As a child, I was taught to question one-dimensional narratives, which grew from a survival technique to a development technology of the artistic self. The foe I so often portray almost always represents the normalization of one or more dysfunctional discourses, such as the victimization of the female gender, religious dogma and racial inequality.

Like many artists, I discuss personal experiences. At the same time, I strive to escape the self, an urge that partially stems from crossing borders in the last years of the cold war. Living through cultural starvation in my childhood has made me restless and hungry for honest creativity with an almost childlike curiosity. In that sense, nothing I discuss is strictly personal. Sexual abuse, violence, trauma… I may present an unusual perspective on these topics stemming from the self, but only as an outset. The work needs to keep changing, relive itself, challenge its own conformity.

There is a point in every artist’s career when one is tempted to choose a tested and proven path. I’m constantly trying to resist this temptation by containing the “paths” in series where I can explore a motif or a theme without succumbing to the comforts of one visual style. The artists that I look up to for inspiration have one thing in common – constant renewal.

Traditional elements are very central to my body of work. It’s not so much a need to keep the style ”traditional”, but rather the way I speak. I grew up in a communist country. We sang songs about machines being superior to man and praised modernity while destroying nature and killing creativity and the human spirit with it. At the same time, my summers were spent in the mountains with my grandmother who had hanging gardens, thousand stories and no TV. These two realities are inseparable in my mind.

The painting technique I mostly use resembles the Flemish method of layering thin veneers of paint between layers of varnish. I start with pencils, pastels and varnish. After that I paint a lighter layer with acrylics and finish with a couple of thicker layers using a combination of mediums, often acrylics and oils, but sometimes gold leaf and inks.


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Photography by Dave Shrimpton @dave_shrimpton
SPOTLIGHT

An Interview with Iva Troj

Monday, 3 February 2020 Interview R.Olivares

Award-winning contemporary artist Iva Troj creates fine art pieces which seamlessly merge Renaissance aesthetics and techniques with postmodern praxis. Her intensely detailed images achieve astonishing tricks of light and shade, as practiced by the great masters while incorporating dreamlike scenes which challenge cultural norms. Exhausted by a society in which women often feel vulnerable, threatened, or powerless, Troj recasts the fairer sex as powerful creatures, freed from the oppressive male gaze and placed within Edenic settings where they can revel in their own beauty and potential. Blending abstraction with figuration, the natural world with the urban landscape, dream with reality, Troj’s breathtakingly beautiful artworks achieve something truly unique, both in terms of aesthetics and concept.

“In many ways, I am what you get when you throw ancient Sakar Mountain wisdom failing to adapt to totalitarian ideas right into the pits of post-industrial capitalism. My grandmother’s village used to be in the no man’s land surrounding the Turkish and Greek/Bulgarian border during the communist regime. It used to be totally isolated from the industrial world and there was no school or a library (or pollution). And somehow my grandma knew what Wabi-sabi was. I asked her about it and she told me a story about a lion tamer. Beauty is ”imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete,” she said. I am not sure how I came to find the clues to Japanese culture. She never talked about China or Japan, “intimacy”, or appreciation of the ”ingenuous integrity of natural objects”. That was not how she spoke. Instead of using fancy words she showed me things and explained their beauty to me. Her house and her garden were full of evidence of beautiful imperfection.”

In 2016, Troj was named Contemporary Art Excellence Artist of the Year and, in 2013, was the winner of the Towry Best of East England Award. She has exhibited both nationally and internationally and her work is in collections in the UK, France, Ireland, Sweden, Norway, Germany, China, United States and Japan.

There is a point in every artist’s career when one is tempted to choose a tested and proven path. I’m constantly trying to resist this temptation by containing the “paths” in series where I can explore a motif or a theme without succumbing to the comforts of one visual style. The artists that I look up to for inspiration have one thing in common – constant renewal.

Iva Troj
With Anything But Love . Acrylic, Oil, Gold Leaf on Canvas. Framed Ornate Wooden Frame . 61 X 91 cm

What are the major themes you pursue in your work?

I tend to address the normalization of dysfunctional discourses in my work: heteronormativity, colonialism, religious dogma, racism to name a few. When I first started working in the UK, I did several series where I played with narratives from classic motifs, often "misplacing" or replacing representations of heteronormativity. I've become more direct recently. That said, my former agent used to tell me off for ”explaining myself all the time” and told me that I ”should let the art speak for itself”. I assume that it does ”speak for itself” in a lot of ways because of how I treat beauty - I let it be as unbridled and as direct as it can be. But talking about the stories behind the artwork makes it personal and that provides often unexpected opportunities to connect with people. My Grandma would often say ”You can’t polish a turd”. As a child, I thought that she meant ugly things cannot become beautiful but later discovered the true meaning of that old saying. I realized that the stories were in the centre, and not the medium. If you start with a story that is one-sided or stupid, you end up failing, it doesn’t matter how successful your career is.

How did you first get interested in your medium, and what draws you to it specifically?

