Iva Troj

Born in: Plovdiv, Bulgaria (Swedish National)

Lives in: Brighton, United Kingdom

Media: Painting, Drawing

Describe your work in 3 words: Ever-changing, breaking, building

See More Work:  www.ivatroj.com

Sorry To See You Go - Oil on canvas 130 x 58 cm

"As a child, I was taught to question one-dimensional narratives, which grew from a survival technique to a technology of the artistic self. That is probably why I often focus on the normalization of dysfunctional discourses, from the victimization of the female gender to religious dogma and racism."

What themes does your work involve?
The underlying stories, especially the conflicts, are much more interesting to me than mere portraiture. I want to know what’s going on, which is why I have always been interested in research. When I went back to university for a second BA and a Master's, I chose software design, philosophy, and cognitive science rather than fine art, because science fascinates me. My themes are almost always about taking things apart and putting them back together and for that you need to look outside yourself.
Describe your creative process.
I sketch a lot before starting a piece. It's an ongoing thing. The painting technique I mostly use resembles the Flemish method of layering thin veneers of paint between layers of varnish. I am no fan of white canvases so I often prepare my canvases in advance either using pastels and ink or just diluted acrylics. After the underpainting is done I paint a lighter layer with acrylics and finish with a couple of thicker layers using oils, occasionally acrylics, and sometimes gold leaf and ink.
What influences your work? What inspires you? Why do you make art?
Traditional elements are central to my body of work. It’s not a need to keep the style ”traditional”, but the way I speak. I grew up in a communist country. We sang songs about machines' superiority to man and praised modernity while destroying nature and killing creativity and the human spirit with it. At the same time, my summers were spent in the mountains with my grandmother who had hanging gardens, thousand stories and no TV. My head is full of dichotomies. Art is how I make sense of it all.
What is good art? What makes a piece of art great?
There are two inseparable aspects of the art process that really need to coexist and function together - ideology and skill. Ideology without skill is silly and skill without ideology is empty. The day you find a way to get those two working as a whole is the day you become an artist. And I'm allergic to self-indulgent art. Do we really need one more artist who is only looking to himself for answers? We have a patriarchy to dismantle and a world to save. You can't do that looking at your navel.
What is the role of the artist today?
What is the role of the human today? There is a saying in my family: "If you don't have food on your table, you have one problem. If you have food on your table, you have thousand problems." Artists should be our culture's caretakers and not self-serving, standing on the top of the hill looking down monarchs. We have to stop following the cult of the individual s.c. "genius". It's the ecology of talent that raises us so we need to nurture it. The art industry has killed most of it already.
The Last Swan Oil on canvas 53 x 71 cm
As I Stand So Sad - Oil on canvas 53 x 80 cm
What Gives - Oil on canvas


Iva Troj received the 2nd Place Award in the CFA Artist of the Year 2019 Contest. © CFA Press ∙ Images are courtesy of the artist

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