Last Sunday we introduced you to Pia Fleckenstein and her alternative realitiy. This week, we got the chance to interview painter Clara-Lane Lens, who is originally from Belgium. She now lives in Berlin and has been working on a series of portraits called Genderless Series for almost 3 years. It is a series in which Clara-Lane mainly focuses on one person, their personality, way of moving and behaving, however, leaves their gender to be questioned.
A part of her series will be shown at her solo exhibition at the 254 Forest in Belgium at the end of this month. The ideas around the exhibition include some walls covered with bathroom tiles, since it is a recurring subject in Clara-Lane works. The painter and the creative collective want to create a more intimate atmosphere, connected to the people on the paintings that are part of the exhibition.
TITLE: Clara, can you give us a brief introduction to yourself and tell us what you are currently working on?
Clara: I’m Clara-Lane Lens (23), born in Brussels, painter. Before I left Berlin to build up my exhibition in Brussels I started working on a portrait of a friend. Based on a screenshot I took during a face timecall.
TITLE: You moved to Berlin one and a half years ago. Is there anything you miss about your home country Belgium?
Clara: Some of the people, and my family, obviously. And of course I miss certain aspects of Brussels and Ghent, they both are wonderful cities. But since I am naturally quite a melancholic person I try to force myself not to long for the past even more.
TITLE: Are there any artists you look up to, or that have influenced your work?
Clara: Marlene Dumas and Elizabeth Peyton are the two first artists that pop into my mind. But also Aly Helyer, Peter Doig, Edouard Manet, Pierre Bonnard, Per Kirkerby, Jenna Gribbon, Roger Raveel, Lucian Freud, Utagawa Hiroshige, Alice Neel, Jennifer Packer, Claire Tabouret, Kaye Donachie,… I could go on for a while.
TITLE: What kind of a painter are you? Which materials do you prefer to use and how would you describe your style?
Clara: I find it unnatural to categorise painters, but if I really had to answer I would probably just say that I am currently working figuratively and with oil paint on linen canvas, focussing mainly on people and intimate living spaces.
TITLE: How does your usual working progress look like? How and at what time of the day do you start? Do you listen to music? Did it look any different during the pandemic?
Clara: To be very honest with you, absolutely nothing has changed about my working routine since the lockdown has started. Except maybe that instead of drinking wine in a bar once in a while after work, I do it at home. I have no idea whether so little change is a good or a bad thing. I usually start working in the late morning, until I start to get really hungry at night. I listen to music constantly while working. So much so that I even start associating painting and music. By that I mean that I have trouble painting without listening to something. Whether that is a podcast or an album. Silence can be very loud.
TITLE: You are going to exhibit some of your pieces in Belgium at the end of the month. How did this come about? Was it difficult to organise the exhibition during lockdown?
Clara: The solo exhibition had been planned for over a year, but was postponed two times until we finally got to set a fixed date at the end of March. Once that was established I could start planning all the practical aspects (transporting the works from Berlin to Brussels etc). So yes, it is absolutely more of a challenge to organise a public event during the lockdown, but in a way it makes it more rewarding near the end.
TITLE: How did you choose the pictures for the exhibition? Do you have favourites?
Clara: All the works are made in Berlin. It goes from the very first I made when arriving in my studio in Friedrichshain one and a half years ago to the last one I made two weeks ago before having to send them out. So I made a selection of the last year and a half. I definitely have favourites, secretly. But I would prefer to let the viewers decide for themselves without me influencing their view.
TITLE: Your current work and the exhibition show people in intimate and emotional scenarios? Why is that and how does your model affect your work?
Clara: It’s somehow what I’ve always been intrigued by. Where and when someone gets intimate about themselves, when someone opens up. There’s always a specific moment when a mood changes and you feel that the person is giving you a glimpse of a rare part of themselves. That is mostly the moment I wait for when photographing them. (As I paint from photographs). In that way the portrayed person already has an influence on my work without even being painted yet.
TITLE: In your opinion, what makes a painting art?
Clara: That is a very difficult question to me since we all know anything can be, or become art. Especially now. Art doesn’t have to belong to certain aesthetic principles anymore, art doesn’t require beauty nor pleasingness like it used to. Painting has always been considered art since it is one of the oldest forms of expression, so it would be obvious that it still is in current times. If you’d ask me when a painting becomes interesting or catches my attention, that is a different topic, a subjective one, which could lead to a very long discussion. But something being art is more defined by the creator and whether it was meant to be seen as an art piece or not.
TITLE: What does painting mean to you? Is it a passion, a job, therapy?
Clara: I literally have no idea what else I would do.