People keep telling me that there is something in my work that makes them pause, think and feel. That said, there have been people who criticize my views or my technique (which has failed me a few times in the past). But nobody has had reasons to criticize the stories I tell because I’ve lived through them myself and because I’ve managed to find a way of narrating that is both personal and relatable, which is a difficult combination. I want to keep doing that and get better at it. It’s what motivates me. So, simply put, if my chosen medium allows me to do that then I’ll keep at it.


All The Animals II . Acrylic, Oil, Gold Leaf on Canvas. Framed Ornate Wooden Frame . 53 x 71 cm

How has your style and practice changed over the years?

I was trained in traditional art and design techniques but I also have a science degree. I do believe science and art go hand in hand. To answer your question... my practice has become less about me and more about the ecology of talent that raises us all. Nobody needs another artist that gazes at his navel all day. We have a planet to save and a patriarchy to dismantle.

That said, I work 10-13 hours a day, 7 days a week and I am always anxious about my work. I find beauty wherever I go because I was trained to see it at an early age. I don’t believe capitalism is the right system for us humans and I lose a lot of sleep worrying about the stupidity infused cultural and societal decay happening right now.

Being anxious and overthinking things has been a major obstacle in my practice in the past, but I’ve learnt to use my own faulty wiring to my advantage, which you may say is also my ”style”. And I do that regardless of what disturbed evil crawls out of the woodwork. Believe me, there are some proper trolls out there and they are not kidding around. Just a couple of months ago a journalist writing an article about me discovered an international ring that has been selling fakes of my work for years. I won’t be surprised if it turned out that the people responsible are the same that write nasty comments on my wall or the blackmailer I was dealing with last year. Distancing myself from all this has sort of become my way of managing my practice. I’m open about my failures and I post a lot of sketches and drawings so that people can see how I think and how I do my work.

Can you walk us through your process? Do you begin with a sketch, or do you just jump in? How long do you spend on one work? How do you know when it is finished?

My sketches are sometimes more detailed than my paintings or drawings. I take my time with them and it does happen that painting takes less time and effort that doing the sketching and underpainting part. I am no fan of white canvases so I prepare the surface before I start applying the first painting layers. I use pastels, colored gesso, charcoal or even spray paint to do that.


My painting technique resembles the Flemish method of layering thin veneers of paint between layers of varnish. I start with pencils, pastels and varnish. After that I paint a lighter layer with acrylics and finish with a couple of thicker layers using a combination of mediums, often acrylics and oils, but sometimes gold leaf and inks.

Sometimes it takes me years to finish a piece. Especially if it’s a complicated layering technique like the ”double painting” thing I’ve been doing lately when I paint a transparent layer with a different motif on top of a finished (or semi-finished) painting. The first piece I did using that technique was titled ”A Man” and it took 3 years to complete.

No Man . Acrylic, Oil, Gold Leaf on Canvas. Mounted on wood and framed . 31 x 31 cm

What do you think about the new place in Collector Masters?

It looks great and I love that it’s not static but rather moves and interacts with you... it sort of waves you in and says ”welcome” in a fun way without being fuzzy or unclear, which is something extremely rare as most such ”platforms” are stiff and streamlined. I really like it. It has a cinematic quality to it.

Prefer to work with music or in silence?

Both. I’m funny about music though. I can really enjoy a good beat even if the rest of the tune is boring. I can listen to rare recordings of 70s electronica for the clarity, @tokimonsta because it’s so masterfully produced, @babymetal_jpn because... common, it’s just genius, @e_e_ EverythingEverything’s debut album ”Man Alive” because I like every tune on that album (and because I have a crush on their drummer Mike Spearman), @bibio_artist because of "A tout à l’heure" (let’s face it, it’s the best thing under the sun) and @londongrammar for ”Hell To The liars”, ”Help” and ”Bones and Ribbons”.


Dancer IV . Pastel, Paint, Acrylic, Gold Leaf, Pencil on Canvas. Framed Dark Glazed Wooden Frame . 60 x 90 cm

If you couldn’t be an artist, what would you do?

I’ve been other things for most of my adult life. I’ve enjoyed the hell out of being a designer and a design manager but I think scientist/researcher is probably the best answer to that question. I could imagine changing careers even.

What is your next exhibition?

I have an exhibit in Richmond, IL, USA in March and another one in Australia in August - September. Will keep you all posted on Instagram @ivatroj when I’ve finished the selected pieces.


The Ceiling . Acrylic, Oil, Gold Leaf on Canvas. Mounted on wood and framed . 42 x 66 cm


About Iva Troj

Award-winning contemporary artist Iva Troj creates fine art pieces which seamlessly merge Renaissance aesthetics and techniques with postmodern praxis. Her intensely detailed images achieve astonishing tricks of light and shade, as practiced by the great masters while incorporating dreamlike scenes which challenge cultural norms.

Collector Masters
Education

Master's Degree - Information Strategy, Cognitive Science, Psychology at University of Borås, Sweden.

BA, Media & Culture Studies at University of Södertörn, Stockholm, SWE.

Design. 3D Graphics, Learning & Theatre Studies at University of Stockholm, SWE.

Design Management at Berghs School of Communication, Stockholm, SWE.

Printmaking at CCAC, CA, USA.

Fine Art at T.L. College of The Arts. Less.


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