I am such a huge fan of Brazin’s work. The colour, strong lines, fuse what is seen and unseen. The reality combines with the vision. She describes this as ‘Materialised immateriality’.
“Figurative, expressive, mystical.”
Born in Slovakia, 1985, Brazin is a fantastic contemporary artist, currently living and working in London. She studied at Turps Art School until 2019 - shout outs from her Turps Gang below!
“I try to reflect and narrate what I see around me. People, environments, moments, symbols, interesting compositions and ideas are the base for the picture.”
Really exciting interview with Lena will be available on She Curates… We discuss what makes a great artist, values and beliefs, dream projects, the future, artistic loneliness and routine.
Tell us a bit about you as a person, and your journey to the artist you are today?
I was born in Kosice, Slovakia in 1985 and I lived there until I was 24 years old. That year I finished my studies of economics and management with a Master's degree already knowing that I am not going to go down that path but rather following my again ignited passion for art. I moved to the South of France where I spent about 5 years studying the art of painting while working for a French painter Jean Sobieski. That period was all about soul searching and spiritual awakening after a hard period of depression which in the end turned out to be the greatest catalyst for a positive change in my life. I went through an experience of remembering and reconnecting with myself and spirit. Painting played a very important role in healing and growth. I have been living in London since March of 2015.
How were you trained?
For the most part, I have always been a self-taught painter. I am confident to say that I am very good at observation and so I was able to absorb anything that got my interest like a sponge. My first real introduction to fine-art painting came from Jean, the painter I mentioned above. I guess the most important thing that I have learned from him is how to look at a painting. My second most profound training experience comes from an alternative painting course led by established painters in London, called Turps Banana or Turps Art School. It´s an intensive practice and studio-based programme, with mentoring sessions, crits, and studio visits, where painters talk to each other on a day to day basis.
Can you tell us a bit about your process, and how each of your artwork comes to be?
I am a figurative painter. I try to reflect and narrate what I see around me. People, environments, moments, symbols, interesting compositions and ideas are the base for the picture. I now have an archive of photographs (which is expanding almost every day) from my life that I am using while digitally collaging these pictures together and creating proposals for paintings. As I am also spending more time on Instagram than ever before, I started to screenshot interesting figures, portraits, compositions as well. Once I have my collage done, I am adding my „spirit fluid beings“ into the picture. They are my symbol and literal narration of the supernatural or the unseen, metaphysical reality. I am mixing these 2 worlds together to inspire people to look beyond our material existence. Once my proposal is ready, I am starting to paint on linen or wooden panels. I build up layers of paint, usually from acrylics on the bottom to oils on the top. Through these thin and thick layers, I am trying to reflect the complexity of the reality that we live in.
What do you believe is integral to the work of an artist?
Being able to observe, digest, transform and not being afraid to reflect, create and share. Being an artist is a very vulnerable position to be in. You take full responsibility for your own steps while being exposed to judgment all the time. There is no safety net or security offered by anyone else but yourself. Also in terms of qualities of the character of an artist, I would say perseverance, faith, inner strength, focus.
Who or what are your biggest influences, and how do you find them? How do these come out in your work?
I was naturally always attracted to the use of a bright palette and expressive line and I want to believe that me living in the South of France for some period of time wasn't a coincidence. I felt like I could see that „light“ that Cezanne, Van Gogh, Matisse expressed in their work. It feels like a blessing when I look back as it really enforced my interest in very colourful painting. Post-impressionism, fauvism and expressionism are the major players when it comes to influence. Names mentioned above plus Gauguin, Picabia, Leger, Picasso, Goncharova, later Alice Neel, Jean Michel Basquiat are my main inspirations.
In most recent years, I have also introduced an element of geometry into my work. I use symmetry, multiplying and that comes from my inspiration by mandala art and sacred geometry. Also, Icon and Kalighat painting are my newest influences as portraiture and strong figurative work focusing on human spirit became my main interest.
What three words would you use to describe your work?
Figurative, expressive, mystical
What is your intention with scale?
