Q&A with Iva Troj

"Whenever I'm asked to describe what I do I end up thinking of something my son said when he was 8 years old. He was eavesdropping on me rehearsing a lecture and asked about some of the terms. After listening to me he said: "so... art is about breaking things in the right places". My jaw dropped."

Milk - Pastels, acrylics, oil, gold leaf 71 x 48 in.
Born in: United Kingdom
Lives in: Henfield 
Education:  Masters from Borås University in Sweden (Psychology, Design & Business Strategy); BA from Södertörn University in Stockholm, Sweden (Design, Aesthetic Learning & Communication); BA from Stockholm University, Sweden (3D modeling, Theatre Studies, Learning); Junior College Degree from T.L. Fine Arts School in Plovdiv, BG (Painting, Graphic Arts, Sculpture, Anatomy)
Media:  Painting
Describe your work in 3 words: Open, deep, contradictory
See More Work:  www.ivatroj.com
Water Under No Bridge - Pastels, acrylics, oil 78 x 55 in.
CFA: What themes does your work deal with?
I.T.: I grew up during the Cold War and when I moved to Sweden as a young mother I started devouring Western culture. I'm genuinely glad that I did because it allowed me to see life and art as something beyond the misogyny and dogma I grew up with. I would say, most of my ideas come from that clash between the Sakar Mountain wisdom of my grandmother and the raw capitalist reality that I was thrown into when I moved to California and later to Sweden. These two worlds collided and made me.
CFA: Describe your creative process.
I.T.: I started developing this very personal painting technique ca 10 years ago. I use photos that I take or images from photo shoots that I've done. I sketch most of my work on the computer and then I paint. My technique 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.
CFA: What influences your art? What inspires you? Why do you make art?
I.T.: I was taught to question conventional truths at an early age so whatever I see that makes me look at things from a different angle, inspires me. The artists that I look up to have one thing in common - constant renewal. Keeping your work close and personal, and unique is important. But, experimenting and exploring new ideas is equally important. The way I see it, the day you find a way to keep these two things from becoming mutually exclusive, that's the day you become a professional artist.
CFA: What is art? What makes a piece of art great?
I.T.: The way I see it there are two vital components to art, philosophy, and skill. Skill without philosophy seems dull to me. Philosophy without skill can be stiff at its best, and grotesque at its worst. Throughout my artistic life, I have been learning how to use the first to express the latter. I grew up wanting to change the stories in classical art, especially the way women were portrayed and that's quite a goal. Artwork that goes deep and aims high usually captivates my imagination.
CFA: What is the role of the artist today?
I.T.: A lot of paintings have started with me trying to understand the death of my brother Troj and ended up with a comment on the impossibility of grief in Western culture. Other paintings have tackled girlhood and what it means to be a woman. Making art is a very direct way of communicating whatever aha moments and wisdom you may possess to whoever might be in the right mindset to respond. And if you can somehow find a way to rise above mediocrity then you might have a butterfly effect moment.

"When I was growing up I got to hear: "You are the only person in the history of the world that does what you do in the way that you do it. It's up to you to make it count." That scared me greatly because it meant that I had to accept this immense responsibility and prepare to be held accountable. Nevertheless, I do think that every child needs to hear those words. It makes sense to strive for greatness. Why are you here otherwise?"

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This interview was published by Circle Foundation for the Arts © CFA Press ∙ Images are courtesy of the artist