About the Artist: Lea Rose Kara
Blue Nude: When did your artistic journey begin - how did you discover your love of the arts?
Lea Rose Kara: My earliest memory of being creative was when I was three years old. I used to play with my food and my favourite victim was my grandmother’s soup. Whenever she cooked her famous Ukrainian Borsht, which is made from beetroot and has a lovely magenta colour, I instinctively put both of my hands into the bowl before doodling on the wall next to me. My mum was not pleased as she was the one who had to constantly repaint the walls! After my ‘food – drawing – wall’ phase I moved to drawing on the underneath of our kitchen table, creating my own little world. Quite fitting really, because now as an artist, part of my studio life revolves around my kitchen where I use the stove to dye my wool with the wonderful pigments obtained from collected berries and flowers and I use the kitchen table to construct some of my dyed wool pieces.
Growing up, I was always creative, and I loved dancing, singing, and playing the piano. But I didn’t truly connect with art until I was in my late teens. Around the age of seventeen, when I had to start picking my GCSEs and A-levels, I began to become truly passionate about art and understood that art could be more than what I was seeing in art history books. It then took me a further two years until I stepped outside my comfort zone of tonal realistic drawing and dived into the wonderful world of sculpture by learning how to weld and work with bronze casting. When I started making sculpture it felt like I was in the right place – I had finally come home.
BN: What artists are currently inspiring you?
LRK: My practice is inspired by different artists, scientists, architects, and designers. However, right now I am paying close attention to two female artists: Leonora Carrington who was in the Surrealism Beyond Borders exhibition at Tate Modern last year, and Anika Yi whose work I first saw at the Venice Biennale in 2019. I discovered both artists by experiencing their artworks in the flesh, before
reading about their practices. Both artists touched me in very different ways: Leonora Carrington’s surreal paintings contain mystery and psychological questioning, which creates an enveloping intimate experience between the viewer and the paintings. Whereas with Anika Yi’s Biologizing the Machine (tentacular trouble) installation, which contained hanging bio-futuristic cocoons, there was
an essence of expansiveness, collaboration, and a multi-sensorial experience of the work. The pleasure I gained was not purely from my exploration and interaction with the sculptures but also from seeing others exploring the same space. There’s a feeling of community when you experience Yi’s artworks, a concept that I apply when creating my own multi-sensory installations. I am inspired less by an artist’s use of a particular technique or exploration of a theme, and more by the way their
artwork makes you feel and the conversation that it has with the space that it’s in.
BN: What is something unexpected that inspires you?
LRK: Those who know only the visuals of my work, rather than the context behind it, might not expect the amount of research that I conduct in the science field. My artwork Traces was born from my research with a palaeontologist at the Natural History Museum in Oxford, and I often get stimulus from the New Scientist magazine, following up on topics by reading Professors’ theses and emailing
specialists to get more advice and info. Sometimes I invite them to collaborate with me on a research project for an artwork.
BN: What themes do you explore in your art?
LRK: The key themes in my practice are ecology and the manipulation of Nature. For our show Nebulous Realms, I expanded my research into exploring lost forms of knowledge and communication by superficially looking at Rock Art. Over the summer I travelled across Wales to different locations to explore the ‘cup’ and ‘spiral’ markings found on long forgotten rock tombs, created by people in the
Palaeolithic period (Stone Age). The significance of these markings is still under research however geologists and archaeologists suspect the rocks were used as a way of recording key land features: mountains, hills, underground water springs or constellations in the sky. There are many rocks in different areas of England with the same or more complex markings, which clearly indicates that they hold a meaning and were a form of communication between tribe members or between different tribes sharing the same area of land. What fascinates me is the marks’ visual synchronicity with other organic forms in nature. These marks and shapes can make us feel and interpret the object/artworks in a particular way that transcends any written or spoken language.
BN: What do you consider unique about your approach to sculpture?
