Lena Brazin, self-portrait at KYAN Athens, artist residency 2022
Lena Brazin, self-portrait at KYAN Athens, artist residency 2022

Different layers and textures of paint often revealed through a collage of pictures represent mixed dimensions of one’s experience where physical matter is merged with the ethereal and subconscious. Brazin‘s work is heavily based on photography which she re-imagines in expressively narrated language and she paints her inspiration from an archive of pictures that are always plucked from somewhere, whether her own life experience or a random visual noticed and screenshotted from the internet. Her process is one of instinct and collaboration where she simply listens, responds, and enables the artworks to dictate their destiny. Her work embodies an essential way of understanding the contemporary self which is full of paradoxes.

Selection of works made at KYAN Athens, artist residency, summer 2022
Selection of works made at KYAN Athens, artist residency, summer 2022

What’s your background?
I am a largely self-taught painter with a bit unusual journey. I haven’t studied art in a formal institution, my path as a painter started when I moved to France in 2010 after I finished my Master’s degree in another field back home in Slovakia. At that time I already knew that I want to reignite my passion for art and refocus my attention and energy on studying painting. I worked in the studio of a fine-art painter during those 5 years between 2010 and 2015 and it was a period of developing my painting skills and soul searching. I underwent an experience of remembering and reconnecting with my true self and the supernatural. It was a very calm period of living and painting in the countryside. In 2015, I felt the need to expand and grow my network and audience and so my steps led me to London. I haven’t left since. I also completed a 2 year-long alternative painting studio program at Turps Art School in London in 2019 and my exhibition history includes the Royal Academy, the Federation of British Artists, the Arusha Gallery, The Nunnery Gallery, and the Flowers Gallery among others. I was also a finalist for multiple prizes including FBA Futures, Exceptional Graduate Art Award, Jackson’s Painting prize, and Bow Arts Open.

Describe how art is important to society.
Art gives people a chance to stop and be immersed in the present moment. Art offers opportunities to think, re-think, and examine more closely. Similarly to nature, art can destroy, mend or re-build and give birth. It’s a source and force of expansion and growth. I am very much interested in metaphysical ideas and I believe that art is direct, free from rules, and also a very playful manifestation of the unseen. It can often awaken something deep inside of us. If we give it a chance it can transform us forever from the inside out. Especially today, this is I believe very much needed. People are losing touch with their inner and higher selves which guide us towards unity and balance. Instead, the focus is mainly on the outside, hence the outwardly, ego-based society we live in. I resonate with an idea that if we want our civilisation to progress in a good, loving, and healthy direction, we need something like “another renaissance” through which we can reconnect with our humanity. Art can help us achieve that but also it can do the opposite. It all depends on what we choose to create and consume.

What are your biggest influences?
Life itself. The experience of being with its ups and downs, the ordinariness of everyday life, nature, love, family, friends, people that cross my path, music, movies, symbolism, spirituality, mysticism and Hermetism. I have been an observer since I can remember and I can find inspiration in every little thing, but usually, my path of exploration is shown to me a few steps ahead of me with this invisible thread that I intuitively follow. In terms of art movements, post-impressionism, fauvism, expressionism, icon painting, Kalighat painting, and contemporary painting are the major players when it comes to my influence.

To drop a few names, here is a list of some painters not in a particular order at whose work I often look when needing reassurance and inspiration for my painting practice: F. Picabia, H. Matisse, P. Gauguin, J.M. Basquiat, L. Hannam, C. Tabouret, K. Kiff, M. Lupertz, S. Bassett, N. Gilbert, D. Hockney, N. Goncharova, P. Cezanne, E. L. Kirchner, H. A. Klint, S. Valadon, G. Boyd, R. Salisbury, A. Dubravsky, R. Harper, S. Makarova, F. Mollett, J. Valik, C. Brown, A. Neel, G. Spain, K. Albricht, E. Peyton, V. Hawkins, N. Hyams, B. Childish, M. Armitage, S. Kantarovsky, P. Doig, S. V. Hellerman, J. Cheng, D. Richter, F. Bacon.

What topics are you currently drawn to in your work?
I recently completed a studio residency at KYAN Athens (Athens, Greece) which will also result in my upcoming solo show from the end of January till the end of February in 2023 at the KYAN Athens project space. This body of work is focused on the quest or the calling that one is intuitively guided to take although it appears to be dangerous. The Unknown is awaiting and the only thing we know is that we will come out of it transformed on the other side. Heraclitus said: “Change is the only constant in life” and I have been thinking a lot about the journey of self-realisation and metamorphosis where the deep subconscious is brought to awareness, lived and experienced, embraced, digested, and memorised. Also about fragments that come and go, where each step informs another, running through a quicksand of time and space. I have been also contemplating the frustrations of the ego that can hardly accept natural flows if things don’t go according to plan. The main topics that have been of my interest recently are illusions, assumptions, smoking mirrors, fears, anxieties, addictions, detours, and desires that mislead otherwise clear trajectories.

Unbecoming I and II, diptych, acrylic and oil on canvas, 2022 at KYAN Athens artist residency
Unbecoming I and II, diptych, acrylic and oil on canvas, 2022 at KYAN Athens artist residency

Why are we doing art at all?
For some, the main motivation might be to find validation from others. Trying to become “someone” so the world can see them and that means their existence is of some importance. In my case, it was more about escapism and self-therapy. I needed to heal after hard times and the most natural and easiest way seemed to come through self-expression and painting. This later turned into an ambition too once I realised that one can make a living out of it. Now I also understand that art is a channel through which we can influence others, positively or negatively, and what is good or bad is of course subjective and only derived from our beliefs and understanding of life. Creation and destruction are like breathing, or life and death dichotomy, and art is just another authentic output of Creation. Everybody is creating throughout their lives and everybody is doing it through different actions. The most common one is having children. It is that urge that we all have, to create and give birth to something new. Art is just one of the methods that can fulfill this yearning.

1 of 4 detail, Volunteers, 25x20cm, quadriptych, acrylic and oil on linen on wood, 2022
1 of 4 detail, Volunteers, 25x20cm, quadriptych, acrylic and oil on linen on wood, 2022

What is your favorite place to create?
My studio. I am happy with the one that I have got now in London although unfortunately, the price has gone considerably up. Hopefully, I’ll be able to maintain it in the following years. I prefer higher walls, good daylight is a must and little things like a sofa or an armchair, plants, and coffee/tea corners make the studio more cozy and personal. One day, I also wish to have a studio in the woods or nature/countryside again. That’s actually one of my ultimate goals in the material sense.

What are you working on now?
At the moment, I am in the process of creating approx. 15 new paintings for my upcoming solo show which will take place at Enari Gallery, Amsterdam, NL, starting in June 2023. This is exciting news, I can’t wait to introduce my work to a European audience in Athens and Amsterdam soon.

Lena Brazin –,

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