Inside the Studio
Favorite material to work with?
Oil on canvas and acrylic on canvas, masking tape, and simple ball pen or pencil for sketches. I don’t have a sketchbook. I draw my sketches on paper. I have a pile of sketches on my night table, in the living room and near computer.
What themes do you pursue?
I’m interested in light, form, and colour. I work in realism, as well as abstract style. I have grown to accept this dual form of self expression. Creativity most of the time can’t be put in a box with a single name on it. I paint landscapes. I love vast and empty landscapes. It’s probably because of a quest for solitude that helps me to think and reflect on things.
I want people to feel elevated emotionally when they look at my paintings. It might sound cliché, but there are so many sad and bad things happening in the world, that I refuse to contribute to more misery through my paintings.
I was not very good at algebra in school, but geometry always fascinated me. It also made sense to me. My abstract paintings are like complicated geometry tasks for me. In paintings, I build structures, erase parts of them, change them, then rebuild them. I love it! It never gets boring! I also think that I show the structured side of myself in these paintings.
How many years as an artist?
20 years. I’m originally from Riga, Latvia and I started to exhibit in galleries at the age of 18. Some said that being a kid from a family of artists helped. Looking back now, I would say it was probably the fearlessness 18 year-olds have that gave me energy and motivation to paint so much. Plus, of course, being lucky and being noticed at the right time and right place.
Where is your studio?
I work at home. It can also be a challenge since I’m a mom of two young kids (my daughter is almost 4 and my son is 1.5 years old). For an artist to be a parent can be restricting and difficult at times, but it also opens this whole new world. It has also shed a lot of light about my own upbringing in an artists’ family (both my parents were artists, as are my two sisters).
My daughter’s paintings inspire me so much. I guess every parent gushes about their kid’s drawings, but I really think that children have a perfect sense of colour and composition before they learn how to draw and paint objects. They are natural artists. And they paint because it makes them happy.
Of course, in the back of my mind, I think of all the revealing books children of artists have written about their parents- about non-existant parenting skills, always being submerged in painting, never being available emotionally, etc. I still think (and hope) that my husband and I are doing a pretty good job raising them. I don’t mind working at home. It actually motivates you to use your time for painting very wisely. I am very grateful that my husband and our nanny take the kids to the park or for the long walks so I can paint at home. Also, now I understand why my sisters and I had such an active childhood outdoors- always skateboarding, skiing, running, biking, sailing etc. — it was because one of our artist parents could stay home and paint at that time.
What was the best advice given to you as an artist?
Be true and honest with yourself. Don’t be afraid of your opinion and power. Don’t be afraid to fail. Always do the best that you can.
Art school or self-taught?
I went to classical training art school (Janis Rosenthals School of Art in Riga) from the age of 12, then from age 18 I studied at the Academy of Arts in Riga, Latvia from where I graduated with a BFA and an MFA .
In art school it was very strict, very focused training. Kids were expected to do well or they got expelled. Plus, until the late 80’s it was still the Soviet Union, so there was no joking around. Obviously, as a kid, you want to rebel against all this strict structure, which I also did. In the last grades I started painting semi-abstract paintings that some teachers did not like at all. But I also realize how lucky I was to study in the school like that. It gives you the foundation and ability to work in any style you decide. Later, in Academy of Arts, I was very lucky to be taught by the best contemporary artists of Latvia. I still miss their honest, sometimes harsh and sarcastic opinions. I loved all my teachers. Even the ones who gave me a hard time.
I was also heavily influenced by a trip I took to Paris with my mom in 1990 when I was 16 years old. We lived in Paris for a month because my mom at the time was working with an art gallery there. It was a magical bonding time with my mother, and Paris was so beautiful in December before Christmas. It was also an eye-opening experience for me — the art museums were overwhelming. I was absolutely mesmerized by the treasures of the Louvre, L’Orangerie, D’Orsay, Picasso’s house museum, Centre Pompidou etc. I was very, very inspired to paint after that.
Prefer to work with music or in silence?
What’s around the corner from your place?
It’s a residential neighbourhood, but downtown Vancouver is 15 minutes away. You can see the mountains from our windows. After 7 years in Vancouver, the mountain view still takes my breath away every time.
Where can we find you outside the studio?
During the week, I do all the stay-at-home mom stuff. I take our daughter to preschool, take our son to playgroup, I cook, I clean, and I do Bikram’s yoga once a week.
If you couldn’t be an artist, what would you do?
I would love to be an architect. Also, I would love to own a flower shop or be a gardener. I have “green thumbs”. We always have a beautiful garden on our balcony.
Favorite contemporary artist?
David Hockney and Elizabeth Peyton. I also love the work of Latvian artist Helena Heinrihsone.
If you could only have one piece of art in your life, what would it be?
Matisse’s “Reader Against a Black Background” from Centre Pompidou collection. Actually, anything from Matisse or Mark Rothko. They both have been an inspiration my whole life. There was a Cone sisters’ collection from the Baltimore Museum of Art exhibition in the Vancouver Art gallery last year. There were Matisse’s paintings, too. I was standing and looking at them absolutely mesmerized and wanted to run home as fast as I could and paint.
Who are your favorite writers?
Ernest Hemingway and Gerald Durrel.
Use anything other than paint?
Just simple pencils or ballpens for sketches and masking tape.
Is painting dead?
Not at all. I think it’s even more important now in this computer age when any image can be created with the click of the hand. Painting is this amazing summary of human practice, schooling, training, inspiration, craft, talent, emotions, passion and need to create — painting will never be dead.
Any good quality synthetic fibre brush for acrylic or oil paints..
Monet or Manet?