Lets have a walk in the city with an enchanting guide. She will show us much more than we would expect. Alexandra Pacula takes us round the New York’s nightlife—exciting, full of experiences, where the play of lights and reflections predominates the landscape.
Sometimes, we associate the night with darkness, blackness and nothingness. The moon, street lamps and neon signs bring back the details from that shade, and stimulate our imagination to fill the spots that we can’t see. Alexandra beautifully captures those glimpses into the darkness through her oil paintings.
I was drawn into her art by its dynamism and color. I saw the long shutter speed, blurred and blown highlights, and a photographic eye.
What’s fascinating is how differently people can treat photos. While photographers finish on them, for Alexandra it’s only the beginning. She takes photographs and gives them a completely new dimension.
You can get to know more about her world by reading our talk below.
Interview with Alexandra Pacula
Marcin: When and how did your fascination with the city nightlife begin?
Alexandra: I think my fascination with the city nightlife developed over many years. I moved to the metropolitan area of New York at the age of 14 and I remember distinctly how impressive the City was. Coming from Krakow, Poland in 1993 the change was shocking. In those years Poland was just getting out of the communist rule and I remember how much darker and quieter Krakow was.
Growing up in New Jersey in such close proximity to New York I used to go out to clubs and bars in Manhattan regularly. I loved the energy of the city at night. When in 2004 I was looking for a more personal subject to paint I realized that the City with its bright lights and tumultuous energy was it.
Marcin: What is your creative process? How important are photos in it?
Alexandra: I got my first digital camera in 2004 and right away realized how crucial a tool it was for me. I thought about all the snapshots people take during their night out and that most of them come out blurred. These blurred, unsuccessful photos are actually the ones capturing the real moments that would otherwise be forgotten.
I wanted to incorporate these shots in my work. I use photographs as reference for my paintings. I do not project or trace because I want to have freedom to change things while I paint. Sometimes I look at 2 or 3 different photos, take elements from each and combine them in my painting. When I first start a painting it looks very expressionistic because I concentrate on the energy first, I work wet into wet to keep the painting looking fresh and spontaneous. Later I develop detail and glazes.
Marcin: When looking back in your art, how do you feel it evolves? In what direction does it currently go?
Alexandra: When I first started this series of paintings I was interested in indoor scenes such as bars and restaurants. I was inspired by the way glistening glasses, reflective mirrors, wet counters and indoor lighting created a certain mood and evoked a feeling of intoxication. I resolved to capture that feeling in my paintings hence the term I still use to describe my work “Visual Intoxication”.
Visual Intoxication means that the way the painting is executed is very enticing to the viewer. The vibrant color, luscious brushwork and luminous quality draw the viewer in and in a way intoxicate, at the same time mimicking the experience of a night out.
Next, I began painting street scenes. The street offered a broader subject. I traveled to different cities such as London, Taipei and San Francisco and created a series of paintings that captured the individual atmosphere of each.
Now, I’m concentrating on New York City. Living in Brooklyn I am able to go out and explore different parts of NYC anytime. I painted a Triptych “Diverse Rhythm” last year, which captured three distinct neighborhoods of NYC, each with its own energy and rhythm.
My newest piece a sequence of 10 small paintings, which is installed in my current solo show titled “Shifting Perspectives” at Mighty Tanaka Gallery in Brooklyn, captures the experience of crossing the Manhattan Bridge on the N train. The sequence begins in Brooklyn in the area known as DUMBO and ends in Manhattan’s Chinatown. I also created a sound piece as part of the installation. The sound is a sequence of trains tumultuously rolling over the Manhattan Bridge.
My next series of paintings will be an aerial exploration. I want to capture the whole span of the city in one painting. I find it fascinating to look down at the city from a birds-eye point of view.
Marcin: Do you have an artistic dream or some distant plans that you would like to share?
Alexandra: I would love to create a huge painting installation at a major museum. This installation would consist of 15-foot high paintings that wrap around the room and fully engage the viewer.
Marcin: What tips would you give to artists that are at the beginning of their careers?
Alexandra: Create a strong body of work. Spend a lot of time in the studio developing your ideas and engage in dialogue with your contemporaries. Networking is important as well but there is no point to it unless you have something to show. Once the opportunity arises and your work is fully resolved you’ll be off to a great start.
Marcin: Thank you for your thoughts.