and heal my own emotional pain through this process of painting a return to innocence and I hope I do so for others as well. But it is all very intuitive and spontaneous, not fully conscious, and quite playful.
JV: So many of your pieces in this series seem to focus on a particular looking girl with light hair and eyes. Do any of your characters derive from real life relationships for you?
JB: That character is me, of course. I come from Latvia, North East Europe. There is nearly no racial diversity here. Historically, almost everybody has been tall and light. That is the look of the indigenous people here. The issues of social injustice and oppression have always been connected to nationality here and it has been important for me to understand what my personal heritage means. I always feel like I need to explain and apologize for that, particularly to my American audience. When I paint people of different looks, it gives me an opportunity to step back and feel things from a different perspective. I always need a live model though, so I paint important people I meet in my travels, who have let me photograph them.
JV: Your work is such an intriguing blend between fantasy, realism, and surrealism. Do you come up with the full scene before you begin or do you let the work speak to you as you go?
JB: A lot, truly, a lot of things – backgrounds, details, and sometimes even the main characters – change quite considerably while I work. I come up with more of a feeling that I want to convey before a fully developed scene. For this exhibition, it has been a certain vibe of painful sweetness, love, and longing in one overflowing heart. Sometimes certain images have been in my mind but I haven’t worked it out enough to put on canvas, so I have to rework it quite a bit. But I am happy with the final story it tells.
Jana Brike's Superabundance of Ordinary Being debuts August 5, 2016 at Modern Eden Gallery. The exhibition is on view through September 10, 2016.
Last Saturday we celebrated a beautiful collection of moving and sentimental works by sculpture artist, Erika Sanada at her opening reception. Inspired by her childhood experiences of fear and concern, the summer's evening light provided a dreamlike setting for her delicate yet moody ceramic creatures.
Alongside Erika, we proudly revealed our group show called A-Chroma, featuring an array of primarily monochromatic artwork. This diverse collection, stripped of color, reveals the true talent and diligence behind black and white artwork.
Erika, our feature artist, with her showcased pieces "Bugging", "Cover My Eyes", and "Mentor".
A great turnout of friends, artists, and collectors enjoying the show.
Erika's "Two Tales - Bull Terrier" napping peacefully.
Some of Ron Norman and John Casey's work for A-Chroma can be seen through the gallery windows.
"Cold Shoulder" by Erika Sanada
Beautiful monochromatic works by Rodrigo Cifuentes, Joseph Pfeiffer-Herbert, Daniel Bilmes, Alex Louisa, and J.S. Weis
Saturday evening brought art lovers together for Lacey Bryant's Escape and New Books by Matthew Robertson where both Bay Area artists were in attendance. Lacey Bryant debuted an expressive new series created while in residency at Chalk Hill in Sonoma, CA. Matthew Robertson created a new series of book paintings to create a dimensional gallery display that wowed viewers. The exhibitions are on view through June 4, 2016, if you missed the opening, be sure to stop by the gallery soon!