Capturing Emotions – Interview With Milenna Saraiva

Without a doubt, Art, especially portraiture channels, a better understanding of ourselves and others. It nudges us towards empathy, appreciation of diversity, and the grasp of emotions. From documentation to speculation, the category of portrait art is fascinating as it gives insights to the interior self. As Lucian Freud stated: ‘I think a great portrait has to do with the way it is approached … it is to do with the feeling of individuality, and the intensity of the regard and the focus on the specific’.

Dynamic and vibrant, Milenna Saraiva captures the spirit and the expressions of her sitter with a strong brush of paint in her portraits. Her strength in depicting the likeness inspired by the individual’s narrative and conviction is passionate. She pushes the age-old genre in new directions where the feelings are revealed, and the appearance utters the individual’s true essence.

Princess Diana – Artwork by Milenna Saraiva – Brazilian Visual Artist

Here is my interview with Milenna Saraiva

Jupilings: Your story- 

Milenna:  I was born in SÃO Paulo, Brazil. I grew up surrounded by musicians and Art in my family circle, so I was always stimulated to be creative. I recollect always drawing since I was very young. I was a shy child, so drawing helped me to communicate and protected me from the world. I ended up getting into dancing and then gymnastics and became an athlete at 12 years old. I used to practice for 8 hours a day, after school, and travel around the country competing with my teammates. Even then, I continued drawing on the side. When I was 17, I injured myself and decide to stop training. At 18, I decided to go to the US to study Fine Arts, and there I lived for the next 14 and a half years. Los Angeles was an excellent teacher and mother to me, but I missed my real base in Brazil and moved back to my country. I continued my education here with a post-grad degree in contemporary painting. I started to make my way into the art world here, doing all kinds of arts-related activities. One of them was live painting. Once I observed and connected with the visual performance, it changed the way I paint and my approach. It has also given me the confidence I need to loosen up and let my emotions come out with way less restrained. Today I have an art studio that I go to every day and spend at least 8 hours working. I spend my time discovering new ways to express myself through my work, painting commissions, murals, and performing live painting in all kinds of events.

Milenna Saraiva Artwork

Jupilings: What inner force shapes your artistic concepts-

Milenna: Art is the language of my thoughts. I find it easier to paint than to use words. The lights, the darks, and the layers of depth that come from playing with textures and colors give me a freedom that I cannot find in Portuguese or English. Painting is my quiet way of expressing my heritage and questioning social values. My work has become a tool for me to narrate my life experiences in parables. The paintings I make reflect my personal mythology.

Jupilings: As a portrait artist, you capture aspects of a person’s identity, likeness, and emotions. In your artwork, do you aim to portray the individuals as to how they see themselves, or how they perceive them-

Milenna: I want my portraits to give clues about the portraited people’s energy and essence. I do want them to identify with the works too. For that, I rely on trying to perfect my technique. Portraits are tricky, though, people want their portraits made still, in most cases are surprised when they see the final product. Their expectation is to see themselves as they see themselves and not how the artist sees them. The way we see ourselves is unique to ourselves. There are many versions of us, one to each different person that we meet, so it’s impossible to fulfill that desire unless you are a photo-realistic artist. And that will never interest me. In my opinion, an artwork will always have the artist’s perceptions engraved all over it.

Andre – Artwork by Milenna Saraiva

Jupilings: What are your thoughts on “portraits” to create a visual dialogue to explore social justice, sexuality, race, and many other controversial subjects-

Milenna:  I’m attracted to controversial subjects, clearly, lol. I think portraits have always been fantastic tools to create dialogues, subtle dialogues with those paying attention. Many artists have and are using imagery and symbols to tell stories, to convey hidden or explicit messages. At this moment, I’m not taking advantage of the allegories that painting offers in all its possibilities; instead, I’m investing in the emotions and expressions of the markings, brush strokes and the colors to do all the ‘talking.’ For instance, the portrait of Marielle Franco, a prominent Brazilian human rights activist, and politician, murdered in mysterious circumstances by the militia, I used a very warm color pallet, with red drips, splashes, a well-defined box behind it, and name it “Seed.” I narrated her story in an observable manner, and those paying attention will hopefully understand it. That means my Art allows me to say what I want to say, but only to those who want to hear it. If Art is a form of communication, my paintings are a language.

