LENA SILVA INTERVIEW FOR AL-TIBA9 MAGAZINE
Lena Silva was interviewd by the Al-Tiba9 Magazine, one of the major international arts leaders – Spanish, contemporary art, performance and fashion. You can read the full interview from the magazine issue 07 below:
Lena’s work is an expression of her wondering of human’s survival, persistence and perpetuity, a fascination with life and its meaning, its consanguinity relating directly to the beauty of the experience. Lena’s work is a gate to another world, an escape from the acrimony of daily life and the chaos of society, often giving a sense of belonging. Each piece to its own right, is extremely real yet as much insincere, a hypostasis of self. Through a vibrant pallet of colours as much as a simple and plain choice, Lena aims to elevate the feminine figure in the hope of conveying positive affirmations of an internal feeling of beauty, self-love, respect, strength, and rebirth.
First, introduce yourself to our readers. What is your history and your artistic background?
I am Lena Silva, a contemporary, figurative, classical modern artist, of Portuguese origin, resident for the majority of my life in the United Kingdom. A self-taught artist with a BSc Honours in Adult Health Sciences, the art of anatomy and physiology of human bodies. Being a lover of arts and having a profound desire to continuously evolve my own artistic skills, I am also a believer that the more established artists are, the more they have a duty to younger artists by supporting them in their journey; therefore, I am actively a patron to the Florence Academy of arts (FAA). I am a lover of simplicity as much as sophistication. I have an interest in life and its intricacies as much as human behaviours. I am proud to state, hoping this to be of inspiration to other artists – especially emerging artists, that I am an Artist, and I also actively have the privilege to facilitate education on nursing/medical grounds. Versatility is of utmost importance to me as an artist and in life in general.
My story starts in the beautiful north of Portugal, where I was born, Porto. My artistic skills have been part of me, as far as I can remember, from my tender toddler age. I remember my primary school years in Portugal. Through high school, teachers observed, encouraged, and celebrated my artistic skills – it felt so good as a child. Portuguese arts have always had an impact on my artistic development over the years. I remember being fascinated by Portuguese history, the beautiful historical buildings, inside artifacts, and the stories they tell. I love the beauty of the hand-painted tiles covering some of the historical buildings, the clean white, and the shades of blue. I come from a family with a few artists in their own rights, from marble sculpturing to classical music, ballet, and adult health sciences. Art as a child was a vehicle to put my childish thoughts into a piece of paper where I had no words possible to express otherwise. Renaissance period of arts, for a reason that I am still finding answers to why it attracts my soul so profoundly, is a passion and a strong influence on me as an artist.
Growing up, I was surrounded by adults and role models that were to play a very pivotal role in my development. Yet, though they had an awareness of my artistic skills through my early years, I was somehow suppressed by the same with their personal views and cultural beliefs of what I should or should not be, not what my person desired to follow. Early teenage years, still in Portugal, I ended up enrolling in a private college of fashion and designing, led by one amazing Portuguese fashion Designer – Maria da Conceicao G. P. Martins. Though I didn’t manage to finish my studies, it marked my whole life and my passion for the arts. I left Portugal in my late teens to chase my dreams in the royal lands of the United Kingdom, where I live and reside to this date, a place I call ‘home’. As much as one plans, no one ever knows what life brings upon us and how our plans and dreams will develop. Due to life events, I ended up pursuing another form of arts, a BSc honors in adults health and social sciences, which to this day, I still practice. For a few years, I laid my art and artistic dreams dormant to focus on the respective academic studies and my small family. Reflecting often on how fragile life is, I took courage a few years ago and decided to apply myself to my first passion in life – the arts. In 2019 I had a life event that affirmed my determination, resilience, and commitment to continue pursuing my artwork. The famous, well know, Italian art curator – Loredana Trestin, became aware of my artwork. To her delightful invitation, I exhibited my artwork for the first time via her Divulgarti Gallery, in Genova, Italy. My artistic career has taken off from that stage, continuously evolving and developing toward a dream.
What is your personal aim as an artist?