LRK: My practice is led by the idea first before I choose the most appropriate material. That’s why, whilst I have my specialisms like wool works for example, I am always keen to develop my sculpting knowledge of materials and techniques from bronze casting to welding and basic glass work to creating my natural dyes. I believe in having a ‘balanced – creative – diet’ that allows me to be holistic in my approach to making, when I am sculpting using the senses. Perhaps that’s why I enjoy collaborations so much, they allow me the freedom to create something that I’ve never made before and that my audience wouldn’t expect from me.
BN: What is your favourite colour?
LRK: My favourite colour is green! Specifically, the zingy green summer fields that you see as you drive through the English countryside or the rich green that you see on the beach when you look down at the rocks covered in wet seaweed.
BN: How does the natural world inform your work?
LRK: For a long time, I incorporated physical organic matter into my work. But I realized that by relying on real bark, moss, or flowers as a way of commenting on nature, I was limiting my vocabulary as an artist. So, I expanded my thinking and began to explore representing Nature through different elements such as smell, colour, shapes, and sound. I often travel through different landscapes such as
the Egyptian desert, the Peak District in England, or even through forests when I am walking my dog where I collect organic matter and record what I see through drawings. I later simplified these into abstract and symbolic shapes that you see in my works. Nature is the greatest artist and I aim to highlight different elements of her creation and her eternal power to serve as both our teacher and healer.
BN: How have you found the process of creating art for use on clothing?
LRK: When Blue Nude approached me, I had just finished exhibiting my multimedia sensory installation Nature’s Breath. I was already exploring ‘activating’ the object through the audience’s participation and when I was approached to create a detachable sculpture for a wearable bustier it seemed like a no-brainer! A perfect opportunity to allow my audience to not only physically engage with the artwork but to also wear it.
I enjoyed creating a custom colour palette for the ‘jewels’ which were matched to James Webb Space Telescope's images containing incredible shades of red, purple, blue, and yellow. The process inspired me to incorporate resin into my own wool sculptures which helped me diversify the textural language of seduction in my practice.
On a technical level, making 84 resin-encased wool pieces was very labour intensive. I had limited experience working with resin and had to quickly learn about the material, and develop a ‘drip’ technique, whilst also understanding the transformative impact the resin had on each naturally dyed wool nugget – which the resin shifted from sunflower yellow to a salad green. There was also the
challenge of making a sculpture that was not heavy to wear and smooth enough to not scratch the wearer. Add to this the fact that the nuggets had to hang on metal chains which were reminiscent of a body harness and could be detached from the bustier.
Creating the ‘jewels’ composition on the bustier with Blue Nude was a fun experience. We were compositionally inspired by the constellations in the sky when hanging the ‘jewels’ on the bustier and we wanted to create a conversation between the masculine gunmetal chain, the alien jewels, and the
traditionally feminine history of the bustier. I am proud of the piece that we have created, and I can’t wait to see people wearing it!
BN: You’ve done quite a few collaborations in the past, what have you taken away from your collaboration with Blue Nude?
LRK: My previous collaborations have been with other artists or academics. But regardless of who I was working with I quickly learned that each collaboration is unique because people have very different personalities, temperaments, creative visions, and working standards. I have learned throughout my collaboration with Blue Nude that the key to a successful partnership is having a very open and honest dialogue at the very beginning about the aims of the project, what we individually wanted to get out of the collaboration, contracts, payments, and timeline. I feel many artists avoid discussing these sometimes-tricky topics because they think it’s taboo, or they fear coming across as a perfectionist or
high-maintenance, but I promise you that if the other person hasn’t thought of these things or isn’t willing to discuss crucial details before staring the collaboration then your partnership is likely to be a difficult one. Having an open dialogue created a strong framework for my and Blue Nude’s collaboration, which led to an enjoyable working experience. We were able to create something unique to both of our practices that we are now proud to share with our diverse audience.
BN: What's next for you on your creative adventure?
LRK: I am excited to continually develop my wool artworks, in the use of materials, research and expression. I am keen to keep participating in group shows, collaborating with cool people across different creative industries, and develop my own creative bombs!