sabato 22 ottobre 2011

Life Is But A Dream: interviewing Jana Brike


"The Last   Breath of Emily"
  19.75" x   19.75" gouache, tempera, and oil
  w/graphite, pen,   print, and spray-paint 

Created for BLAB!   curated by Monte Beauchamp

Hi Jana, you're from Riga, Latvia. Please, describe your homeland in few words.
Latvia is a small country of less than 2 million people, half of them Latvian nationality, still becoming less and less. So I'm becoming almost a dodo bird.
It influenced me quite a lot, growing up here.
For one thing, it's a country with a twisted history. I was born under the Soviet occupation, and was already about 10 years old when the Union collapsed.
10 years old means quite an intelligent human with developed basic concepts about life, and - so different concepts than those which rule the world now. The regain of the independence was a time of big changes here. I remember having lucid dreams of how I'd be out there with the rest of civilian crowd in the centre of Riga for the sake of freedom with bare hands against Soviet tanks, like it happened. I've painted little girls with guns, and it is from these dreams, and nothing 'pop' or trendy about the image.
And then the environment of Latvia. Peaceful and calm. I've spent all my summers with grandmother in the country, wandering in woods around my home alone since being a small child. I've been taught to tell apart the poisonous mushrooms from the good ones in the forests, to recognize herbs and berries, and gather them in summer, and make herbal remedies for winter when everybody's sick from longing for sun. And taught other ridiculous things - like, to work with the spinning wheel!
Maybe someday, if the apocalyptic cinema proves to be prophetic and the world we know ends, and there is no electricity and no shopping malls, my hopelessly useless knowledge comes in handy, who knows.

"The End of   the Invincible Man"
  19-3/4" x   39-1/2" gouache, tempera, and oil
  with graphite,   pen, print, and spray-paint

Created for BLAB!   curated by Monte Beauchamp

 How do you think is the art market in your country? (i mean if people are interested in the kind of art you deal with, if artists like you are recognized by a big amount of people or just a nieche, how much galleries invest on artists from the XXI century and emerging artists, etc.)
For one thing, it is impossible to maintain a serious internal art market with a long-term policy based on 2 million people, is it? Right now the art market is not limited with the borders of the country. It is one tax zone inside European Union, which makes business and marketing much easier. There are a couple of wonderful Latvian galleries, which participate in global Art Fairs, prop the artists. I'm working with one of the best now.
Also the public funding is available for artists in Latvia. I've received government grants to do my work.
There are not many working the way I do. For a while I did think it tempting to be part of a 'movement'. It does legitimize what I'm doing in a way. But then again, it binds my arms too for further development.

Have you ever thought about moving to another country which could allow you to have more contacts with big galleries and artists like you?
No, I haven't seriously.
I would think long where to move, there are places which affect me too strong in some strange basic archetypical way, where I can spend a few days, or a few hours, but take months to regain balance afterwards. Like Venice, tangled and twisted like human brain. Or Los Angeles.
For one thing, I don't think that in the world like it functions now, artists are pidgeonholed by geographical place they come from. For instance, there are million of transitional opportunities, like residency programs, which may keep an artists moving around the globe.
Well, maybe it is different with those small strong currents in particular cities in so called 'lowbrow' scene, which is a community based get-together, where to be on the spot every day is so important.
I need time and peace to work though. My approximate ideal program is to spend a month or two a year travelling, meeting galleries and artists, and to spend the rest of the time working at my projects in studio, it doesn't matter where the exact spot is. To be relatively out of sight in some marginal woods of Northern Europe is okay, as gives me the solitude, peace and time which I require.
I don't say the I'll never move my home to another country though. I am quite aware that sometimes I have to give up much, sometimes even everything I hold dear, to attain more. And beyond measure.

How much the internet helped you to be know by the general public?
I do know that I have a certain amount of people who follow my work enthusiastically, and many of them have got to know me via mass media, and very much the internet. And this wonderful crowd is very much of my impellent. This is a special time like never before, when everybody can reach out easily and fast to an artist with a comment, or rebuke, or adoration. This interaction cannot be ignored.

Where do you get the inspiration for your art?
My out-of-body experiences! (smile)
Okay, back to common sense answers.
The way I build my cycles of work, is to find a strong backbone of the main feeling, and build a visually compelling 'flesh' around it. The ideas come very spontaneously and sometimes unexpected. The inducement can be just about anything. Starting from very indirect things which I cannot even detected, to cinema, books etc.
Like, for my little video I did based on my paintings. The first inspiration was the books I was reading, one about the history of quantum physics and the other Philip Pullman's 'His Dark Materials' trilogy. And the other inspiration was an occasional conversation with my 5years old son. He was asking me a question - what is stronger - heat or cold, light or darkness? - and I gave a fast unwitting answer - that there is no cold or darkness in physics at all, so it cannot be stronger. There is just energy, which is light and heat (or life), and there is a condition when the energy is absent. And I said it, and thought something like - damn, that sounds like the basic theology i'm searching for my work!!!
But generally speaking, life is my inspiration. The way I comprehend it, and myself. People are my inspiration. The stare of a human soul - dreams, longing, love, pain - that is what my visual images are about.
When I was a child, like 10 or so years old, I used to go to my art school in the city centre, which took half an hour each direction alone by train. People used to talk to me on train almost every day - grownup men, women, oldsters. I have forgotten their stories, as I didn't even understand most of them, but some are coming back in great detail in my mind now. Some about search for love, fulfillment, about obligation. But some very much inappropriate for a child, about death, passions, loneliness, violence, despair, hopelessness. Now I see my inborn automatic curiosity about inner processes and conditions of humans was even dangerous in some sense. I remember big rough men crying with me. I almost never talked or answered. I just wonder what made those people tell their dark dirty secrets to a random mute child. I think I was listening visually - as if I would be laughing and playing with some kind of their inner beasts while not paying much attention to the words at all. I don't communicate like this socially anymore, or at least very rarely, - I just try to capture this feeling of abreaction through my art. It seems so surreal now, like some obscure cloudland zone which ceased to exist when I got out of the train. I might start painting ghost trains.
When I work out ideas actively on paper, I don't need to see people much, or art of others. My solitude is from where my incentive comes. Or I might say not even just solitude but existential loneliness. I cherish it. As an important state of the creative process.
But there are of course a few special close people to whom I feel, let's say, some kind of nondescript mutual metaphysical gravitation. This interchange on different levels is the most inspiring thing ever.

