What do you do when one of your good friends is also an incredibly inspirational and dedicated multi-media artist? Well, you interview them of course! 🙂
Who are you and what do you do?
I can call myself an artist after 20 years of self doubt. I do painting, sculpture, printmaking, photography, but first and foremost, I draw.
Why do you do what you do?
Because I cannot stop. I get tetchy and irritated if I don’t draw for a while.
Ideas also swirl through my head and, like winding up a clock, sooner or later it is fully wound up and ready to come out as a sketch, drawing, painting, etc.
How do you work?
I get passionate about my project, read and research as much as I can, talk to friends/artists, sketch ideas as I go. I need to be alone once I start working. People distract me then. I’m currently working on the kitchen table as the studio room I have is too small and cluttered, and cold in the winter. I start the studio day doing household chores so I can then focus on my art without distraction. It would be a dream to have a studio away from the house. It is also helpful to have a few projects on the go, or an exhibition date to work to. Otherwise work (my other job), life, family, friends call me away.
What’s your background?
I’m from a Central European background, Hungary and Romania. I have been told my subject matter and style is quite dark.
I’ve studied only through TAFE (Adult Education College), first with a certificate in art and design, then working towards a diploma in visual arts. Something I never completed, however it gave me skills in film photography and darkroom process, as well as painting, drawing and printmaking.
I found the more teachers one has over time, the more one learns.
I had to leave study to work and picked up a job as a graphic designer based on a folio of drawings.
What’s integral to the work of an artist?
The freedom to explore. Supportive friends and family who respect my art as work. Being part of an artist community to share ideas and solidarity.
Permission to allow myself to go into the studio even if it’s not a productive day.
Discipline to stay in there when it’s a beautiful day outside or my art isn’t working out.
What role does the artist have in society?
In good times, the artist can feed the soul with beauty or thought-provoking work. In bad times, the artist can feed the soul and create a temporary escape. Without artists, there would be no movies, fashion, aesthetics in architecture or cars, furniture, watches, clothing. It is all around us.
What has been a seminal experience?
That moment for me was in 1986 at the Brisbane Art Gallery, QLD. I went to see the 20thCentury Masters exhibition of works from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. I walked around a corner and saw Picasso’s ‘Woman in White’. The sight of it knocked the air out of me and staring at it was the moment I thought I must learn to create work as beautiful.
Explain what you do in 100 words
I draw mostly, sometimes whimsical pen and inks, sometimes more serious portraits and nudes. I love the face, the body, the person. It is an endless exploration – from describing the curves and lines that create a figure, to the folly of human character.
I prefer black and white as so much can be described with tone, line and texture. Colour can sometimes confuse the message, although it has its uses for emotion and interest.
How has your practice changed over time
I think I’ve grown more skilled and confident. I used to worry that I wasn’t selling work and making a living from it. For me now, it’s not about earning money, it’s about having something to say and sharing it. Also, I don’t need to worry about what will sell and making it ‘commercially appealing’.
It has always been about making people smile, feel an emotion or to think.
What art do you most identify with?
The line. Whether it is drawing, etching or big calligraphic brush strokes.
What work do you most enjoying doing?
Drawing. Whether it’s the feint spidery tickle of pencil on cartridge, the dark, thick smudge of charcoal or the danger of nib pen and with Indian ink (danger being the potential to splat on the page if I am not concentrating).
Or, I could say, whatever I am doing when the flow hits me.
When I paint, I fall in and out of love with the painting depending on what stage it is at.
I love the technical side as well, so printmaking or working in the darkroom developing photos is great.
What themes do you pursue?
Human nature and story telling. I’m currently reading Grimm’s tales. It works on so many levels: love, escape, morals, adventure, the protagonist ending with success, good guys, bad guys, tragedy, sometimes magic or a gift, evil, fragility, resistance, honesty, bravery, perseverance.
What’s your favourite art work?
That is tough. It’s like asking what is my favourite song.
Probably depending on my mood at the time.
