We are so excited to introduce the lovely artist Luana Asiata to April & the Bear. Luana creates abstract interpretations through intimate drawings and paint studies that focus on identity and belonging, triggered by memories from her travels, nature and people. Her collection that lands in A+TB this season takes its inspiration from the wild energy of the Irish coast and the inspiring landscape of her husband’s hometown Dungarvan. We caught up with Luana to chat all things 2020, who her biggest inspiration is and what the future holds.
Can you tell us about your beautiful pieces and when this journey began for you?
I studied painting at Elam School of Fine Arts in New Zealand many moons ago and took a detour into design. For a number of years I worked as a freelance creative designer/art director in publishing and for corporate companies working on a range of designs from film, fashion, food to agriculture – it was a real mix. Moving to London from NZ was both exciting and scary and a way of dealing with the change was to seek out places and connect with people that reminded me of home. So, when I travelled round Ireland it felt like I was back in NZ. I had been documenting and drawing in my art journal for years, with no real end goal but for my own enjoyment.
My plan was to do art full time and to test the waters I showed my work at art fairs, organised pop-up events with friends and other artists, and exhibited my paintings in group art shows. I had built up some confidence and decided at the beginning of 2020 to focus on my art.
I signed up to exhibit at Top Drawer, the UK’s leading international design-led event. I created a body of work based on my travels round Ireland, NZ and the South of France. The result was a collection of bold abstract prints inspired by the places I visited and the people. I showcased this collection at Top Drawer and won an award which was a wonderful start to the year. It was a slow evolving journey that when I think about it, began when I left my home in NZ.
Where do you get your inspiration from for your work?
There is inspiration in everything that surrounds us. Our natural environment is forever changing and capturing tiny nuggets of its beauty on paper or canvas is a celebration of its existence and is something I treasure.
This has been a life changing year for everyone – how has it affected your work and what inspires you?
This year has been full of uncertainty and the impact of Covid19 on people’s livelihood and mental health was immense. After Top Drawer, I was trying to get as much exposure and work with retailers, but I knew they were struggling and the market was slowly grinding to a halt, plus it didn’t feel right doing the whole sales push so I took a step back. The country went into lockdown and within a few months my world had shrunk. As a way of staying sane I created a collection of works inspired by the Irish landscape in my husband’s hometown, Dungarvan. I drew from memory and created abstract landscapes with a focus on solitude, space and isolation.
I joined the ‘Artists Support Pledge’, the brainchild of artist Matthew Burrows to help artists affected by the economic downturn. A simple and brilliant idea: Artists who commit to the pledge post images of a work that’s for sale, for no more than £200, and each time their sales reach £1,000 they promise to buy another artist’s work for £200. Being part of this community of artists that supported each other at this time was inspiring. I discovered so many fantastic artists through the pledge and bought and sold pieces.
What has been your career highlight so far?
When I decided to leave my full-time job and start my own design business. It meant that I could work with different brands, set my own hours and it gave me time to explore ways to get my artwork seen. One way was to exhibit at Top Drawer, I came runner up in the ‘Spotted’ awards which showcases new up and coming designers to watch. This led to my pop-up event at West Elm flagship store in London and UK/Irish retailers stocking my work.
Can you talk us through your design process?
At art school we were encouraged to keep a journal as a way of documenting our journey as artists, fast forward a few decades and I’m still using that process of collating, writing down my thoughts, doodling and keeping bits and pieces from my travels, old train tickets, pressed flowers, postcards, foreign bank notes – a crazy mix of things. Nearly all of my work starts off as a sketch, I’ll look through my journal, catalogue of photos that I’ve taken, see a word I’ve scribbled down on a page, colour combinations I like, a line my kids have drawn, and that might spark an idea for the beginnings of a piece. Most of my drawings are in preparation for a painting either in oils or acrylics. I experiment using different mediums, watercolours, oil pastels, the kids crayons, collage, inks – it’s a great way to explore an idea. Different objects, photos and words trigger a memory or a feeling and I try to interpret that in my work so that when I stand in front of the finished painting or drawing it takes me back to that memory. I’m drawn to the abstract and see the world in shapes, colour and form. Music plays a big part and can influence the way I paint or draw, rhythmically it sets a pace and I visualise colour vibrations. I’m a big fan of Kandinskys work and love his quote ‘musical notes and chords that visually “sing” together’. Abstract art creates an inner world, you never really know where it will take you or what the end result will be – I guess that’s part of the fun, everyone has their own interpretation.
Have you any advice for budding artists who would like to get their work seen?
Have confidence in yourself and believe in your own worth as an artist. Create work that you love and don’t be afraid to share it. Artists often spend long periods of time on their own creating, so it’s really important to remember to network and connect with other like-minded people, this can lead to interesting collaborations, group shows and opportunities. Be proactive, approach retailers, apply to open calls, organise your own exhibition virtual or in your home or studio. A great way to test the market and engage with the public is to exhibit at fairs or organise your own pop-up event with some friends. Try different approaches, be kind and remember to smile.
What is the best piece of advice you have been given so far?
Create every single day. Dedicate time to your practice even if it’s only 20 minutes. Find the time to focus on what you love and do it daily.
Who is your biggest inspiration?
It would have to be my family, friends and colleagues, they are a constant source of inspiration. Connecting with people leads to stories about places, adventures, exploring the world, it’s those shared experiences and an appreciation of the beauty that surrounds us that is inspiring for me.
What does the future hold for you and your work?
To do more paintings, exhibit my work in a gallery, more interior design collaboration – I recently worked on a project with @violetjamesstudio, my architect friend Jon (@yardarchitects) had recommended me to his client and was interested in working with a local artist to create/curate a small collection of work for his residential show flat in London, it was a fun project and it gave me a little glimpse into the world of interior design, I’d like to do more of them. I’d love to work with indie home interior brands, launch a ceramics collection and design a fashion line for kids – a lot really.
Favourite book – Moon and the Sixpence
Favourite film – Strangers on a train
Favourite place to visit – Tate Modern Gallery
Favourite artist – Kandinsky
I am most happy when…. Family excluded – when I am painting or in an art gallery
Pop by our website www.aprilandthebear.com to see Luana’s collection!