Interview with Wiktoria Florek
We were introduced to Wiktoria Florek through a friend of a friend and were struck by her fascinating story (and her impressive website!). Wiktoria, originally from Poland, discovered her artistic side three and a half years ago, in the midst of a successful corporate career. Looking at her paintings you would never imagine that four years ago she had barely held a paintbrush in her hand; they reveal a sophistication and freedom in her use of paints and an acute artistic sensibility which could be the result of many years of making and studying art. Equally astonishing is the passion and confidence with which she is embracing her newfound vocation. Wiktoria has sneaked her way into the role of an artist with such an apparent ease to make your jaw drop. We really enjoyed meeting her in the flesh last week and sharing a drink at one of our favourite haunts, the Alsur Cafe in Born. We were delighted with her determination and insights, she is an inspiration to all those who are too afraid to follow their dreams.
1. Before turning to art you had a successful career working with international economic relations, which you abandoned to pursue a career as an artist. What drove you to make this big change and what brought you to Barcelona?
I was in Barcelona during my studies for four months and I really fell in love with the city, so after I graduated I always wanted to come back here. Finally I moved to Barcelona and I started to feel a strange need to express myself. I felt from inside that I want to paint, and I’d never painted before! At the beginning I was ignoring the feeling and after some time it was so strong that I said ok, I will buy some paint and I will paint. Then it turned out that my flatmate was actually a fine art graduate so she lent me her paints. So I did my first painting and I thought that would be it, maybe I would paint from time to time, but the urge was coming back to me over and over again. I did some drawing courses, painting courses, and then I felt overwhelmed by the need to paint. I quit my job and I decided to paint.
2. What was the extent of your artistic experience before you made the transition? And since then what have been your biggest challenges to making art and how have you dealt with them?
I didn’t have any art experience before, so at the beginning it was really intuitive. I actually always trust my intuition more than anything else. At the beginning my main challenge was that I wasn’t always able to express what I really wanted to express. That’s why I took some courses to learn some new techniques and to learn how to use different mediums to better express myself
3. Do you find it challenging navigating the art world? Do you think your previous work experiences have helped you or, on the contrary, do you feel that they hold you back?
I think that art is a completely different world so probably in some way it helps me, but I’m still not seeing it. I think everything I do right now is something totally different and I’m starting from scratch. I believe that every experience is something that is enriching us, and for sure it’s not a waste of time what I did in the past. I think it will benefit me for sure, or it’s benefiting me now but I’m just not realizing it.
4. It’s interesting that someone who was so absorbed in a business world, unrelated to art, can suddenly change their path and even become so passionate about their work. Do you think it was something you were always meant to do, do you regret not realizing it sooner?
I’m asking myself this question from time to time, actually! I don’t know, I think that we are always at the right moment, and at the moment we have to be, so I think that all my past experience is just something that I had to experience.
5. What are your biggest artistic influences, and what artists do you most admire?
Van Gogh. He’s my number one, my love since forever. I cry when I see his paintings, they have such a big impact on me. I also love all impressionists, most of them. French impressionists. Also abstract art and abstract expressionism like Rothko, Gerhart Richter. I think my personal style is a mixture of all of them.
6. You define your work as expressive, passionate and full of emotions and your aim is to empower people. How do you feel that art can be empowering?
I think there are several ways of empowering and several ways art can empower but the biggest for me is that the art that we love and that appeals to us has something that we are missing in our lives. So if we are very stressed, probably we like landscapes. They will appeal to us without even knowing why, they can help us relax. Actually it is confirmed by research that art decreases stress, 30 minutes in a gallery looking at art can make a big difference. In this study they invited people who were very stressed and had a high level of Cortisol, the stress hormone, and asked them to walk for 30 minutes during their lunch break in a gallery, and after they measured again their stress level. All the people had much decreased their level of Cortisol. The researchers compared it to being 5 hours relaxing yourself.
7. How do you differentiate your work from the rest? In other words, what do you feel makes your work unique and truly your own?
I think there are always some similarities, and there are so many artists that there are probably some that have similar work to mine. But I think every artist puts his own soul and heart into his work and since every person is different, each artist is different, so every work and style is also very unique. I put my sensibility, my love, my passion, my frustrations into each painting, depending on what I’m painting. It’s this moment, this feeling, this situation, so I think it makes it unique.
8. What is your creative process like, how do you know when a work is finished?
My creative process starts with emotion, that’s why I say I paint emotions. It has to be something that I feel very strong and passionate about, that I need to paint it, and it can be anything: a song, a tree, or it can just be that I feel very well and I want to paint. And how do I know when the painting is finished? it’s also just a feeling. I heard once an artist saying -I don’t remember who it was- that when you have a white canvas you are totally free, you have 100% liberty to do whatever you want, and while you paint this freedom is decreasing steadily until you feel you have no more freedom, and then for me the painting is finished. And I feel it very strongly. I just know.
9. Do you have a favourite piece of your own? Can you tell us the story behind it?
I think it changes a lot. Very often my favourite piece is the most recent one, or the one I’m about to finish. I think right now my favorite piece of art is one of my recent abstract works, which is called Joy. I love everything about this piece, the colour, the textures. The reason why it’s called joy is because I painted it in the beginning of Spring, all the flowers were blossoming and I really love this time so I was really full of happiness and joy. At first I didn’t know what to name it but every time I was looking at it I was feeling this joy, so that’s what I named it.
10. Did you do art as a child? Were you a very artistic kid?
No, I never considered myself as an artistic or creative person, I thought I was more analytical. I have one drawing from when I was nine years old that my mum framed, which I always thought was very ugly. But actually now my friends are joking that they always knew I had a talent! Actually I was very much into photography, but I never considered myself as a photographer, it was more like a hobby. I started to paint at the age of 29 and they say that this is the age when we actually lose the fear of expressing ourselves. It’s also when Van Gogh started to paint, and there are also some other artists- I think Rousseau at around 30.
11. Is there something you are currently working on, or are excited about starting that you can tell us about?
I’m working now on abstract works, and this is something I actually wasn’t doing before, I was more into expressive figurative art works. But after going to the Barcelona Academy of Art where it was so academic and rational, I somehow liberated myself and started trying abstract painting. I was thinking about it before, but I never felt too free to do it. And this academy helped me to free myself. So I’m really excited to explore this abstract work, the textures and colours are what really excite me right now. I’m also organizing private art viewings in my apartment, this month will be the second one, on the 23rd of May.
12. What work of art do you wish you owned? And what would you do to get it?
There is one by Van Gogh -of course!- it’s called Cypresses and it’s at the Metropolitan Museum in New York. And… I don’t know what I’d do to get it, I think it’s impossible! But if I could I would give all my paintings for that one.
13. If you were on an island and could only bring three things, what would you bring?
13. If you were on an island and could only bring three things, what would you bring?
I think I would bring a notebook, a pen, and … I would say paint but I think on an island you could find stuff that you could paint with. Can I take my boyfriend? Or maybe a knife so I can cut things and prepare food for myself! And the notebook and a pen because I like to write down my ideas, thoughts and inspirations.