Kolahstudio : We would be very delighted if you could possibly introduce yourself a bit more . How you tended to paint?
Maya Kulenovic : I don’t remember when I started painting, but since I know myself, I wanted to be an artist. I have never questioned that. I was told by my mother that I started painting when I was about two years old, and that my first drawings were recognizable as faces and animals. Some of my first paintings were those of mythological creatures, battles and heroes, and animals of the wild… I was the only child in the family,and both of my parents worked, so I spent a lot of my time reading and drawing. I remember that I had an art history book I used to look at before I could read it, and was absolutely ‘obsessed’ with classical Greek sculptures, especially one called a ‘Dying Gaul’. I got my first set of oil paints for my 12th birthday, and I loved everything about it- the smell, intensity, consistency. I spent many hours copying from classical sculptures and paintings, and even today, classical imagery is the language I understand the best.
Kolahstudio : Your portraits(Faces) seem to be a more consistent selection, further
more they include more precise and inspiring images, comparing your other series. Do you agree? I think your Faces involve the element of harmony that can also be seen in your other series, Build.However such
consistency cannot be observed in ,for example, your “landscape”series. Do you agree?
Maya :These several series of paintings that you are talking about, are only seemingly different. Their spirit is the same. All of my paintings are about a state of transition, when a thing or a person is at the edgeand the change is imminent. In portraits, most of the subjects areyoung adults and children, whose physical and mental presence is still raw and unfinished; and the events that take place in their lives at this point will form them into what they will remain for the rest of their existence. Landscapes are affected by either human intervention and rendered barren, or they are left to the effects of weather, sun and water. Buildings reflect the way civilization deteriorates when the focus of a society moves from creation to consumption and destruction;eventually, nature takes over the cement and stone, and the cycle can continue… Still lives- animals- are metaphorical… for me they summarize the relationships between people, culture, values, greed,consumption and the ripple effect these have on nature, other species,and our own mind.
You are right, though, in the sense that there is a consistency of scale and composition in ‘faces’ that is not apparent in other series;but that may also be because of the subject itself. Faces differ from each other much less than two buildings, or two landscapes.
Kolahstudio : How do you paint? What are your most frequently used tools?
Maya : I usually use oil on canvas. This medium to me has the most organic,
raw and immediate quality than any other medium. My technique itself is rather minimalist, in the sense that I focus on every mark I make and try to keep it as simple as possible – I never paint any element on the painting just for the sake of decoration or esthetics. I usually start painting in a transparent neutral brown, and then build it up with thin layers of transparent, atmospheric colours. In this way of painting you end up with complex surface with colours that are nearly monochrome, yet vibrant and alive.
Kolahstudio : Do you earn a living out of painting? If so, would “Maya Kulenovic” give up painting one day?
Maya : I do earn a living with my art. However, this doesn’t have anything to do with how much and why I paint. Money or recognition are not factors in this. If I ever stop painting, the reason will be that I either have no more ideas, or that I found a better medium to express them. But I doubt that this will happen.
Kolahstudio : What is your idea about “Francis Bacon”?
Maya : Bacon is one of the rare artists whose work actually affects the viewer’s nervous system and brain chemistry. And he does it with such directness and with a total lack of consideration for the viewer.Especially when you see his works in real life, it is very hard not to be affected by them- and I mean not only emotionally, but on a gut,instinctive level. This is what I admire in a painting the most- a direct, immediate visual impact, which is cross- cultural and does not need to be explained in lengthy self-important art statements.Actually, one of my favourite quotations by an artist come from Bacon:‘If you can talk about it, why paint it?’
Kolahstudio : As you said , your are influenced by ” Rembrandt” in some aspects of painting techniques. Are there any other artists affecting your outlook or the visual body you have discovered?
Maya : Rembrandt is probably the most obvious influence, as I got familiar with his work so young, and was so moved by it even then, that it got stuck in my memory as a foundation of a way of seeing, Other major art figures I was in love with were Velasquez, Bosch, Vermeer, Goya,Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon. Today I get more inspiration from war photography, music, film, philosophy, martial arts, than from contemporary painting. Although there are many artists whose work I love, such as Peter Doig, Odd Nerdrum, Helnwein, Ken Curry.
Kolahstudio : I think it would be of great interest to our readers to get acquainted with your ideas about The World Today, as a painter.what doyou think about This world and The Life?
Maya : This is such a big question, I’m not sure where to begin. I think that the world is constantly improving – although we always see some temporary lapses, the human race is becoming more compassionate and more concerned with the well- beings of others. Even compared with 50 years ago, there has been a huge progress in our understanding of human and animal rights, and environmental protection. I think, though, that
people today are lacking the sense of Awe. I don’t mean this in a religious sense, but in the sense of being able to be moved almost to tears by something bigger than ourselves – whether it is a landscape, a bird in flight, a poem, architectural masterpiece or a work of art.And, as I see it, people lacking the ability for Awe, naturally try to reach satisfaction by achieving some object of greed- money,possessions, achievements, even love affairs- and this is where our problems lie , especially here in the West. People focus on what they want to have as a result of their work, as opposed to finding pleasure in the work itself.
The other big problem is the desperate need of people to identify themselves as members of a group – family, party, nation, religion. Unfortunately, the only way they can do this is by perceiving everyone else as outsiders, or even enemies. This makes it very easy for figures in power to manipulate their people by misusing religious or nationalidentity to achieve their personal goals and fixations. I find the manipulation of people’s sense of spirituality especially offensive. No religion calls for violence and lack of reason, but for understanding,compassion, surrender and loss of ego, yet most religious authorities today use it for political purposes. The greatest danger here is in equating a country’s politics with their entire population or religion;the fact is that most of the ordinary people don’t have much to do with the decisions of their governments or big corporations – either for the reasons of ignorance, or disinterest, fear manipulation or they simply don’t have a say in any decision making. Labeling an entire nation as an enemy, is always the beginning of a war mentality– and in any war both sides loose.There is a lot of focus on differences between cultures and people rather than on similarities; however, the truth is that as one of theeffects of globalization, there is often more similarities between people from different cultural and religious backgrounds, who happen to belong to the same profession, than to two people from the same country whose personal professions and interests are different. I think that the role of artists in this is to really act as a bridge between cultures, and to help spread understanding between them – and also to be very critical towards the lies and manipulations of their governments, to maintain the sanity of their societies through the focus on reason, deep and complete feeling, honesty, compassion and devotion to their work.