Elléna Lourens is an artist hailing from South Africa, who is definitely one to watch. Her signature style is developing in a way that is unique and bold and carries with it a weight of expression and slick pop overtones. Her recent travels to Europe, the UK and the USA have given her an insight into the world at large. FAITH XLVII and I caught up with Elléna in NYC as she completed two new street paintings before heading to Los Angeles.
Nicole Gordon: I recently saw a few of your beautifully painted murals in NYC. The color palette and subject matter was executed so beautifully well. Can you tell our audience about your new pieces here?
Elléna Lourens: Thank you. I painted these pieces back to back, and without much time to reflect between them, which I actually found to be quite beneficial, as it didn't allow me to think too much about the end result of what I'd made, until I was able to have some distance from it. I painted ‘Cor Cordium’ (the lady) in Chinatown, which is such a great area in NYC, I really enjoyed seeing the way people engaged with it - often sharing with me the way the image made them feel, which resembled the way I had felt at the time of its conception. I designed this lady at a time when I felt very alone and vulnerable, and was really needing inner strength. I painted the Bear for the daughter of a friend of mine. She was about to turn one years old at the time. I enjoy using soft/subdued tones of pink to create harsh/aggressive images, as it makes them more digestible, and somehow more relatable. I think it adds a softness to the severity which feels honest.
FAITH XLVII: Has your view of the world, via traveling, changed the way you depict your subject matter?
EL: Initially I traveled around Europe and spent a large amount of time in a small town called Totnes, this allowed me to withdraw into myself, as a consequence giving my work a more tender and subdued emotional resonance. After that, spending the majority of my time in New York and Los Angeles, simpler, monochromatic themes started to become more prominent in my work, seeming necessary as a counterbalance for a overcrowded environment.
NG: Are you influenced by your surroundings at that particular time of painting, or are your pieces thought out beforehand?
EL: It’s a mix of both, but even if I have a design prepared beforehand, the spacing and imagery will always in some way relate/reflect the environment its introduced to. I like to think of it as an act of balancing out the energy of the walls environment, benefiting the energy of the people who witness it.
FAITH: Can you briefly touch upon your own personal journey on what your art has taught you? What do you seek from your creations?
EL: I began with illustration, at a time when it felt like I had no choice but to channel my feelings into something external. Through creating I have learned about perseverance, and to feel more freely - it has allowed me to connect with emotions from when I was a kid and to being to process and work through them in a healthy and productive way. Through creation, I seek self development, a greater understanding and to learn my potential.
NG: Do you document your travels, how do you absorb the information and experiences you have?
EL: I document and process my travels/experiences through the art that I make in the different places . When looking back at an artwork that I’ve made, I can remember in detail, what I was doing at that time and the way it felt to be where I was. I would collect memorabilia if I could as I love to collect, but I currently don't have a place to store my findings.
FAITH: You have worked closely with Keya Tama, can you tell us about this creative exchange and how you see his work and yours relating to each other?
EL: Keya Tama is my closest friend. We have been creating together since the age of 17 and have grown up together both creatively and personally over the past few years. We resonate on a level which allows our art to live within the same world and be individual at the same time. I believe our personal connection creates the relationship between our work.
FAITH: Do you have aspirations, thoughts and philosophies that inspire you and carry you through to keep making art?
EL: Since I was a kid there have been certain songs, images and moments of magic, undeniable familiarity within life that seem to all have a similarity, like a vivid dream which comforted me in a grounded manner. The culmination of these things almost feel like something that can exist without me, and make it ok to create art in a space separate to myself. The emotions this collection creates almost seem owed back to the world, the pursuit of this moment/feeling is highly motivational.
NG: Where can our audience find you to learn more about both you and your work?