Architerior talked to Graz based artist Jelena about the value of personal voice and the importance of practice. Her work is minimal and inspired by theoretical concepts taken from physics, maths and music.
Where do you live and practice?
I currently live and practice in Graz, Austria. I am fortunate enough to have a studio space right in the historic city center close to the opera house.
When did you know that you were meant to be working with art?
Pretty much at the age of 4. At that time my father used to create line drawings for me which I coloured in and collected in a folder. I remember being very intrigued by the process of depicting visual observations on paper. Although I knew back then, it actually took me another 24 years to pursue an art career. I went on to study architecture and worked as an architect for 5 years before I quit my job, moved to London to do a master – and finally started to draw again. But I am happy about how everything turned out, my former profession informs my conceptual thinking as an artist in a great way.
Can you describe your art style for the readers? Do you have preferences in terms of materials, forms and colours?
I would describe my work as minimal, abstract and conceptual. It is hugely inspired by theoretical concepts taken from physics, maths or music. I aim to visually interpret and break down those concepts in the simplest way possible. Movement and spatial perception is an underlying theme of my work. I used to restrict my practice to black and white but the past few months I have been exploring colour as part of my practice. Colour to me is another layer of movement (as in wave lengths) and has changed my style completely. Something I am enjoying very much. It allows me to experiment with textures, different kinds of paints and materials. At the moment I prefer to work with acrylic paint on paper and canvas but I am also interested in creating actual three-dimensional work in the future.
What is the best artwork you’ve done in your opinion?
A large piece called “Observations” from last December for a gallery submission. Unfortunately it was not accepted by the gallery but it felt like a personal breakthrough for me – in a visual and conceptual way.
What is the worst artwork you’ve done?
The very first assignment I was given in London. I remember feeling very uninspired and instead of digging deeper, I created something “superficial”. It really did not feel like my own work but it taught me a great deal about the value of personal voice and the importance of practice.
Can you mention a few exhibitions or moments in your art career that have been extra important to you?
Last year I had the pleasure to paint my first really big wall installation in an entrance hall of an art agency. They were very open minded which allowed me to try out new things. The final wall painting stretched from the walls onto the ceiling. It was very challenging but an experience I cherish very much because I had the opportunity to work in a bigger scale. Another really wonderful moment from last year was a solo show which was hosted as part of the design month here in Graz. It showcased a one-year-long collaboration with a concept store with some of the works being shown as animations and one particular piece could be explored through VR glasses. My personal highlight so far is a huge piece commissioned by the Human Genetics Institute called “Conversations”.
What are you working on right now?
I am currently working on a handful of private commissions and three very exciting collaborations. Besides this I am working on a series of paintings and drawings that visualise the perception of time and space through the observation of shadows, light and their spatial interaction. The inspiration for this idea actually came from the staircase that leads to my studio on the third floor. The architecture is from the 18th century with handmade details and ornaments, arches and beautiful irregularities and on each floor there is a set of windows. This combination creates a unique mood of light, shadows, shapes and movement throughout the day – it sometimes feels like a “wunderkammer” to me.
What does art mean to you?
To me it means expression in its purest and communication in its most powerful form. The beauty about art in my opinion is that communication can happen on different levels, it can be literal or figurative and it can be abstract. Art offers this undefined space in between where the intentions of the artist morphs into the interpretations of the observer and defining this space as an artist – do I want to make certain ideas visually clearer or do I leave it to the interpretation of the observer – is a very exciting aspect for me.
What inspires you to create? Where do you get ideas and energy?
I am hugely inspired by other creatives like musicians, woodworkers or craftsmen in general. There is something very humble and so profound about the process of creating and “sculpting an idea” until it finds its final shape. When I feel stuck or out of ideas, I like to visit museums or explore the old city centre.
Do you have any artists that you admire extra much?
There are really so many great artists out there – past and contemporary ones. But if I have to choose I would say that my all time favourites are Picasso and DaVinci – for their explorative spirits.
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