Artist Lena Kramarić was born in Zagreb (Croatia) in 1982. She completed a two-year education programme in Expressive Arts Therapy in 2020 and is currently pursuing a Postgraduate doctoral studies (PhD) degree at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb.
Lena graduated with a Master’s degree (MA) from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb in 2008, Department of Art Education and Art History, Painting course. She completed a Graphic Design course at the Pro-anima school (2006-2007) and School of Applied Arts and Design in Zagreb (Graphic Design, Print and Drawing Department, 1997-2001).
Member of the HDLU (Croatian Association of Visual Artists), HZSU (Croatian Freelance Artists’ Association), she is currently holding a position of the Head of an Arts Organization Genijator. She has exhibited her work in 37 solo exhibitions in Croatia, Austria, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Switzerland, Malta and Brazil and has been featured in more than 24 group exhibitions and multimedia projects nationally and internationally. Kramarić pedagogical work includes many Art Workshops and projects for kids and adults.
Lena Kramarić is living and working in Dubrovnik, Croatia.
What’s your artistic background?
My hometown is Zagreb. I grew up in a northern part of the urban green belt of Zagreb, where I was surrounded by pure nature and a complete sense of freedom which I also attribute to my parents and my upbringing.
I had full support and trust of my parents as well as their encouragement to pursue an artistic education so I enrolled in the School of Applied Arts and Design. After finishing secondary school I went to Zadar University, where I studied Art History and Italian language but it lasted less than a year. However, I could write a book about that period of my life. It was a period of exploration, madness, experimenting and total freedom resulting in a number of comical situations due to my fearlessness back then. Fortunately, at that same period I realized that the right place for me was the Academy of Fine Arts, where I soon enrolled. I graduated in 2008 and a few years later I started my PhD at the same Academy in Zagreb, Croatia.
Motivated by a great desire for extra education, 2020. I have completed the two-year education programme in Expressive Arts Therapy.
What’s integral to the work of an artist?
Experimentation and inclusion of changes in work rituals, constant setting of new challenges that lead to progress, commitment, diligence and persistence and in my case motherhood, care for the family, great efforts in the direction of having an adequate work space/studio, finances in general and an attempt to balance within the artistic work and the sale of artworks (artistic strategies, marketing, social networking etc.). There are numerous other preoccupations that exist in parallel with the artistic work/creation itself.
What role does the artist have in society?
To be responsible.
To be interesting – to get people interested in art.
To be provocative – to make people think outside of the box.
In the sphere of intangible and perhaps a little Utopian point of view:
To show and offer alternatives – to have an effect on people so they can see many layers in their (unsatisfying) routines and of course: To change the world !
What themes do you pursue?
Female characters have been present in my work since the very beginning and at first glance they are the main figures. At the second, more penetrating glance, they are just the means in my work – they create the atmosphere, pass on information and stimuli from the outer world onto a canvas. They are the projection of my wishes, fears and temptations.
In titles of my works I use a play on words, ambiguous messages. Sometimes I use text, spontaneous thoughts, which complement or annul the pictorial form.
Amongst my works there are those that are obvious and easily comprehensible and yet there are those that are less easily decipherable, there are symbols and elements from the real world that surrounds us, which together make a collage of emotions, states and words.
Collage as an art technique is an integral part of my work, as well as drawing, which comes at the beginning and at the end of everything I do.
What’s your favourite art work?
I could make a selection of maybe 20-50 favorite paintings, photos from a few of them I have sent as a part of this interview.
My favorite (multimedia) project is Between us
(https://uo-genijator.com/en/projects/between-us/), created with great friends and artists Tomić and Đula, performed in 2017. This year we are creating the second part, called Between us 3.
Describe a real-life situation that inspired you?
I can not specify one but I can say in general that everyday sensations inspire me the most, the basic things we often do not notice or we take them for granted. Like meeting specific known or unknown people, interactions, gestures and behaviors, specific feelings of places, smell of the air, the flow of time, changes of the season, memories from the past and visions of the potential future. All this is somehow mixed in my mind and while I’m creating I do not think of it much but when I analyse specific artwork afterwards I discover the influence and desire behind the visible image.
What jobs have you done other than being an artist?
Long time ago … as a schoolgirl, out of my own impulses, I worked on the telephone TAROT line. That is so funny for me to remember. Afterwards almost all my (short term!) jobs are somehow connected with art. Art workshops, pedagogical work; many different kinds of projects for kids or adults, art therapy, design, illustrations, art history school teacher, work in gallery and others …..
There was never another option for me.
There were moments when I asked myself this question and thought is there something else or extra but to tell you honestly there was always only one direction and all my efforts were put in that this road goes uphill and not down …
To keep myself going.
What is an artistic outlook on life?
I can describe some conclusions from my (artistic) life. I’m a good conversational partner to myself but too strict a boss.