Marielle Franco – Artwork by Milenna Saraiva

Jupilings: What is your life motto-

Milenna: It changes a lot from time to time, depending on what’s going on. But there’s a good one I always go back to that says “Live whimsically. Love extravagantly. Dream boldly. Create daily.” 

Jupilings: How do you dial down the negative thoughts & self-doubt- 

Milenna: It’s a constant struggle to balance everything that happens in my mind. But I think I usually sort it all out by painting. Negativity and positivity are only opposite sides of the coin. As well as self-doubt and confidence. I believe that self-doubt is essential for improvement. When I’m questioning myself if something is as good as I could make it, I will keep working on it until self-doubt is gone.

Julian Assange Artwork by Milenna Saraiva

Jupilings: How do you minimize distractions when you are working-

Milenna: I don’t think I manage distractions that well. I could be way more productive If I actually do away with it. I’ve gotten used to doing many things at the same time. Working on several projects at the same time. The distraction is also an opportunity, or maybe a window, to take a moment and then return to something I was very focused on. And sometimes, this little break could give me the answer that I need to finish a piece. So, I guess I embrace them.

Jupilings: How do you deal with criticism-

Milenna: I will only accept criticism from people I respect and have more knowledge than I do. Otherwise, I ignore them completely. Sometimes you need to protect yourself from opinions since every person has a different one, you have to believe in what you believe in. There are many reasons you do what you do and how you do it, that precisely is what makes you unique.

Malala YousafzaiArtwork by Milenna Saraiva

Jupilings: Advice for aspiring artists-

Milenna: If you want to be an artist, study to be one, like a doctor studies to be a doctor. Learn every technique, learn how to draw and produce as much as you can. Only the practice of your craft will allow you to discover your true gift and unique style. Also, be organized with your works, photograph everything, and have an online portfolio since the beginning. It’s important to network, to be part of a group of people who think alike and have the same goals that you do.

Most importantly, what you love. Find out what inspires you and create based on what you love. When you do that, you will want to do it all the time, and you will never feel like you’re working. Know that not everyone will like what you do, and you’ll get many ‘no’s,’ but keep going until you get the ‘yes.’

Artwork by Milenna Saraiva

Jupilings: What is the role of Art today-

Milenna: Art has many roles, in my opinion: To entertain, to express and provoke thinking and emotions, tell a story, shock, and sometimes to simply beautify the world. To me, it’s all of it.

Artwork by Milenna Saraiva
Artwork by Milenna Saraiva

Jupiligns: What’s the best advice you’ve ever heard- 

Milenna: At Santa Monica College, my painting teacher once told me I needed to work harder if I wanted to be an artist and said that “talent isn’t enough.” When I was younger, I was reckless. I used to go out at night and was always come late to painting classes. After that day, something changed in me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interview with Jana Brike, Echoes of Self-Awareness

What happens when you achieve to liberate your mind, when you weave memories, capture purely personal feelings and unfold your experiences in colour?  Beyond doubt, beautiful imagery! Nothing is as fulfilling when you come to terms with your repressed unconscious.  Latvian pop surrealist artist, Jana Brike is the epitome of this awareness. With Masters in the Art, she transforms taboos, despairs, pleasures, desires, and vulnerabilities by channeling the energies to discover her true self and create a sublime art. Unassumingly, she explores her life story and feelings, re-creates and allows us to re-live the stimulations.

"Summer of Wild Wallflower" by Jana Brike Courtesy of Gallery House Toronto
“Summer of Wild Wallflower” by Jana Brike Courtesy of Gallery House Toronto

Unapologetically, she has put aside manuals, instructions of social behaviors and codes of hierarchical society by refusing to accept conformity without examination. In spite of that, she believes in the naivety of human soul and purity of love in an unconventional manner. She touches on existential life question, embracing with harmony and awareness her transformation much like the cosmic ocean cocooning planets and stars which continually create new forms even if they are interdependently connected and travel in similar paths.