Woman in White remains one of my favourite paintings. It is serene, multi-layered but with simple, muted colour. William Dobell’s portrait of Helena Rubenstein in the NGV Australia. A wood bas relief of Salome from the 14thC in the NGV International. Eastern European religious icons. Otherwise, anything by Caravaggio or several Australian and local Gippsland artists.
Describe a real-life situation that inspired you?
Warsaw National Museum, a student, Erik, from the Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts, was painting a 1:1 scale of Jan Matejko’s ‘Battle of Grunwald’. Size of the original is 10 metres wide x 4metres deep. Erik was painting it in twelve panels over two years. His dedication to the project made me think to lift my game.
I also know two art teachers, who are partners. They both work fulltime and raise a child. They each take a turn in the studio after work whilst the other sorts out the family, dinner and housework. This is discipline. And it works.
Art is important to life. My life. Also to everyone. To live without it would make life dull.
What is an artistic outlook on life?
Seeing beauty in small things or trying to draw attention to the everyday.
Problem solving by not always thinking logically.
What memorable responses have you had to your work?
My first solo exhibition. I had no idea if anyone would turn up. It was crowded and I sold 2/3 of the work on opening night. As much as selling the work wasn’t so important, it was validation that it was worthwhile and people connected with it.
A few people said they had cried when they saw pieces I had made.
Is the artistic life lonely? What do you do to counteract it?
It can be lonely. When I’m busy or have limited time I don’t notice it.
I might take a little break or an evening off. Spend time with my partner or call family or a friend.
When people come to visit I cannot work and have to pack up and pay attention to them. I must be careful not to spend too much time alone.
What do you dislike about the art world?
One comment about me once, “but she only draws.” No he hadn’t seen anything else I have done over the years but the comment was still insulting.
I see drawing as a means in itself, not a means to an end.
Art investment that follows trends, rather than talent.
Pretentiousness with only mediocre work.
Snobbishness – when one must have the right CV to become short-listed for an art prize and come from the ‘right’ art school. It should be judged on how accomplished and imaginative the artist is and the artwork should speak for itself.
What do you dislike about your work?
That I only draw.
Sorry, no, that’s not true.
That I don’t draw enough.
That I don’t do anything enough.
That I can get distracted.
That I thought after 20 years I would be more accomplished. I see art and skill as levels. Always chasing the next level and hoping not to go backwards.
What do you like about your work?
I like when I get it right and cannot criticise it. I enjoy looking at some pieces even years later.
Should art be funded?
What role does arts funding have?
It allows artists the chance to explore their ideas without compromise, pays for art material, allows communities to have projects when they couldn’t otherwise realise their ideas. There is a cultural aspect to a society and part of the government’s job is to promote the culture within the society.
What research do you do?
Internet, reading books on topics, techniques, visiting galleries, talking with fellow artists, or non-artists, on topics I might need to learn.
What is your dream project?
The one I am doing – Grimm’s tales.
Then the next one…
Name three artists you’d like to be compared to.
Sue Fraser, local Gippsland artist.
Kathe Kollwitz, German expressionist artist.
Favourite or most inspirational place
NGV International and NGV Australia in Melbourne. After his death in 1904, Alfred Felton left money to the National Gallery of Victoria, which has been used to invest in artwork, making it one of the best galleries in the world. I always have a little thrill when I see ‘Felton Bequest’ next to an artwork.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Don’t start the details too early in a drawing. Keep it general for a while until you know it is correct.
Also, if the eye is in the wrong place (for example), even if it’s the best eye you have ever drawn, rub it out and correct it.
Professionally, what’s your goal?
To be professional in my art and its presentation. To not settle for a lesser work if I can re-do it better.
What wouldn’t you do without?
Staedler Mars Lumograph pencils. They’re not top-of-the-range, but are still smooth to draw with. I can carry them anywhere. Plus a sketchbook for sketching people, taking notes in galleries or thrashing out ideas anywhere, anytime. These two are the most basic things. Everything else is fluff.
Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and processes with us Klara.
To see more of Klara’s work visit her Instagram page below: