“The underlying stories, especially the conflicts, are much more interesting to me than mere portraiture. I want to know what’s going on, which is why I have always been interested in research. When I decided to go back to university and get a second BA and a masters degree, I chose software design, philosophy, and cognitive science rather than fine art, because research methodology fascinates me.”
Troj has long been inspired by Japanese art and culture – traditional and contemporary – evident in the strange characters and icons which populate her landscapes alongside nude renaissance figures. It would be straightforward to assimilate Troj’s work with some sort of allegory. However, the artist is open in expressing the danger in utilizing this as a tool that is often too culture-specific. Instead by breaking up classical motifs, Iva Troj introduces parallel stories in a postmodern shift, binding the inescapably contemporary with revived histories.
“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.”
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.
To see more from Iva, visit her website here!