Paula Zarina - Zemane
Born in Riga, Latvia, in 1988
2011- 2013 Art Academy of Latvia, Master of Arts degree in the Humanities, Painting department
2009 - Ecole superieure d'art de Lorient, France
2007 - 2011 Art Academy of Latvia, Bachelor of Arts degree in the Humanities, Painting department
1995 - 2007 Riga French Lyceum
2023 Possibilities, Tartu Art house, Tartu, Estonia
2021/2022 Changes, gallery MākslaXO, Riga, Latvia
2019 Bezgalības apziņas, Valmiera's Museum, Latvia
2018 One as Another, gallery Careva Contemporary, Riga, Latvia
2018 Nature's Soul, gallery Insignia, Cēsis Concert Hall, Cesis, Latvia
2017 The Still Point of the Turning World, ARSENĀLS Exhibition Hall of the Latvian National Museum of Art / Creative Studio, Riga, Latvia
2015 Awarenesses, gallery Māksla XO, Riga, Latvia
2015 The Great Coexistence, Fund's Art Needs Space (Mākslai Vajag Telpu) summerhouse gallery, Riga, Latvia
2015 Episodes, Liepaja's Museum, Liepaja, Latvia
2015 Awarenesses, Daugavpils Mark Rothko Art Center, Daugavpils, Latvia
2013 Hormone of Happiness, gallery Maksla XO, Riga, Latvia
Selected Group Exhibitions:
2023 Standpoint, curated by Daiga Rudzāte, Una Meistare, energART - Arterritory's nomadic gallery, Riga, Latvia
2023 Why Painting Works, curated by Juriaan Benschop, Kourd gallery, Athens, Greece
2022 Three of a Kind, curated by Jurriaan Benschop, Kogo gallery, Tartu, Estonia
2019 Vienna Contemporary 2019, represented by Careva gallery, Vienna, Austria
2018 Vienna Contemporary 2018, represented by Careva contemporary gallery, Vienna, Austria
2016 Contemporary Landscape, curated by Daiga Rudzāte, Old Brewery, Cēsis, Latvia
2015 Tension. The Young in Latvian Painting III, Latvian National Museum of Art, the Arsenals Exhibition Hall, Riga, Latvia (catalog)
2015 Positions Berlin 2015, represented by gallery Māksla XO, Berlin
2015 Imago Mundi – Luciano Benetton Collection, Fondazione Cini, Isola di San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice, Italy
2015 Captive Beauty in Miniature, gallery Māksla XO, Riga, Latvia
2013 Myths and Legends of Eastern Europe part 2, gallery LWW, The Netherlands, Amsterdam
2013 Pink, gallery Maksla XO, Riga, Latvia
2012 JAUNUMS! Fresh Latvian Painting, Tartu Art house, Estonia
2012 fashion and painting exhibition CABARET, Notting Hill Brasserie, London
2012 MIGRATION - exhibition of students and professors of the Art Academy of Latvia, Permanent Representation of Latvia to the EU, Brussels
2012 International art festival A. Kuindgi memorial, Contemporary Art Center of A. Kuindgi, Art Museum of A. Kuindgi, Gallery Art-Luks, Mariupole, Ukraine
2012 CHA - 2012. Roads & Tracks. Moscow International Art Salon, Moscow, Russia (catalog)
2011 Young People Icons, Gallery Art Promotion02, Germany
2011 Where am I?, The Festival of Winter in Sigulda, Latvia
2010 Urbanchildren. The Young in Latvian Painting II, Latvian National Museum of Art, the Arsenals Exhibition Hall, Riga, Latvia (catalog)
2022 Drawings for Andrejs Verhoustinskis documentary film "Nr. 105555" (National film award "Lielais Kristaps" nomination for the best short documentary)
2021 Illustrations for Janis Rubiks and Beate's Zviedre's music album "Kad es nomizojos"
2019 Participation in the Art Academy of Latvia project "LMA 100"
2017 Participation in Ilze Lasmane Brože project "SkaņuSaite in Latvia"
2015 Illustrations for a poem book "Rainis. Cilvēks"
2015 Participation in Luciano Benetton's project Imago Mundi - Contemporary Artists from Latvia
2015 Illustrations for a poem BOOK of Benno Poplianski
2014 Participation in drawing and music performance “PoetryButterfly School”, directed by Varis Klausitajs
2013 Visual design (11 paintings) for the music album of the band "The Sound Poets"
Nominations and Awards:
2023 Nomination for National film award "Lielais Kristaps" in the category "best short documentary". Andrejs Verhoustinskis documentary film "Nr. 105555".
2015 Nomination for the annual award "Kilograms kultūras" in the category "Happening of the Year". Four Exhibitions (curated by Inga Šteimane), Daugavpils Mark Rothko Art Center, Daugavpils, Latvia
2014 Cité International des Arts, Paris, France
2011 Ludolfs Liberts's Fund Stipendium for excellent success in arts education and creative work.
About to Become
On the work of Paula Zarina-Zēmane
Looking at the latest series of Paula Zarina-Zēmane, named Changes (2021), is not unlike looking at clouds shifting in the sky. Many of us have memories of summer days on the beach or in the garden, looking up and seeing the passing clouds. Some forms look familiar – they resemble the shape of a country, the head of an animal, or a giant nose. But that is just for a moment; the clouds move on, the drawing was just temporary, and imaginative. The way figuration appears in the paintings of Zarina-Zēmane is similar to this experience. The works are full of possibilities, clouds of color, so to speak, and in these shapes you can see formations coming and going, just as you can see the light changing. But nothing is fixed; movement, or, as the title says, change, is at the heart of the work. Who is in charge of these volatile compositions: is it the artist or the viewer, or should we call it chance?