My personal aim as an artist is to have the opportunity, through my art and creative moments, to open a space for myself as much as to reach out to others. Admittedly, a space that firstly opens with the artist as means of freedom of expression and aesthetic indulgence. As human beings, it’s within our nature to keep searching, search outwardly in inwardly for those things we cannot comprehend. Search for beauty and peace that subtle our hearts, mind, and soul. Inevitably, as artists, the desire to create comes from a desire within our own life experiences and profound soul sentiments of happiness as much as traumas, our history. Each creation to its own meaning and significance and is certainly unique to its creator. Art allows profound moments, thoughts, and reflections to be expressed through paper, a blank canvas that otherwise cannot be described or put into words. I am fascinated with life and its meaning, with our human species’ behaviours. Art to me is like a fairy-tale book that only the observer can connect and unfold its personal story in direct relation to the art piece being admired. Thus, every art piece must have its first storyteller – The creator, Artist. I profoundly respect and enjoy my place as the storyteller aiming to always evoke through my artwork a sincere feeling of joy, peace, light, and harmony as much as of an insincere feeling that might steer an awkward sentiment of discomfort that almost obligates one to reflect and face the challenge of an unpleasant experience. My dream is to eventually, through my artwork, able to establish a sanctuary, a place, where others can access to therapeutically work through their personal stories using art as a gateway of expression and put into ‘words’ their internal battles via a beautiful plethora palette of colours on a plain canvas.
In your opinion, what role does the artist have in society?
It is my belief that an artist has a responsibility to be true to themselves and to those whom they ‘touch’ through their artwork. Through the centuries, mental health has been a difficult topic in our societies of different cultural backgrounds. I profoundly believe that art, and artists, provide a channel of communication to those who are otherwise short of words that struggle with their mental health. For many artists, if not for all, their creative skills are often a means to express their own life stories, mental health struggles, traumas, and dreams. Art is subjective. Open gates to insurmountable perspectives and interpretations that are often a starter, an incentive, to what might be or might not be pleasant conversations. Artists and their work often help people connect, bond over artistic discussions, a means of sharing stories. Art can give sentiments of comfort, and hope as much as being the harbingers of a particular movement or a revolution. Art is also a record of the past, history through the centuries. Art brings communities together from diverse backgrounds. Artists connect to their audiences even when they have passed away via means of their marvelous artworks left behind and their mark in history. Artists bring enhancement to life by being a form of a mediator to a more meaningful life. They give depth to human emotions. So much can be said about the role of an artist in society.
What do you hope that the public takes away from this work?
My work often leads me to the practice of allegorical portraits. Our society is changing at such a rapid pace, and there is an overwhelming digital era upon us all that is transforming many areas of our lives. The world of arts is engulfed by this digital spurt of developments in different areas, often leaving many of us with a sense of nostalgia, a yearning for what was once simple yet beautiful and skillful. There is an untouched, unseen beauty to the raw skills and work of the old Master of Arts that to this day mesmerizes millions across the world with their art pieces. My hope is, through my work, to capture the attention through detail and poetic imagination, and convey a sense of wondering and reflection that leads one into an internal world, dimension, that frees us all from the external world pressures. Convey messages that inspire conversation and elicit emotions in the viewer.
In history literature and research documents, portrait is typically defined as a representation of a specific individual. A portrait does not merely capture the features of the subject but supposedly also says something about the subject character. Not disagreeing with this definition, I, as an artist, will add that though an artist paints a portrait, the artwork not only captures the subject but also captures part of the soul and nature of its creator. Through my work, I aim to convey a sense of beauty beyond imagination, an internal joy, and light that stirs the soul. I often say, through my work, I can be anyone, anywhere, my own warrior, and imagine worlds that words otherwise cannot describe. These are elements that are needed and must be exercised in each one of us, be it at a child or adult age, as part of evolving beings.
What are the themes you pursue with your work? And what messages do you want to convey to the public?
Though a theme is separate from the subject matter, how the subject matter is arranged through colours choices is extremely important to convey an intended message or idea. Colours theories are often used to convey messages; it has been so through history, historical, cultural, and psychological meanings. For example, blue in the Renaissance period, being an expensive colour made of Azurite, was meant to represent peace and tranquillity. In this way, the tone is one of the most important tools for an artist. Colours that trigger emotions and elicit sentiments of hope, joy, life, innocence, youth, and light. To me, colour represents energy, this could be through a palette of a plethora of vibrant colours or the simplicity of one single colour that is also highly associated with scientific research and its impact on our neurological systems. These precise sentiments I aim to gift the viewer with and hopefully give an experience that won’t be forgotten. Notably, I often paint females, and I aim to elevate such figures and their roles in our world and society. Through my work, I invite the spectator to reconnect with oneself, and evoke a momentum of reflection, leading ultimately to memories of life experiences that may or may not be of joyous events, a space of rebirth and self-healing. We are all on a journey!
Let’s talk about your creative process. Where do you draw inspiration from, and how do you transfer it into your work?
As mentioned before, versatility is so important to me as an artist. Versatility is described as easily adapting to various styles and fields of endeavour. My artistic references come from the people that surround me, from strangers, my environment, and my own hypostasis. When I conceive a new project, at times, I develop in my mind a preconceived idea that I let sit in my thoughts till I can project it into the white canvas, as much as this, often I have no idea what will flow out of my hands. I love having the versatility to explore and grow through experimenting with different skills and styles, different materials. Currently, my most chosen material to work with is oils. I strongly believe that our mortality and finite experiences of life can create a deeper motivation to explore and experiment with new processes, which I thoroughly find to be most uplifting than being stuck to one technique or style.