For many years I used to paint only big paintings. At Turps I had a chance to go even bigger, which was great as my portraits of human beings became these characters with god-like presence by simply scaling them up. These big paintings also helped me to loosen up with my language and be even more gestural. They also showed my interest in Mural painting, when an artist shows their ability to blow up the size to the giant size level. Big can be intimidating and it is about the power, force and boldness as well. On the contrary, the small paintings that I started to paint recently on wooden panels, are these little mystical worlds on their own. Hopefully as powerful as the big ones, but the strength is projecting rather through more gentle touch and patient approach.
"Figurative, expressive, mystical"
What memorable responses have you had to your work? And which artwork would you like people to remember you for?
I am not going to say who said them, but here are few sentences that I have heard along those last 10 years from various people:
"Why do you paint big paintings, you are never going to sell them.“
"It´s been a long time I have seen someone so brave“
"Why you do this to me“
"You are one of the best figurative painters working today“
"I feel like in Ortodox church“
"You are saving painting“
"You need to be more radical“
"In the future send me a text before you drop stuff like this so I can prepare myself, make a tea, sit down and get ready for greatness.“
"I liked your previous period more“
And the artwork that I would like to be remembered for, there are few. I am a very prolific painter and so it's hard to pick just one. From oldest to newest:
Good Afternoon, Ancestor, Winter and Summer, First Three, Copy Cats, Whiskey Roulette, Votre Dame, Ice Cream Man, Constellation Fatima, Little Angel, Young Magdalene, any of my little cottages. Truth is, it doesn't really matter as far as you are remembered haha.
Do you have a daily routine when you get in the studio to get into the flow?
Once I get to my studio, I make myself a cup of coffee, change my gear, put my headphones on and play some good music, et voila I am in the zone. Then I usually paint from 6 to 8 hours with a break for lunch and another cup of coffee or tea. I don't prepare proposals or sketches in the studio, I like to do that in the comfort of my home and bed.
Is the artistic life lonely? What do you do to counteract it?
I like the hermit-like lifestyle as I like socializing. Being a painter gives me both if I want it. It's easy to interact and meet people these days (if I am not counting the Covid19 situation), so yeah, if you need it you can always meet people out there. Great opportunities are at the openings of the shows, events, parties, raves, dinners etc. Otherwise I am happy locked down in my studio, forgetting about the time and space, being present in the moment just with the painting. I am basically married to painting haha.
What excites you most about your future? And what would be your dream project?
The vision of the future can be exciting or scary, it really depends on which feelings I am feeding with my thoughts. I am not yet fully established on the art scene and so it is an unstable and vulnerable position. It's not fun being a struggling artist that is being discovered on his/her deathbed. I hope I´ll be able to live solely from painting one day. When that day comes, I´ll be calling it an achievement. So the vision of this and the freedom connected to this excites me the most.
The dream project: having a show in Tate.
What are some values and beliefs you live your life by?
Be honest and authentic with yourself and others.
People are mirroring each other - you can learn a lot about yourself just by observing other people's behavioral patterns, which ultimately can help you to become a better, more genuine and compassionate person.
Acceptance of what is is the first step to achieve inner peace and patience, humbleness, unconditional love are the ones that follow.
We are not just bodies, but parts of the One ultimate consciousness that is the Universe. We are all connected and we are One and I am not just talking about human beings but rather everything that Is and yet Isn´t. In effect, whatever you do to yourself you do to others and vice versa.
In your opinion, what makes a great artist?
I would say the ability to inspire people. There is no one way on how to be a great artist. Someone else's strength can be someone else's weakness etc. Everyone has a different path to greatness. For some, it's short, for some it's a long path, but one thing is for sure, you need to create great work and if you don´t, you need to be an artwork yourself, a great persona that inspires people.
Favourite historical female artist?
Alice Neel for the figure and Hilma Af Klint for metaphysics.
Are there any up-and-coming female artists you have your eye on?
Naudline Cluvie Pierre, Plum Cloutman, Delphine Hennelly, Kyveli Zoi, Kylie Wentzel, Ella Walker, Emma Hartman, Sophie Rose Castle and my Turps gang mentioned in the next answer.
Who should She Curates interview next?
I am going to shout out to my girls from Turps Banana: Karolina Albricht, Rebecca Harper, Rhiannon Salisbury, Clare Rees-Hales, Angela Brandys, Rafaela de Ascanio, Julie Caves, Victoria Cantons, Gina Birch, Molly Rose Butt.
Is there anything else you wanted to say?
Only a thank you for this interview and your offer to share this on your platform.