The center of most paintings seems to coincide with the center of attention. There might be a tiny figure leading the viewer into the depth of a landscape. Or a white light spreading from the center. A painting with a pink background (Changes 10) resembles the form of an embryo, in this case showing undefined life developing, a half-realistic conception. A related painting (Changes 11) also has an oval shape, but shows instead a dark area in the center, like a black hole that sucks in form. It suggests an entry to a world behind. The moment of conception is an ongoing interest in the series, even though in each of the works it plays out differently. It is not the scene or figure itself that is the focus of the work, but its birth and appearance. All forms come from change, you could say, and are in the process of becoming.
The artist feels at home between figuration and abstraction. She grew up with both being available as visual vocabularies, one not better than the other, but rather complementary. In earlier series, such as Episodes and Awareness (both 2015), there was a clear landscape orientation with a horizon line, often including a human figure as well. Later on, with One as Another (2018), a series of abstract works followed, withdrawing from the world as we can name it with identifiable anchor points. And now, in the series Changes, the two come together. Elements of landscape and a bit of human figuration mix with largely abstract paintings. Occasionally, figuration shows up by accident, or, it also happens, nature produces figurative drawings. Looking at the pattern of a marble plate, a slice of wood, or a riverbed of sand, you can see shapes that evoke life.
The artist will not confirm her focus on a particular motif. She was not aiming for a vagina or a precious stone, as is suggested in Changes 12 and 13. Just as nature can offer unintentional forms of figuration, paint can, too. In this context, some painters like to say that a painting paints itself. Of course, this should not be taken literally, but a painting can tell the painter where to go once the setup is there. Where to turn the brush, where to stop and pause or mix in another color. Where to be insistent and where to hold back. The painter responds as the work unfolds, deciding for or against the image that appears, defining the motif, blending it out, or leaving it open.
On the wall in the studio, there is a reproduction of Caspar David Friedrich's painting Chalk Cliffs on Rügen (1818), showing three people in the foreground, at the seaside, looking down on white rocks. The relationship between figure and landscape was central to the German Romantic painter, a reflection of man's place in life and in nature. In the center of the painting, an endless view of the sea opens up between the rocks. Such relationships between figure, stage, and endless view can be traced in Zarina-Zēmane’s work as well, yet in a different way. Against the slow precision of Friedrich’s process, she places her fast way of painting. Recurrent in her work is a reflection on the figure in the whole of life. If people appear at all, they are usually very small, while the landscapes are grand, which is a way of showing us our place on earth. In the universe, we are just a grain of sand. Yet, being human comes with the special ability to express our situation, vision, and experience through paintings.
The paintings have the feeling of speed and movement. Most of them are indeed made quite quickly. Zarina-Zēmane’s technique of mixing colors, wet in wet, requires a certain tempo. And she is not the kind of painter to endlessly rephrase what she did, correcting the composition. There might be periods in which she does not paint, as there is no idea or incentive. But once she finds a reason to start a new series, the work goes swiftly, in a couple of sessions. Interestingly, the resulting works seem to invite reflection, slowing the viewer down, which gives the works a paradoxical quality. It combines a feeling of speed with an environment for calm and reflection. It is like hopping on a fast train, and then sitting down, enjoying the view and reflecting while the landscapes pass.
The colors and their combination define the character of each painting. Usually, the color scheme is quite contained, remaining close to nature, to what you feel in stones, in woods, in a seascape, in sunlight, in moonlight. And if the colors are bright, they are reduced in number. Two darker paintings (Changes 1 and 2) show the form of an opening or gate. Dark color does not mean that the mood is also subdued; the paint application is thin, transparent. And looking through, there is a grey-blue sky, or something similar, which co-defines the character of the work. It could be the view from a cave or an overhanging rock near the sea. The resulting arch works as an interface, connecting different worlds, even if the identities of those worlds remain in the dark. In a third, related painting (Changes 3), between two rock-like shapes, there is a white appearance, the possibility of a figure, faint and ghost-like. It was not intended, the artist insists, but it is hard not to see a presence appearing through the fog.
Zarina-Zēmane does not see painting as a direct way of putting her feelings or thoughts out onto the canvas. The work should not be taken too personally. Rather, content and experience from life flow into the paintings in an implicit way. A painting can be like the morning fog, or like a crisp autumn day at noon. Or it may have the photographic feeling of an X-ray or a negative. Impressions do not have to be spelled out or viewed through a psychological lens. Instead, in painting, meaning comes through color, movement, and atmosphere. It is about complex layers, opaque versus transparent, and light coming through or fading out. Painting is about being sensitive to colors, to seasons and changes outside, but also to mood fluctuations or mental shifts during the studio practice. The painter seems especially at home where the outside and
inside world blend or are connected. That is what her work offers us – a connection between worlds. The shape of a tree can be a trace of memory. A passing cloud, a state of mind.
-- Jurriaan Benschop, 2021