Wednesday, 24 October 2018


When I think of ecology, I imagine various life forces interacting in a complex dynamic system. To represent this vision I challenged myself by using medium that was new to me – an ipad and pencil along with the 'Procreate' App. Through a combination of brushes, among them the Luminance ones in different colours, the Fine Hair (in the Touchups section), and the Ink Bleed, as well as a lot of layer-rearranging, I finally arrived at this image.

The book is available for preorder from Elsevier here.

Will be posting more of my digital paintings soon!

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Interview – Interdisciplinary Creative Practices MScR Edinburgh College of Art

A while ago my college interviewed me to represent the programme at university I just graduated from, the Masters of Science by Research in Interdisciplinary Creative Practices. They took it down now, but since it was so representative not only of the programme but also of my approach to portraiture I thought I'd post it here. 

Lana Svirejeva-Hopkins, Interdisciplinary Creative Practices - MSc by Research: Using egg tempera to create idiorrhythmic portraits

Studying Interdisciplinary Creative Practices has been a great experience. As an artist today, I feel you are not bound to a single medium, as you used to be. In the same way, one can also draw on the theories and concepts of other disciplines in order to express what one wants to say. In this sense I am very fortunate that my supervisor, Sophia Lycouris, is a scholar of dance which has had a profound influence on the theoretical background of my current work.

I, myself, am a classically trained portrait painter and thus have literally seen thousands of portraits over the years and also painted quite a few naturalistic portraits myself. In my training and in the history of portraiture the focus has always been on a strict physical resemblance between the portrait and its subject. Yet, there are some very good portraits that do not resemble their subject particularly well and there are some bad portraits that perfectly resemble the sitter. This seeming paradox has inspired me to develop a new paradigm of portrait painting, since resemblance, quite clearly, is not the determinant of what is and is not a good portrait.

The problem of this kind of portraiture is that it aims to capture, in some way, the ‘essence’ of the sitter. By focusing on resemblance it equates a person’s appearance with who they are and what they are like. If we think about this in terms of the face (usually occupying ‘centre stage’ in a portrait) the most lasting feature of the face is the underlying structure of the skull, which makes for a rather morbid kind of art. In turning to dance I am trying to get away from what I call ‘the resemblance paradigm’. It often feels like people ignore dance as an area of serious study, because it does not seem to lend itself to conceptualisation and were it not for Sophia I would not have thought of going along this route.

But through her I was made aware of the pre-platonic concept of rhythm that is now at the heart of my theory. Plato defined rhythm as cadence, i.e. strong regular repeated pattern of movement or sound. Yet, the pre-platonic ‘rhythmōs’ is the way a non-fixed form has of changing or flowing over an observed period of time. So instead of focusing on one impression or sitting, I try to capture the changes an individual undergoes over the course of a few days or months, years. To this end it is important that I do not interfere with how they would behave normally in order to get an impression of what they are like. In a recent paper I identified portrait sessions that force the subject to sit for a long time as one of the sources of bad portraiture.

Just as important as it is for the subject not to feel constrained or forced to sit still for hours, it is also important for me as an artist to not feel constrained in my work. The classical painter-sitter relationship, however, puts a lot of constraints on both, the painter and the sitter and thus produces greatly varying results. Sometimes it works really well because the model enjoys sitting and the artist enjoys painting, but more often than not there is a palpable tension that makes itself felt in the final result.

My current project does not focus on portraits of individuals, it is more fruitfully thought of as a community of characters that all stand in relation to each other. While only partly being based on ‘real’ people, I used my new method to capture these characters' rhythms. Based on memories and my imagination I painted in layers that represent moments of unfixed, fluidly changing forms, much like dancers. Through layering the characters gain depth and through repeating elements and using the same colours throughout the individual pieces come to relate to each other and begin to inhabit a small world of their own.

In order to enable a quick and expressive painting style that allows for quick layering I chose egg-tempera as a medium for this project. One has to mix up the paint before every painting session: One separates the egg white from the yolk, punctures the yolk to only use the liquid inside, and then mixes it with some pigment and white wine. Along with the particular painterly qualities of the medium, the sensuality of this mixing process chimes well with the often sexual overtones of my paintings. 

I would highly recommend my programme of study to anyone seeking to start developing an ethics and a theoretical grounding for their artistic practice. Thinking about both of these has become a driving factor in creatively developing my work in unprecedented ways.

Thursday, 30 August 2018

Rose Person

The person in this painting is a Deleuzian Body without Organs, despite having the form of an Echorché (skinned anatomical figure) Рtheir entire being is directed towards dissolving into the gesture of smelling the roses. Thus poised on the edge of dissolution every fibre of their being exists only to smell the roses and is thus pure action itself. This is why the lower parts of their body have more form than the upper parts, which are more painterly than form-based.

Sunday, 26 August 2018


The plaster cast face you see in this drawing was taken from life, and yet, the opaque, solid plaster and its similarity to a death mask serve to contrast the gestural rest of the figure, drawn freely in veils of loose pigment. Through this gesture I set the typically mimetic portrait (consisting here in the fixity of the cast's facial features) against one based on idiorhythmic mimesis (the drawn body and its surroundings): The latter is unapologetically fragmented, an excerpt from a process of dissolution, whereas the former attempts to freeze time and capture both the specificity of facial features and concomitantly an essence to be extracted from them (in a rather phrenological manner). The cast thereby creates an uncanny simulacrum, while the person whom it purports to capture in its exacting manner stops resembling themselves immediately. They are crucified for the sake of being made into an icon fit for posterity to see. As such, this piece, laid at the center of the exhibition space, represents the unavoidable gordian knot at the heart of my project. Partly petrified and partly living rhythm, it is hard to tell which way the struggle is moving.