Introducing an interview with super talented artist Lara Wonderland! Lara tells Brenda about the fantastical creatures she paints, the power of the female nude, how she dreams up the magical and unique narratives in her paintings, and how water is a powerful metaphor for transformation...
ON THE NARRATIVES IN HER WORK
My work is often a kind of diary with a predominant concept of personal mythology. Humour and text are very important for me and also a good source of ideas for my works. The themes come from my life and from memories, dreams, the female experience, bodily existence, sexuality, and things that interest or irritate me: art, music, literature, and politics. During a longer occupation with a topic, researching and searching for templates in books and the internet, I imagine situations and an idea develops in the form of a drawing or Photoshop draft. While painting or drawing up soft pastel pictures onto paper, it is interesting to observe how something new develops from the original idea. In this phase, I've learned to trust my intuition. On the other hand, some works were created spontaneously as a visual wordplay due to a current situation or a protest.
In my work series "Cold Comfort” and “Cold-Blooded Loneliness,” I am trying to figure out my attraction to classic survival stories in the wilderness or a cold, unfriendly environment. And I always also like to lead the viewer onto slippery ice. I like to use metaphorical associations to understand social relationships, social behaviour, social exclusion (vs. inclusion), using a cold, unfriendly environment as a metaphor for modern society.
Sometimes my dreams do influence my paintings. I am interested in the unconscious that we can't control and that arises from a reality that we may also only invent. The artists of surrealism have always interested and fascinated me. Nonetheless, my work is the product of my artistic imagination and philosophical intuition, as well as constant self-exploration.
One dream that I have painted is the painting named "Girl in the Garden of Earthly Delights." The painting shows a young woman in a dangerously explosive situation. Despite the obvious danger, she seems happy and carefree, dancing and laughing. Obviously, the girl is unaware of the dangerous situation, and maybe that's just as well. The picture refers to growing up in a country devastated by civil war. The discovering of her own body and sexuality while at the same time growing up in such an environment: a truly explosive and dangerous situation.
ON WOMEN AND NATURE
In my works, I explore the cultural legacy and current trends that impact the links between women and nature. The cultural devaluations of natural processes as well as women and nature are the focus of my interests. I use my artwork to examine the woman's role with her knowledge of our embedding in the natural world, across from a society that is oriented towards rationalism and economic exploitation of the human and non-human world.
ON PAINTING THE NUDE FEMALE BODY
The skin is a surface on which I project existential questions. For example, shame is one of the most existential feelings of all. In my works, the nude female body is revealed as something incredibly mysterious, deep, dangerous, and empowering. The women in my pictures are naked because they want to do it, just because they can do it, do not do what is expected of them, and don't want to accept any control or restrictions. The naked woman stands for self-determination and autonomy over her own body in the face of a society that oppresses women through blame, ‘teaching a lesson,’ and through misogynist laws changes, such as the new antiabortion laws in Poland.
The naked body is celebrated in my works, and my subjects are powerfully sexualised and dominant, while eroticism and empowerment go hand in hand in a feminine fantasy world. But nudity isn't always erotically meant in my work. It is about shame and power. I refer to the so-called "Slut-shaming," which includes many things but is about embarrassing, insulting, or otherwise denigrating a girl or woman for her real or extrapolated sexual behaviour, including dressing sexually, having sexual feelings, and/or exploring and exhibiting them.
The reasons for shame, especially among women, have shifted over time: If a bare foot was previously considered offensive, today it is body-flaws that shame women. Is there a connection between shaming and the desire to restrict a particular individual or group's power? Shaming women and making them feel guilty is a powerful tool of suppressing the just now again increasingly conservative societies. The female gaze unafraid of their own sexuality is central to my work, offering up a worldview that refutes the shame and embarrassment so often experienced by women.
ON WATER AS A METAPHOR
I grew up on the Mediterranean coast and spent a lot of time being at the sea while sailing or swimming. The transformation possibilities of water are manifold; that's why I think it is simply magical and an excellent metaphor because my work is driven by themes of psychological findings and their transformation. For example, turning water into ice is a powerful metaphor.
ON THE FANTASTICAL CREATURES SHE PAINTS
The fantastic creatures in my work create a deep and mystical connection between nature, female subjectivity, and sexuality. The fantastic creatures arose unconsciously and suddenly came into my pictures. They have their own will and come and go as they please.
They represent our passions and fears, they are ancient instincts and the most powerful engine of our being, but they could also be a trap. For example, sitting high on a large animal is an expression of our need for security, and on the other hand, this is exactly what can bring us into a risky situation. In other words, naive at first sight, my pictures are actually highly subversive. They also stand for the unconscious, for what is beyond our control.
It is a feeling between fascination and discomfort that I try to investigate in my work, especially concerning human existence. The constant acceleration of processes, structural change, and the destruction of nature are just some of the things that need to be addressed.
View more of Lara's work on her instagram @_larawonderland