Much like dreams transform memories into new structures of information, I take objects, flowers, plants, insects, and even human representations to create new forms and interpretations.
Natasha Lelenco's work is both part of her personal biography and a narration on art history. She considers art a pre-verbal tool for communication that connects humans through time and over the course of generations. In her artistic practice, she combines traditional symbolism and techniques with a contemporary approach, resulting in brightly coloured portraits of creatures beyond our imagination, portraying an inner world that is both personal and universal.
INTERVIEW WITH THE ARTIST
Q. What made you pursue a degree in art? Did the institution you attended influence your style, you think?
A. I finished my academic studies in Oradea, a faculty of the University of Arts and Design of Cluj Napoca, Romania. I think it was important to get me started during my first years, but the main influences in my art come from all the people and ideas that I admire. It's interesting that you cannot list all the lessons you have learned from the authors and other creatives that changed your point of view in your CV.
Q. Did relocating to Spain have an impact on your artistic practice?
A. When I came to Spain, I almost stopped painting during my first year, except for a few little pieces. Mostly because I didn't bring my tools to Spain and it took me a while to get all the equipment together and organize my art studio. In this initial period and the years after, I practiced other types of art: digital art, VJ-ing, photography, video, body-painting, and performance. Pursuing these other kinds of representation has been enriching to me and when I look back at all those works and what I do now, I can see it's somehow all connected.
Q. Your work could, at first sight, be linked to the surrealist movement, did these historic artists influence your work?
A. Honestly, the only connection I feel to surrealism is an interest in the inner world or psychology. I mostly feel my practice is a little naïve because I just like playing and juxtaposing colours, almost like children do. My artworks are first and foremost representations of emotions.
Q. Are there any specific artists you admire?
A. There are so many artists I admire. I´m very interested in art history and I appreciate a lot of prehistoric and antique periods, especially the Mesopotamian and the predynastic Egyptian figures, the Byzantine art and also the medieval Beatus. I admire the virtuosity of the old masters, especially the ones that work outside of the mimesis of reality or imbue it with their own interpretation. In this sense I think my favorites are Quentin Massys, Clara Peeters, Caravaggio, Gianbattista Piranesi, Caspar David Friedrich, Paul Gaugain, Odilon Redon, just to name a few. And of course, there are also many contemporary artists I admire. I love the work of Nicole Eisenman, Zhang Xiaogang, Ronald B. Kitaj, Sarah Lucas, and so many others.
Q. Your portraits are often built up from, or accompanied by, numerous objects, plants, or creatures. Do these fulfill a symbolic function?
A. The artworks I present on ROA is a series of paintings with a biographical point of departure. They’re portraits built up from elements that I take from my personal memory and transform into new images. Much like dreams transform memories into new structures of information, I take objects, flowers, plants, insects, and even human representations to create new forms and interpretations. So yes, these elements are symbols that hold an important meaning to me. But once I have painted them, I believe the artwork doesn't have to reflect only those meanings, as I expect and hope that the person who sees it would give it their own significance. However, I could say that all my figures wrapped in plants and creatures of the animal world are meant to evoke a certain environmental concern and inspire a love of nature.
Q. You have stated that you see your work, and art in general, as a tool for communication; what would you like to communicate to the viewer?
A. As I said, I´m very fond of art history. I think it represents the best and the worst of human beings and our presence in this world. When I look at art pieces from these distant times, I feel like I’m driving a time machine. I believe that there is a common area of human thoughts and ideas that connects us beyond language, and that I, as a portrayer, portray my own little world that I hope links to that of others as well. My artworks mostly originate from the notion of the ephemerality of life and an effort to connect universal themes, as old as human culture, to contemporary points of view.
Q. How did you arrive at the vibrant colour palette we see in your work?
A. It's funny, I almost always dress in black, but I can't paint unless I’m using and abusing colour. I think colourful representation best portrays the physical and the virtual world we live in today. It's not colourful with joyfulness, but represents a world that is saturated (and exhausted), much like our inner worlds.
Q. Are you subjects sometimes based on actual individuals or are they anonymous characters of your imagination?
A. Sometimes I take characters from the real world, but even then they always represent an idea, an allegory, or archetype. In the process of painting them they become fictional characters.
Q. What do you think the main challenges are facing artists today?
A. Today, same as in previous centuries, the creation of art is mostly in the service of power. Nowadays, the power lies with the art institutions, and in the majority of cases the artists they support are still highborn or otherwise privileged. There are so many artists all around the world and there are too many talented and intelligent ones that remain simply invisible. So, I think the main challenge we face is to simply resist and speak out, even if there are so many ways our enthusiasm is discouraged and the energy we invest goes to waste. We just have to keep following the heart of our art!
Q. Could you describe your work in three words?
A. Human - Colour - Melancholy