There's some kind of 'fil rouge' in the work of all pop surrealist artists. A lot of you seem to love painting the childhood seen in its most ambiguous and brilliant features. Who are the figures that live in your paintings: children with adults features or adults with children ones?
I do not really feel myself as 'pop surrealist' artist - I have found my way of expression, being very from these currents. I've been trained in highly academical surroundings, my education about global art world coming from visiting Venice, Sao Paulo and other biennales, Manifesta, and many similar big major highbrow exhibitions annually for the last 15 years. And the 'pop' art, which mainly came from or was influenced by Asian contemporary art, was referred to as utmost branch of global postmodernism, but never as a disjointed movement. I did feel certain degree of attraction to this 'pop' direction though, it felt like more soul in those pieces than in the disassociated, alienated conceptual scene.
Regarding the child image, I don't think I paint or avoid something because it is or not a 'fil rouge'. My process is very much a stream of consciousness, a soliloquy. Sometimes I myself need months to 'translate' an image that keeps coming to my mind, as if I would 'translate' a dream. But also I leave much, maybe most of my imagery unverbalized, even for myself. My images are not illustrations for my conscious thoughts.
I can say though that I wish to depict the most fragile inner part of a human. The most fragile part of ME, where I am weak and most vulnerable, and where I don't protect myself, and where I am open and sensitive to all the delight or pain that comes. It is a way of communication I cannot really use socially, as it looks kind of too naive. Except for people I know, trust and like and with whom I am dumbfoundingly guileless like a child, but in a very self-conscious adult way, the same as when creating my art.
I paint the innocence, growing pains, desires, sometimes disease, and sometimes blossoming potential, the incredible breathtaking beauty of organic inner growth - of the soul, not the body - so 'child' is the best metaphor I can find for it.
On the other hand, i'm drawn to childhood concept because it is the time when a person takes the damage most susceptibly, and the rest of the life maybe is just maybe is about hypnotherapy through situations we find ourselves in. And by 'damage' I don't mean just violence or direct trauma of course. A strong overstated notion that life must be this or that, is damaging as well.

Which are the galleries you're represented by?
Gallery Maksla XO is representing me in Latvia.
I have a few other wonderful galleries with whom I am working in Europe and US but not on real representation terms.

  50 x 50
  "Milk and Blood"   series, Gallery Maksla XO, Latvia

Is there any gallery you would love to exhibit in?
Like an artist - in the gallery with a smart owner with sense of humour, who lets me work the I have to and with whom I share a common vision about my artist's future. And everybody involved gets incredibly rich in the process too - I cannot leave that out!

  40x90 cm
  “Milk and Blood”   series, Maksla XO gallery, Latvia

Are you currently having exhibitions or working for the next future ones?
The first main thing for me is my solo show opening in November 17, in Riga, gallery XO.
The title for the show is "Milk and Blood". It is an idiom in Latvian language, which is typically referred to a very young healthy beautiful girl or a child, with saying something like, verbatim - she's just pure milk and blood - without paying any attention that both words outside the expression hold very strong complicated semiotic meaning. Milk is the first indispensable food for a human baby. Blood, beside of being the liquid of life, signifies adolescence, for girls, giving birth. Both stand for the growth, evolution, and yes, love too.

Regarding future, I've had 2 years ahead of me almost scrupulously planned all the time. It's been exhausting lately. I've decided to slow down with making pernickety plans a bit.
But I have some guidelines for the next year. I have a bigger animation project at which I am going to start working right after my solo show opens. I have a few amazing group shows too.

And there are a million of things which I have started and put in the back of my mind waiting for collaborative projects, and sculptures. And I've started programming a visually narrative computer game based on my art some time ago. The worst this is that I like to do almost every step myself. And it does take loads of time. But i'm quite enjoying myself in the process.
This is just about the form of my work of course. The content is the driving force I don't control.


“Snow White”
  35x35 cm
  “Milk and Blood”   series, Maksla XO Gallery, Latvia

You recently joined TISCO. Why you liked the idea of sharing your art with us and what would you do to improve our network?

I like the community you are building. I like your artist choices, most of which are playful on the outer level, but hold deep earnestness and sincerity under.


"Boy with the red riding hood”
  35x35 cm
  “Milk and Blood”   series, Maksla XO gallery, Latvia