I often have this crazy feeling of possessing an extraordinary power and super strength which enable me to solve any problem and it also makes me feel safe. In this overall omnipotence my vocation is perfectly suitable for me because I’m very much attracted by challenges and changes of all sorts. That very certainty and omnipotence has been shaken since the day I became a mother so that since then I have been learning how to be a more responsible and consistent person together with my children but to be completely honest, it takes me a bit longer than them…
My daughter once when she was just a few years old, told me that it is not proper to say: what is your profession? Properly is to say: what have you decided to become, in your life.
I like that point of view and I can adopt it as my artistic outlook. This is a decision not an immutable destiny. And it is a luxury, more than all.
I believe artists must fight for this privilege and work on their own development.
This role that I’ve taken has many responsibilities which come in opposition to lonely work for my artistic soul. This is an intermezzo where I am trying to balance.
What memorable responses have you had to your work?
Hmm, what is the first that crosses my mind?! I remember two reactions from last summer; one lady was crying and crying when she saw my artworks and another one wrote poems about my paintings. And yes, one lady last summer came back to my studio a few times and finally asked me: Why so sad? I was trying to convince her my artworks are not sad but only tear come as an answer.
Many times public reactions are emotional for me. In such times I get amazing feedback and almost feel my work has the power to change the world around me.
What food, drink, song inspires you?
My answer today would be: sushi, red wine and You’we got the love song from Florence and the machine.
Is the artistic life lonely? What do you do to counteract it?
Absolutely. I like this artistic loneliness, it is a part of who I am. The other part of myself is living with a big family.
What do you dislike about the art world?
Sometimes it feels like it is a luxury to be an artist. Art world is sometimes very complex and for me, sometimes it feels like the wrong criteria define the quality and success itself. Question of success often can be discussed only from the personal point of view. Today you must do much more than just be an art creator. It would be amazing to have help and support in a certain thing so that artists can focus on the things for which they often do not have the time and they are important for quality and progress.
What do you dislike about your work?
I dislike when I am making compromises and that I can not (at the moment) put myself in a position to take big risks. Seems like when I need security that I am stuck in creating art like a crazy ritual which helps me personally to lift myself above everyday situations and problems.
I wish that I could give myself more time for exploring, reading and writing, traveling, visiting world famous museums and things like that which are, in my opinion, from time to time crucial for personal/artistic growth.
What do you like about your work?
I like the flow. I often work fast and in that time I do not use my head too much. These are the moments when the best things come out to the canvas.
Should art be funded?
Of course !
What role does arts funding have?
The definition of role changes from period to period and from artist to artist so I must answer what role does it have for me, today.
The most important one !
Thanks to the support, I could create less burdened than I am today. This would provide me the appropriate (studio) space and materials needed to create what I want (and plan to do) without the currently unavoidable compromises and delays.
Name three artists you’d like to be compared to.
The compliment that I often get is that my style is unique and without any comparison.
I can write to you two artists that I have recently discovered (on Instagram) and whose art I really like, but without any desire to create something similar. One is Sainer (https://www.instagram.com/sainer_etam/) and second one is one very impressive woman Caledonia Curry (https://www.instagram.com/swoonhq/).
Favourite or most inspirational place ?
Favorite place would be my hometown which I often miss and when I am there I truly feel like myself. Different thing are inspiration places and there are so so many of them. I find inspiration everywhere but it goes on super high level always when I travel somewhere, anywhere….
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Nothing impressive actually. The simple things/words which come in a right moment were crucial. This are some that cross my mind:
– it will come… (when is not the right time for something)
– take max. three days for big decision + every decision is ok, don’t hesitate when you make one and take the best from that experience
– take care for yourself (still processing this one J)
Professionally, what’s your goal?
More than anything, my goal or dream is to have a big studio and conditions for huge size paintings. I see them but I can not create them jet.
It will come… J
In the same direction but after the production of the first serial of artworks, my goal is to get exhibitions in representative galleries (nationally and abroad).
My goal is that after I accomplish my first goals to put myself in new ones, more challenging ones.
Also, my goal is to relax, make a pause when necessary and to enjoy the process but from the other side not to stuck in routine and false security.
I want to learn, that is my lifetime goal.
Along with numerous agreed projects, I am now looking forward to multimedia project Between Us (premiera will be in December this year). I have an exciting project which is on a long pause. It is making a children’s picture book with my artist friend, who writes the text, whereas my illustrations are a challenge for me. I got an invitation for an exhibition on Malta next year which I am very excited about.
Besides that, I have few other projects/exhibitions which have been delayed because of the pandemic so maybe next year will be a good time for action.
First thing for me now is to continue with a new serial of works called ‘Inner spaces’ and while working I plan to create new directions for future works, the creation of which I plan this winter.