Interview : Zane Sutra, Fashionista artist

Latvian Visual Artist Zane Sutra, who lives in Wexford, will be exhibited at both The National Gallery here and in The Art Rooms in London in the next few months. But first is her upcoming show in SolArt Gallery on October 6th.

Q. Tell me a little bit about your background in Riga and why you came to Ireland?

Zane :  I was lucky to be born in Latvia. It is one of the most beautiful small countries in the world, with a population of just under 2 million. Every third person is an artist, musician, writer or related to the arts. And every second one sings!

I was raised in the Opera house, witnessing every rehearsal and performance. This is where the world of magic and illusions opened its door for me. My happy childhood was made of loving people, angels, butterflies, snowflakes, and swimming at our amazing house on the lakeside. I always lived in two worlds, - the imaginary and the real.

When I was 12, my parents sent me to the most exclusive art school at the time, where we had 4 art related subjects every day. For me it was pure heaven. The teachers thought me about freedom and gave me my first pairs of wings to fly. After 4 years of the Applied Arts in secondary school I did 3 yrs in the Academy of Arts but didn’t graduate. Instead I got married and had 4 beautiful children.

I stored my wings safely so just a few years ago, when I needed to fly again, I found them! Last year under supervision of such great mentors as Oliver Comerford and Anthony Lyttle, I earned my BA (hons) in Arts from IT Carlow Wexford School of Art and Design.

Q. How did your subject matter come about? What are your interests etc?

Zane : When I paint, I enter into another mysterious space. It’s magic and divine. There is no time, no belonging, no analysis of any other worldly categories, no rational reasoning for my subject matter. My paintings are collaged stories of unconscious places visited. I am becoming a medium. Painted elements are codes belonging to my personal history: smoke, darkness, water.. It is about sexuality, celebrity and mortality.

I like to play around with the theatrical and magic in the fashion shoots. There is the work of so many outstanding people behind every fashion image - designers, stylists, hairdressers, make-up artists, photographers…
The principle character in my paintings and the subject matter employed is my daughter Teodora. She is far away now, travelling around the world all year and I miss her very much. So I paint her from the photographs. This is probably the way I deal with my emotions. However they are not simply paintings of Teodora. In my canvases she stops being Teodora. 

She is taken out of the time, with no power of speech; her image is employed as a general tool. If the viewer can see there more than just a beautiful woman I’m happy. If the viewer can read the darkness and the misery side of our experiences, I’m more than happy.

Q. Have you favourite cultural figures or fashion designers or symbols?

Zane : My love for fashion is great for many reasons. I like the magic and fun of it. As my daughter Teodora is a well known fashion model, I am very lucky to be allowed to use her fashion images for my paintings and to incorporate her beautiful world in my artwork.
Also books inspire me a lot. After being introduced to the French cultural theorists like Foucault and Deleuze, my belief system has changed forever. They opened door after door in my thinking. I start to understand the crossroads in my life.

Recently I bought two interview books with Jean Baudrillard. His way of seeing links of good and evil, art and anti-art, power of loss and rebirth… was all so challenging and so beautiful! It fascinates, it gives us the freedom of interpretation. When it comes to translating the ideas into the language of painting, all I need is to get rid of the seatbelts and fly.

Q. Tell us about your upcoming show?

Zane :  My upcoming exhibition in The Athena Room at  the SolArt gallery on the 6th of October is a collection of paintings created in the last few months. In my work at this show you can recognise elements of astonishing outfits from Clair Garvey’s and Umit Kutluk’s collections, incorporating the beautiful work of hairdressers Kazumi and Jenni Crawford, images from Emily Quinn, Leon Farrell, Anita Sadowska, Kip Carroll and many more. All Irish superstars, all absolutely outstanding and inspirational to my work!

This show is about collective morals, obsessions, and the consequences. We live in a time when so many dreadfully shocking things happen around us, and when catastrophic disasters and tragic deaths ruin people’s lives. So many killed, so many left grieving.

It keeps me conscious of the mental confrontation of life and death, grace and ruthlessness, attraction and brutality, innocence and crime, which are inherent in our pre-apocalyptic world. They point to the misleading illusory imaginations that control human obsessions and phobias through historical disasters.

The exhibition title ‘I’m just standing here’ is borrowed from one of my paintings. I was working during the week of the Grenfell Tower tragic fire in London. It also repeats Martin Luther’s famous words with which he ended his speech to Emperor Charles V in 1521: “Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God”…

Q. What are your future plans?

Zane : A few days ago I got an email announcing that I’m shortlisted for the Hennessy Portrait Prize. My lucky painting ‘Dun Laoghaire Fox’, (owned by one of the finest art galleries), will be displayed in the National Art Gallery in November. That’s really big!

The next important thing happens in January. I am one of the 70 artists selected by The Art Rooms in London to exhibit my work. It is an amazing opportunity to enter into the world of famous galleries and private collectors. Absolutely incredible! I am very grateful to be selected.

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