Meet the Artist; an interview with Alicia Zimnickas, by Claire McMahon-Lee
Cambridge Open Studios brings members of the public into artists studios. It is a great opportunity to for them to pop into the workshops of some of the artists, craftspeople and designer-makers working throughout Cambridgeshire and to see their exhibitions. The artists open their studios to people so that they can see something they don’t see every day. It gives the chance for artists to show their work to the community, whether it be sculpture, jewellery making, glass making or painting. The Open Studios, which run each July every year, provide a wonderful opportunity to for people looking to buy art. You can find you perfect piece without the gallery fees and you can meet the artists that produce the work, it adds meaning to the art that you are buying because you find out what inspires them, you learn about what techniques they use and the process behind creating the work.
There are a whole range of artists of all ages, some are more experienced, some are new. They open up their workshops for the weekends during the month of July. They are based all over Cambridge, just look for the Cambridge Open Studios yellow sign and you will find one close by to you when you are travelling around Cambridge.
One of the artists taking part is Alicia Zimnickas. She began exhibiting her paintings in her own exhibitions the early 1990’s and has shown her work on numerous countries including Canada, UK, France, Sweden, Poland and Lithuania. Her paintings can be found throughout the world in private collections, prestigious hotels (including the Marriott and the Hilton), and on the walls of various companies, such as Novartis, Mastercard, Allianz, the Lithuanian Embassy in Poland and the Presidential Palace in Lithuania. She is also an Interior Designer and runs her own business in Cambridge, she has been running this for 4 years. If you would like to look at her website it is www.az-interiors.co.uk.
I interviewed Alicia to find out what makes her tick when creating her work and she answered me these questions.
Your paintings involve nature, the seasons and how they inspire you. When did you first experience this inspiration and what influenced you to paint topics of nature?
Its nothing really new because I have always been inspired by nature, and this is not something that has appeared recently in my paintings. I look at nature more as a fragmented bit and then put it on a canvas through my filter, just a fragmented part of nature, maybe reeds or leaves or trees. I was thinking by myself once why does nature always hold me or grab me? It ignites something in me. I was trying to find an answer to this very question and then I thought; “its probably because of the place where I used to spend my childhood” which is quite a rural area full of greenery, forests, lakes. It’s in Poland, near the Lithuanian border, where I spent my childhood. It’s one of the first things I experienced in my life. Nature is important to me, but also in a way; light. Because the same tree in a different light is completely transformed, I want to catch that light form. I am an artist who likes to paint light. Nature is the starting point, but light is also my subject. I can put on the canvas the atmosphere that the light provides, its not just putting a tree on a canvas but showing that the sun is shining, or that it’s the evening, you can see what time of day it is, it sets the atmosphere.
How do you use colour, is it to evoke particular atmospheres when looking at nature?
I do it automatically, I know when to use a colour to make it look calming but I don’t have to think about it too much. I don’t look, see something then paint it, I collect those memories of the scene I have looked at as visual images, or I take photos, or I travel somewhere different and collect more colours to paint. The paintings are all about atmosphere, they are very impressionist.
How did you feel letting people into your house to see your work during the open studios? Is it difficult to show your work at that level because sometimes it can be such a personal thing when you put your all into your work?
For me this is very natural and I think, in a way, I need to show my work. This makes sense. I like to hear peoples opinions, it motivates me. Letting people into my house I don’t have a problem with. As also I use my house as my work studio, so I do sometimes have clients and coming to see my work so my mentality is that it’s an open house. I think in general I am a hospitable studio, for instance I run a little café so when people and friends turn up I can make them a coffee. I almost think sometimes it’s the other way round, it’s not difficult for me nut it’s more difficult for members of the public. They can find it difficult going into other peoples houses.
What opportunities do you think Cambridge Open Studios gives to people?
First of all, access to the artists studios and home, and I think artists always have very interesting homes. Meeting the artists so you can understand the work much better. But also, from the artists point of view, you have amazing visitors come and you have some amazing conversations and you bond with the people. Some people come every year and they see new things I have done since their last visit. If those regular people didn’t come I would be thinking to myself “Hmm I wonder where they are? I wonder why they didn’t come?”
When you crate art does the subject dictate what you paint or is there a concept you think of first and before you paint?
There is always a concept first, it would be even some sketches beforehand, or something like a photo. Maybe some colour samples to see what colour to paint, but then I have a vision and an idea before I touch the canvas, but then it’s a question of whether I will get that effect that I want once I start. Maybe not? I may not be very happy about that but, anyway, there is always a concept, yes. It gives a structure to what you want to achieve. It also depends on the day I am having and on the mood I am in as to how the final result turns out. Although I can only paint in a good mood!
How do you feel when you paint?
I love it. I find that everything around me disappears, I get so involved, I have to set an alarm when I paint, if I have to go and pick up the kids, because I get completely involved. My ordinary day has so many constraints, in art I am free.
What would you call your style?
I always really struggle with that, I think it’s some kind of impressionist style, but I can’t say. It’s any kind of landscape that I paint. They are not realistic but not abstract. I don’t have the answer to that I’m afraid.
What is your best work?
There are some paintings I feel that there are some best pieces chosen by the members of the public during open studio, there are two pieces, they got the most votes. They are; ‘The Pine Forest’ this was sold and now has a lovely new home in Cambridge. ‘Up to the Sky’ that was the second favourite and is awaiting to be exhibited in London in October.
Painting on the left: ‘The Pine Forest’, on the right: ‘Up to the Sky’
Do other artists inspire you?
Of course, probably the list of who influences me changes sometimes, its not always the same artists that inspires me, but probably if I had to choose a top three it would be William Turner, he was a genius with how he painted light. Then David Hockney inspires me to feel more brave about using bright colours, and I was very touched seeing his retrospective exhibition in the Tate Britain a few months ago. And the third one is a Lithuanian artist called Ciurlionis. I put him in third place because I don’t look back that much but he was the first artists who I used to go and see in the museum on a regular basis as a child. He definitely had a lot of influence on me. Again; I love how he paints light and how he shows it.