Interview with Lara Julian

Living and working in London, conceptual artist Lara Julian is exploring the materiality of colour in her large-scale textural painting.  Inspired by the collection of the V&A, sculpture and drawings to modern city landscape, new technologies applied in art and design, she works with an architectural and geometrical focus.

You were born in Russia, tell me about your early life and childhood.

I was born and raised in Siberia, my father was an artist, my mother was an art historian and my grandmother was a poet, so I grew up in a very creative environment. I began drawing at the age of three or four.  I loved drawing and was an artistic child but as I began my schooling I stopped drawing and painting and focused more on academic work.

The way that art was taught in Russian schools didn’t suit my style.  It was very prescriptive and rigid and didn’t allow me to express myself authentically. From a very young age, I wanted to express myself through my art and this took on a more abstract form.  The Russian system didn’t allow for this and so I stopped drawing and painting.

When did you start painting again and why?

I took my first degree in International Relations and went into finance.  I had a very successful career in banking but felt it stifled my creativity.  I began painting again in 2009 and left banking a few years later to be a full time artist.

Where did you study and why?

I moved to New York and studied at the New York Art Academy.  I lived and worked in New York for several years before moving to London to study at the Slade School of Art.  I now live and work in London and continue to have a strong affinity with the Slade.  I am an active Alumni and lecture to new students.  I would like to be able to inspire them and help them develop their work.

To understand more about your life as an artist, can you talk about your inspiration? Which artists inspire you and what are your influences?

I grew up in a very creative and academic environment and I was lucky that we had a huge library of art history books.
My favourite artist, even as a little girl, was Hieronymus Bosch and his painting “The Garden of Earthy Delights” because of his great attention to detail and his sarcastic paradigm of society. I would study it for hours and was inspired by every tiny figure having a distinct shape, its own place and integrated into a very complex landscape.

My current influences are Bridget Riley, Sonia Delaunay, Frank Stella and Piero Dorazio. I would say it is the whole History of Art that inspires me and my inspiration shifts from Old Masters to Impressionism to Conceptual Art.
For me, art and architecture reflects the development of civilization. I admire Dome of Santa Maria del Fiore by Filippo Brunelleschi, it’s lines and geometrical clarity of a drawing as well as Norman Forster and Ollafur Eliasson modern buildings that allow more freedom of expression and scale.

Before discussing your work, I’d like to ask you how you see yourself as an artist?

I see myself as a conceptual artist.
A conceptual artist breaks the rules, exploring a new style, defines a new genre, gives form to new thoughts and life to new ideas, finds a new definition of art, which influences and challenges future generations.

Do you see yourself as a commercial artist?

This is an interesting question as for me, it’s not about being commercial, it’s about being ‘selective’ and ‘selected’.

Some galleries are very selective in their choice of artists but they are not necessarily commercial. Of course, we can all think of commercial artists like Koons or Emin and then there are artists who are working purely for creativity but their work is perhaps too difficult to sell.

There has to be a balance of creativity and commercialism.  I want to create art that I am able to sell and comfortable for people to life with.

How do you work: techniques, medium, processes?

I am an academic artist. I like to ground my work in theory and texts.
In particular I study the relationship between objects by means of light. For example how the light of a room connects different objects and how this relationship changes during the day.

My most recent inspiration is Leonardo Da Vinci notebooks with diagrams on the theory of weights and balances. I believe that drawing is the basis for all art. Drawing is something quite distinct and all the great artists began their work from a drawing. My paintings start with an idea and a drawing. From there I work with acrylics on canvas.  Acrylics are fast drying which allow me to build up layers quickly and my canvases are usually quite large: typically two meter by two meter.

I work in my studio in Mayfair and I found this historical part of London very inspiring.  Also I draw my inspiration from music and opera. I often work listening to classical and modern composers such as Bach and Maurice Ravel. I believe that music plays an essential part of my painting process. Music and color vibrate for me on the canvas. When I paint, I cannot distinguish between what I hear and what I see, it’s like a blending of the senses.

Tell me about your current work.

My current body of work devoted to materiality of color.  I was previously interested in creating a sense of movement by using a spiral pattern and now my work is linear and I’d like to experiment more with linear movement. I work with very narrow brushes and long thin brushstrokes to build up layers of pigment to make a color emerge from the canvas bringing the sense of movement and flow.

The work began with the idea of energy. Everything is vibrating in harmony: from the sounds to the color and objects, everything has a frequency. Everything is matter and colour is a matter reflecting the light. I’m painting the energy I see around me and also the energy and frequencies of colours.

We all perceive the outline of the body and this is reflected in my more classical figurative paintings. My current work is conceptual, where each brushstroke has it’s own place and order to bring a colour out of pigment and to build a harmony, balance and rhythm of a painting. It’s a very well organized symphony of elements and brushstrokes.

Can you give an example?

My Violet painting is the violet color that emerges from different shades of gray, blue and pink pigments blended with a textural cast and arranged on the canvas with certain intensity and thickness. It’s not a violet color itself but a unique logical layout of certain pigments that build up a balanced composition and arranged as a melody of violet color to make it sound and resonate with a viewer.

How do you think the viewer sees your painting?

My work is a balanced symphony of color, texture and composition . It’s a language beyond words: something can be seen and unseen and existing at the same moment of time. I speak to the duality of existence as a matter and energy, creating a language that anyone can connect with and contemplate.

Are you influenced by other contemporary artists?

I am making my own statement with my work and it’s important to understand other contemporary artists and their work too. There is a resonance between artists and I feel supported rather than influenced by other artists.

Do you see London as a centre of creativity and is that why you choose to work here?

I believe that it is not the places that grace the men, but men the places.
London, Roma and Paris are the most inspiring places to me. My family lives in Catalonia since 2002, so I’m very fortunate to spend time traveling to the most historical places of Europe.

Finally, do you have any advice that you would give to yourself five years ago?

“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”

Gospel of Matthew.