"Echoes from the Center of the World" by Jana Brike - Gallery House Toronto
“Echoes from the Center of the World” by Jana Brike – Gallery House Toronto

I had the opportunity to meet her at Gallery House, Toronto during her exhibition and was able to have an exclusive interview. To begin with, I would like to thank Jana Brike for her generous collaboration, Belinda Chun and David Keyes from Gallery House, Toronto for curating, organizing exhibitions and facilitating this talk:

Jupilings: Jana Brike, tell us about yourself and how you got into art:

JB: Honestly, I’ve been an artist as long as I remember myself. I always was the kind of “beauty would save the world” person and knew I would do something creative. As a little child, I loved art exhibitions, ballet performances, theater, reading books, looking at book illustrations, watching movies and especially animations. It felt like these expressions transcend the human condition so beautifully. So I knew I would do something in that field. I disliked stage though and loved spending countless hours hatching and brewing something creative in the quietness of my room. So painting choice came naturally.

Jupilings: Who is your protagonist? 

JB: It is always me, in a broader sense. My work is my visual poetic auto-biography through which I look at my experiences, at what it means to be human, I change these experiences and conditions into something meaningful, they become like stages of initiation into a broader and more profound self, for myself and hopefully others.

"New Day Rising" by Jana Brike Courtesy of Gallery House Toronto
“New Day Rising” by Jana Brike Courtesy of Gallery House Toronto

Jupilings: What inner force shapes your artistic concepts:

JB: Personal truth and love. Lately, it is also something more fragile, like naked vulnerability and hope. I feel that the spear that destroys your armor and injures your hardened skin can itself break in the gentle softness of your open heart. That fierce gentleness and complete openness, I want to channel it into my work. Even if living like that in a world like ours is not yet always possible.

"Tour Guide and the Runaway Princess" by Jana Brike - Gallery House Toronto
“Tour Guide and the Runaway Princess” by Jana Brike – Gallery House Toronto

Jupilings: As an artist, what role and social responsibility you shoulder: 

JB: I don’t think it differs much from the role and social responsibility of any human being – to experience the wonder of life to the best of your ability, in the way that expresses the best version of your self. Otherwise, the role differs from artist to artist, there as many forms of visual expression as there are individual personalities of artists out there. I personally always felt that role as some peculiar form of shamanism, for me the work always involves a deeply meditative state, certain transcendental energy, even a sense of ecstasy, specific sensing of and work with the future possibilities like in dream states and more. Work with collective archetypes, with collective daydreaming like in myths. In an as aware way as I currently can. I don’t know if it’s the same for other artists.

Jupilings: What narrative transpired in your latest collection and especially “two angels in the deep dark wood”:

JB: I feel my work less like a linear narrative and more like a piece of visual poetry. Those are stories very much about intimacy – towards your own body, your soul in the first place, and then between you and another. Also, about playfulness, joy, discovery of your true nature, the pleasure of being alive.

"Two angels in deep dark" by Jana Brike Courtesy of Gallery House Toronto
“Two angels in deep dark” by Jana Brike Courtesy of Gallery House Toronto

Jupilings: You create defiant art, exploring social and cultural pressures, how do you preserve the standards of propriety while discussing and weaving your
visual narrative:

JB: I don’t think my characters defy public opinions or propriety; I feel more like they live as if there were no outside opinions or pressures to consider, as if one’s freedom and integrity and love was the only law to live by – maybe that is what gives this slightly utopian feel to my work. And I don’t think on much else while I paint, and definitely not the collective standards and expectations. If any rules guide me, it’s my personal sense of ethics and my own deeply felt experiences.

"Wildflowers on the Edge of a Cliff" by Jana Brike - Gallery House Toronto
“Wildflowers on the Edge of a Cliff” by Jana Brike – Gallery House Toronto

Jupilings: What is one undisclosed or mysterious piece of information about yourself, you would bravely share with your audience:

JB: All my important personal feelings, thoughts and human experiences are shared through my painting with no reserve and no holding back, truly. At the same time, to me, there is something numinous to the painting process, as if I transcend my trials and tribulations in an in-depth emotional sacral process while I paint, so the finished painting is a sort of personal icon to me. This process is mysterious, even to me, I know for sure that I emerge healed on the other end. The particulars of my life facts don’t matter.

"Mayday" by Jana Brike - Gallery House Toronto
“Mayday” by Jana Brike – Gallery House Toronto

Jupilings: What does women empowerment mean to you?

JB: Definitely, the first step is finding your own personal power, a broad sense of self-worth, self-love, self-respect, self-care that doesn’t require external validation. I honestly believe that the way you treat and think of yourself, the world will reflect that right back to you. How worthy of the love you consider yourself. And having this personal base foundation strong, the next step is to reach out and help the sisters, to share, support, encourage. The changes in the society do not star from outside and from the top as law as much as they grow from inside – you change yourself, spread it to the family, closest tribe, and then outwards, to the society. From the center of your heart outwards.