I draw inspiration as well from my profound love of Italian Renaissance artists. As a teen, one memory that has stayed with me, the first time I came across a Leonardo Da Vinci book with the majority of his works, I stood there in awe, admiring those pages with such intent and care, trying to memorize details. When I discovered Sandro Botticelli and Michelangelo Buonarroti and many others, to this day I cannot express the emotion I felt. There is an incredible natural, simplicity of beauty to the works of these Italian renaissance masters that is almost surreal to put it in to words.
Do you like to experiment with new techniques, mediums, and materials, or do you tend to gravitate towards the same ones?
Absolutely! I have my moments and stages that I go through periods of time where I will be stuck to a particular material that I enjoy the most at that stage. In fact, currently, I have been enjoying a lot of graphite portraits. I enjoy a variety of mediums, and it is in my nature to explore and challenge my own skills through it. I find pastels a delightful material to work with, their texture particularly, be it oil or dry pastels. Watercolours are incredibly beautiful to work with and produce such subtle colours and shades. Certainly, I do enjoy graphite work, but I must admit that my most favourite medium to work with is oils. Oils can be very challenging, and that element itself is most appealing to me. I thoroughly enjoy the flexibility it gives to make changes to shapes and values, although it’s a medium that requires much study, concentration, experiment, and experience to handle it at its best, continuous learning.
Do you miss in person exhibitions, or do you find new stimulus and motivation from the shift to digital exhibitions? How did you adapt your work to the online presentations over the past two years?
The last two years have been really challenging for many professional sectors, one being the arts. Digital exhibitions have been a strong tool, and vehicle for marketing artists’ works through this worldwide Covid pandemic. It has given hope and opportunities and opened doors to many as much as it destroyed and ended many businesses and careers. However, pandemic lockdown initiated a new era for arts where many found a new way of engagement with arts also leading to a wave of new emerging artists. Moreover, arts engagement through lockdown played a key role in supporting mental health. At a time when mental health deteriorated for many, time spent on creative activities and hobbies was associated with an increase in life satisfaction and decreased in symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Adapting to digital exhibitions was almost instinctive as it was the only way to move forward and make the best of it. It brings back a fond memory, a collaboration I did twice back in 2020, with W1Curates and MakeItBlue, UK platforms that brought many artists together, established and emerging ones, to celebrate NHS heroes through arts. It was an amazing, phenomenal historical event that I am proud to have been part of it. Digital exhibitions have certainly supported my artistic career and work. However, personally, as an individual and an artist, there is nothing that compares to physical exhibitions whereby there is a completely different human face-to-face engagement that digital cannot reproduce. Therefore, indeed, I did miss that social human contact engagement, and what a delight it is to be back to it.
Do you have any upcoming shows or collaborations you are looking forward to?
Last few months, I have been taking a step back from the last few years’ fast-paced approach I adopted towards my work. I believe it is extremely important as an artist to hear our internal clock when it’s telling us to slow down. An artist must look after their well-being and take pauses from creative stages. However, I am awaiting some decisions for a few projects, including physical exhibitions and collaborations within the United Kingdom and in Europe.
For the last few months, I have been working on a project titled – HIRAETH. I took my time with it, and it has been a project that I thoroughly enjoyed it. It is a journey of reflection and rebirth utilizing minimum colours and focusing mainly on white and blue childhood memories of the most beautiful hand-painted tiles in Portugal. HIRAETH is often likened to nostalgia in English and Saudade in Portuguese but none quite close to matching exactly its meaning. The word origins are from Wales or Welsh culture. Its meaning is that of a deep longing for something, especially a place we call home or one’s physical home. HIRAETH is a sentiment of yearning, longing, wistfulness, or an earnest desire for a place we might call ‘home’ yet never was or has been ‘home’.
Finally, what are your plans for 2022 and for the future in general?
As human beings, we have a fascination with the future and planning for it, yet life is so fragile! I have no clue what the future holds but from my standpoint as an artist, I know that I will continue to create for it’s a passion. I know my work will continue to grow as I will with it as an artist and as an individual. My work will change through time, as many other artists’ work change, always aiming to our truest selves. I will continue to do exhibitions and look forward to projects and collaborations. One day at a time, evolving as an artist finding true alignment between both the artist and the woman I stand for. I decided that opportunities surround me, and they will manifest themselves; gratitude is my path, the intention is my vehicle, and enthusiasm is my compass – that is my plan!