Interview with: Lena Zak
Lena Zak is a young emerging artist from Slovakia based in Prague, Czechia. She mobilizes Abstract Expressionist inspired strategies to create bold, gestural compositions, deeply influenced by her state of mind, as well as by her environment. She would describe her process to be spontaneous, raw, and authentic, with an aim to navigate different kinds of emotions in an effort to find balance. Her artwork was so far exhibited in capital cities of Europe like Lisbon, Portugal or Athens, Greece, as well as virtually, as a part of several online exhibitions during the pandemic. Zak is currently one of the Exhibited Artists of British online gallerist IdeelArt.
Welcome Lena, I would like to start this interview from the beginning, do you remember which artist or which artwork moved something inside you when you were a child?
The earliest memory would probably be of Alphonse Mucha, as we had a few print copies at home. I was mesmerized by the grandiosity of his genius work that I've always found so beautifully ethereal. I remember being really proud and empowered that someone born and raised so close to my hometown was able to gain worldwide recognition in the art world, even more so that in his work he was portraying females regularly.
And then? How have your approach and references changed growing up?
Overall, when I was growing up I had these “phases” when I admired different artists based on my current mood, style & preferences, and so on, as these change quite quickly at such a young age. One is simply trying to find oneself and one's voice. Apart from Mucha, I recall being into the work of such a wide variety of artists, from Monet and René Magritte through Pollock and Pierre Soulages to Warhol, Yves Klein, Cy Twombly, and Jean-Michel Basquiat. Now when I'm a more conscious adult I prefer to support women artists.
How would you describe your practice to someone who doesn't know you? What are the recurring elements, themes, concepts you refer to?
I would say that the duality of my personality is somehow being reflected in my work when one looks at it as a whole. It can be very soft and feminine, as well as it can be dark. I'm always drawn to use either the shades of blue or black/black and white combination, I love experimentation and the use of unconventional materials for applying paint. My themes and concepts are always quite personal and they reflect my current state of mind. The particular visuality often changes because of it, so I try to sort my work into collections. However, the visuality changes because it's exactly what feels the most natural to me at that given period of my life, and being the most authentic is immensely important from my point of view.
But an absolute core of my work is that it's all about navigating different kinds of emotions like chaos, uncertainty, problems, or traumas in an effort to find balance and acceptance in all of it.
Usually each artist has a different modus operandi, what is yours? How did your projects start and how do they develop?
I never lack themes for my work as I'm that type of person who “lives inside the head” and analyses constantly.
Then, when I choose one of the themes, every single one of my series starts with the experimentation of how to most authentically get that particular emotion that sparked the “fire” of inspiration onto the canvas (or onto another type of surface for that matter). This, quite possibly, can become the longest part of the whole process and I tend to get very frustrated when things just won't “click”. Usually, I come up with the right way to grasp the theme visually in the very last hour before I would abandon the whole project. From there, the flow state takes over.
What function do you attribute to your works and why?