Dreams, more real than life sometimes.. by Jana Brike - Gallery House Toronto
Dreams, more real than life sometimes.. by Jana Brike – Gallery House Toronto

Jupilings: What are your tips about building a brand name as an artist?

JB: I think it is first a very honest work with yourself as a human, “brand name” comes much later; first, you need a very solid substance of who you truly are, something to attach that brand name to. You have to find yourself, to dare to be yourself and stay true to yourself, celebrating your uniqueness, your individual view of the world. To dare to speak about what is important to you personally, about what makes you burn, what is your bliss, what is your passion. Then comes very serious, very responsible and professional work ethic and very committed work on the necessary skillsets. And just after all that can you think of brand names. Of course, vice versa is possible, you can come up with some loud noise of a brand name to cover up the emptiness behind, and it would work for one day, but it wouldn’t give satisfaction, nor serve any worthwhile purpose with a capability to last.

"The procession" by Jana Brike - Courtesy of Gallery House Toronto
“The procession” by Jana Brike – Courtesy of Gallery House Toronto

Jupilings: What do you do to conquer fear or self-doubt:

JB: Self-doubt is also a kind of fear – that you may fail, that you won’t be good enough etc. – so it’s a question about fear.
To me, the answer is almost constant self-observation. I look at, and question every thought or emotion that rushes through me, and I question where it’s coming from, and what purpose does it serve. And in the very base, I feel there are two basic emotions, or energies – that of love, and that of fear (which further feeds anger, hate, etc.). So I question my motives, viewpoints, decisions, thoughts daily, asking myself where they come from and what I will choose today – love or fear. Every single day. All the time. I don’t think there is any other way. It’s a daily work, daily hygiene – like wash your dishes, make your bed, brush your teeth and also weed out your soul and mind and motivations and keep them clean.

"Blood Moon" by Jana Brike - Courtesy of Gallery House Toronto
“Blood Moon” by Jana Brike – Courtesy of Gallery House Toronto

Jupilings: The blockchain technology will remedy many issues linked to provenance, transparency, copyright, ownership, valuation, and authenticity in the Art Market. And indeed, it could make it easier for artists to get paid and get known. What are your thoughts about this technology which is about unconstrained collaboration, & promise of fair rewards for the artist? Would you consider using blockchain technology platform to reach global art enthusiasts? 

JB: I haven’t investigated its potentials much beyond what is commonly known about new types of currencies, but I am excited about new possibilities and growth, and this new era we live in with new kinds of sharing and exchange. These are exciting times.

Jupilings: What are the problems in the Art Market do you want these platforms to solve?

A lot of issues are already being solved by just internet, like artists complete dependence on the establishment, necessity for some person who is a mediator between viewer and artist and on whose good grace and evaluation an artist depended – it’s nearly gone, you as an artist can find your public even if you don’t have a gallery or a magazine which would publish you. Also if you stand way out and beyond what the establishment considers a value. I think it’s a big gain all in all. More will be changing I expect, so it’s good to have one’s senses keen and alert.

"The Wild Honey Girl"by Jana Brike - Gallery House Toronto
“The Wild Honey Girl”by Jana Brike – Gallery House Toronto

Jupilings:  What superpower you would like to have ? and why?

JB: I’d like to be able to fly; I think that would be a thrilling sensation.

"Into the Dark" by Jana Brike Courtesy of Gallery House Toronto
“Into the Dark” by Jana Brike Courtesy of Gallery House Toronto

Jupilings: Which movie you would have liked to be the leading actor: 

JB: Lead role in my life’s story is enough for me.

"The Deep Waters" by Jana Brike Courtesy of Gallery House Toronto
“The Deep Waters” by Jana Brike Courtesy of Gallery House Toronto

Jupilings: What is your life motto?

JB: Stay true to myself, live with an open heart, accept myself as I am – that’s the basic guideline. Although I don’t despair if some days I can’t manage this.
I have somewhat of an inner protest to things like verbal mottos; those tend to turn into self-imposed laws like a box you can’t get out of it. I live as I live, I am what I am, I have my inner compass that guides my path, and it doesn’t depend on pre-conceived mental constructs much.

Jana Brike
Jana Brike