Art as a way of centering oneself – Interview with artist Ioana Lupașcu
Ioana Lupașcu is a multi disciplinary artist with a background in architecture. She moved to London after finishing university and she’s been working with various mediums and formats ever since.
Among her projects I want to mention her beautiful contribution to Walala x Play, a labyrinthine network of corridors and enclosed spaces built to encourage play and interaction, where she worked alongside Camille Walala. Add to that her beautiful film photographs and her abstract drawings and paintings and you’ll get a glimpse into the type of things she does.
What follows is an extract of a conversation we had a little while ago which I enjoyed tremendously, mostly because of its candidness and sincerity.
Ioana, what does art mean to you?
I find art such an elusive word sometimes. I never really thought of myself as doing art. I still don’t. I associate it with a form of release, a way of centering oneself. I think art is an experience you have that can take many forms and you can never really define it for somebody else, you can just identify what it means to you and allow it to change.
Same with creativity. I like saying creative or making rather than art. I like the word making a lot because art feels like you have to have something to be able to do it. Making just feels like anybody can do it. I like this idea of art being very accessible and it doesn’t imply having a skill or being able to do a specific something. I think you can make art even if you’re not an artistic person, so I try to move away from that and just acknowledge having processes of being creative and making. For me it’s less about a result, it’s more about the process.
Can you talk a little more about the process?
I don’t think we get enough insight on how long this process is for people (to achieve something good) and we don’t talk enough about how many hundred drawings you’re doing that are not really what you want to be. On social media we mostly showcase the final point and I think that’s changing a little bit now, there’s a sort of trend of being more honest about it and showing the first sketches and how rough they are.
I feel it’s unhealthy to wish to be an overnight success, it’s not sustainable. It’s so important to realise you have to build a sustainable practice and not look towards an end result which has a finite image. You work on the process of growing or developing yourself and that growth has highlight moments, in which maybe you get recognition or you get successful whether it’s for your family or for your community or on a bigger scale, but they’re just highlights and not the finishing point. It’s like in spring you get a few blossoms, you have beautiful flowers, go back into hibernation, and then the next season comes.
Right. I actually have a reminder on my wall with this thing Debbie Millman said: “Expect anything worthwhile to take a long time”. How are you with being patient, especially today, when we want everything to happen so fast?
Yeah, everything is immediate – the way we answer our phones, the way we respond to messages, the way we’re expected to be available at all times. It’s so fast paced. I still struggle with it and sometimes expect my first drawing to be amazing. Sometimes it’s just the exercise, just doing it.
Now I have so much appreciation for the habit of doing things and it’s hard, I’m not always good at it. You get stuck and say it’s not happening and you really want it to happen and you get blocked then you let go. You have to give yourself that space and it is very difficult to achieve it. I think we need to surround ourselves with people who acknowledge that and can support us, that’s why being part of a community or having good friends to remind you that is so important.
At the same time it’s not the final destination, right? Maybe that’s another thing that’s hard to see after you finish university, it’s not like you’re going to finish and end up this massive artist the next day. It’s a process and you never really find the finishing point, you discover new pathways, new places and new hobbies and things you’re good at, and you need to allow it to happen. It’s hard to allow yourself that space.
We should talk more about sustainable practices and this constant looking after your mental health and looking after the way you approach things and being ok with rejection and allowing yourself space.
I still find rejection difficult and sometimes I choose things that are a little bit easier because I’m afraid of that rejection. It takes so long to be comfortable with it. I’m still figuring out why it has so much power over me.
Maybe because we identify ourselves with our work.
I have this idea that life has multiple pillars. So one pillar is your family, another is your friends, another one is maybe financial security, another one your professional self, another one your interior self and so on. There can be as many pillars as you want. There’s this multiple part of yourself and then when something happens that’s kind of a rejection to who you are is rarely going to be on all fronts, most likely it’s going to be on one pillar and if it’s a rejection in the terms of “Oh, you’re shit at this” it’s most likely about the other person and not about you.
Let’s take an example: someone says “This project isn’t something I think is very good”. It shouldn’t be about the I, it should be something like “This project isn’t working because …” and that’s fine, it’s ok not to see on the same front, but it’s also because we don’t know how to offer constructive criticism or say this isn’t for me.
So thinking in terms of these pillars sometimes helps because if your pillars collapse, it’s always good to have enough to balance yourself. It’s always good to have that awareness that you are multiple versions, multiple people, you have multiple identities.
Another important conversation that I’ve been much more aware of is around mental health and it’s a conversation that I don’t think I ever had in Romania and here I’m surrounded by people who, luckily, are open to talk about it. So it allowed me to be open and to understand that a lot about finding your truth in whatever you make is being vulnerable and allowing to discover whatever you have within that you might or might not like is a really big thing, a big part of my life now.
Being aware that you have ups and downs, you have shitty days and sometimes things don’t work out and having a support system is really important and it’s about living with a little bit more integrity. And you don’t have to have a million people around you, it just means you need to be aware of the things that you need in your life to balance yourself. You can have all of that and still make shitty art one day and it’s fine, it’s a process.
I had this revelation at some point recently that my history and my identity and where I grew up doesn’t fully define me, it’s a part of me, but not the whole of me. The more you open up and allow yourself to trust people and people to trust you, you build up more intimate relationships. It’s nice to know you can share and know that so many of us go through similar versions of the same thing. We wouldn’t have been aware of it if we wouldn’t be vulnerable and put our fears out there whether they’re about body positivity, mental health, struggling with parents or a partner or whatever it is. There’s a lot more commonality in our suffering that we want to admit.
What was one of those fears for you?
I think for me is mostly a fear of people painting a singular picture of me. And being aware and knowing ourselves is hard work, but it has to be a priority. We have to talk about it, even with our friends, and it doesn’t mean you have to talk every day about your life struggles, but it’s nice to open that channel and know that if the time comes you have the space to be in a bad place and it’s okay. But anyway I feel like most things that are worth it are hard work.
What inspires you at the moment?
My latest quest and maybe the thing I’m most curious about now is movement and dance. I’ve always been interested in dance and I did a little bit when I was younger, but I think there’s just something about release and the form of movement that I quite like. We hold our bodies in very strict positions so much of the time, we have an inherent behaviour of being and then movement and creative movement and different forms of dance allow you to break from that habitual postures of everyday life. So at the beginning of the year I did this course called Gaga. It’s a form of dance developed by an israeli choreographer, Ohad Naharin, as a training for dancers before shows and it focuses on awareness on yourself. What I really enjoy about it is that it’s not about how it looks, but how it feels.
Did it inspire you in any way in your work?
Probably I think the last series of paintings I did, which I really love, was around the same time and it is a series I associate with dance movement and creative movement. I always like to say that the lines of my drawings are like a form of dance on a piece of paper because they try to expand and find their space in the corners of the paper as I do with my body within the corners of the room.
See more of Ioana’s work on: