Zanara Zenovka: I've been painting for about 15 years now. Originally started with watercolour, then moved onto acrylics for working on canvas. Have done classes in most media - drawing, sculpture etc. Watercolour is still my first love though - even with acrylics I often use a watercolour technique anyway. People say watercolour is harder, but I like the discipline it demands, and also the surprises it offers in the process of mixing of water and pigment on paper. Photography is something I've always done and enjoyed, although never in a particularly artistic capacity. Just taking photos for my own pleasure, capturing scenes I might like to paint etc. SL photography has been my first photographic work I've taken public ;)
BD: Your RL paintings are totally different from your photographic work, why is that?
ZZ: Well it's a different medium so you're going to be creating different things, but to be honest I can see the continuity between the two. In both I tend to reproduce images that have caught my eye in life, so it depends where I am at the time - capturing images that appeal to me, or express a mood I'm in at the time. In RL that's most often nature - beaches, plants, flowers, nudes; in SL it's my avatar. Comparing my SL photos with my paintings I see a continuation of the same aesthetic. I'm drawn to strong colours and shapes with an emphasis on curves and strong lines.This probably comes from painting - I love the sweep of a wet brush on paper, the sensual feeling of painting a strong curved line - a drooping leaf, a flower petal, the waterline of a beach, the curve of a woman's hip - there's something organically satisfying about recreating the shapes and proportions that are part of nature. I see my SL photography as an extension of my RL painting of nudes - I love finding angles of the body that are visually interesting, or project a certain mood or idea. In SL one also has the benefit of a tireless, uncomplaining model, a flexible point-of-view and some wonderful clothing and settings to provide themes and further inspiration.
BD: What gave you the idea for the exhibition 'Laced'?
ZZ: I like to treat an exhibition as a work of art in itself, especially when in a single room.For this show I wanted to use strong, clear images in a limited palate, with some black and white, and just a few flashes of colour, with a view to exploring themes around power, and the complexities and contradictions therein. Does a tightly laced corset restrict your breathing or strengthen your back? The answer, obviously, is both.
BD: Some of the pictures are reminiscent of 'Sex' by Madonna, did this have any influence?
ZZ: Well I'm a woman who's been around for the past 20 so of course Madonna has been an influence in general. Although it's been at least 10 years since I've seen the book, I guess there are obvious thematic similarities, although Madonna wasn't the first to publish photographs of female nudes or bondage. However I am a great admirer of the works of Helmut Newton and Robert Mapplethorpe whose influence can be seen in 'Sex' as well, so there's certainly a lot of common ground.
BD: Most of the pictures have the face of the subject hidden or turned away, was this deliberate and if so why?
ZZ: Hmm there are probably a few reasons for this. Like many SL photographers I first started out doing long shots of the whole avatar, and over time I've zoomed in more to focus on detail. Unless you're needing to show a whole setting to create some story or mood, I find simple images more powerful. Also in SL there can be a lot of annoying crap in backgrounds, and a tighter focus excludes that. But also the inclusion of a face can detract from more interesting images in a picture. Human beings are automatically drawn to look at other human faces first, and then the facial expression sets the tone for the rest of the image. Sometime they're better left out. Also the facial expressions in SL just aren't very good yet, and the very nature of taking stills of 3D rendered avatars means that you're often dealing with imperfect images - the more complicated areas of the body such as face, hands and hair are hard to get right (as in RL painting). Half my "composition" is actually a matter of cutting out borked elbows, badly aligned clothing, mutant feet, etc. Getting the perfect lighting on the body can make the face look horrible, etc. So because of both practical limitations of the medium and also my own aesthetic I often choose to keep them separate. If I include a face it tends to be as the main focus of the picture.
BD: I ask this of everyone I interview, but who or what has had the biggest influence in your life?
ZZ: Oh the answer to that would change every day – you never really know what's been an influence 'til you see it in action. But the first thing that popped into my head was that famous quote from Martha Graham about how one should never judge one's artistic output, but just accept that you have a duty to channel your inspiration into some form and set it loose in the world.
BD: Who is your favourite artist in RL, and why?
ZZ: Oh god - horrible, horrible question :) Don't make me choose just one! In Western art I'm most drawn to the first half of the 20th century - that whole period from Impressionism to Abstract Expressionism is so exciting. Picasso I love for his sense of shape and style and the sheer audacity of his work at the time. Dali for his immaculate technique and vision and stunning sense of colour. Frida Kahlo's work has always resonated with me since I first saw it – she's a personal inspiration. Van Gogh for colour and technique and sheer passion. Brett Whitley's work I adore for his colour and style and how he captured the Australian light and sense of space. I like a lot of Australian Aboriginal art for the colours and design, but mostly because learning to understand it requires you to change the way you conceptualise the world. Gabriella Possum Nungarrayi's work is probably my favourite. And I'll always have a soft spot for Michelangelo for sheer, awe-inspiring beauty, even if his women did look like bricklayers with boobs. :)
BD: Again, a favourite question of mine… If you could own just one RL 'masterpiece' what would it be and why?
ZZ: To be honest, I don't think any great works of art should be individually owned, unless they are on display to the public. As long as I can go to a gallery to see something I'm happy, I don't need to possess it.
BD: 'Lush' uses what I call 'Matisse' blue & white. Is this coincidental?
ZZ: Oh I do love that famous Matisse blue nude, so it was probably an unconscious influence, if not deliberate. I think that, as an artist, everything you see enters your mind to be stored away long enough for you to forget where it came from so that when you finally use it you think it's your own idea :) From what I remember I started that painting just using the blue for the under-painting and liked the way it looked and kept going. I don't often start a painting with a definite idea of how it want it to look at the end - I'm happy to enjoy the journey and keep the destination as a surprise.
BD: You have a Flickr site, how has that been received by visitors?
ZZ: Oh the response to my work on Flickr has been fabulous. I originally started a Flickr site as a way of maintaining an online catalogue of my work, but it's also turned out to be a great creative stimulus. There's quite a community of SL photographers on Flickr who provide encouragement, inspiration and friendly competition for each other, and also exchange information such as Photoshop techniques. Until recently I hadn't done much in the way of post-production on my photos, apart from a bit of cropping and lighting adjustment, but I'm now starting to use some of the more creative tools in Photoshop, which I find incredibly satisfying, being able to exert a painter's degree of creative control over a photo image.
BD: Apart from displaying your art, what else do you use SL for?
ZZ: Oh the art and photography in SL was a relatively late development. I just came here to check it out and explore, and spent my first month here playing poker (ah the good old days :) It varies. Sometimes its a purely social space for me; other times I get focused on photography and building and become quite solitary. And I always like exploring, which then usually leads to more photography, and meeting new people, and the cycle continues. I rarely know what I'm going to be doing in SL from day to day - I just see where my whims take me. It's like travelling without the tedious bits. :)
BD: Yes, I do that quite a lot too. One last question, your favourite place in RL and SL?
ZZ: Anywhere I haven't been before. :)
BD: Thank you so much for your time, it's been a real pleasure talking with you, and I look forward to your next exhibition.
For Zanara's SL photo collection visit
To see her work within SL visit
Oculus Enterprises, Oculus Enterprises, amsterdams (109, 134, 302)
Oculus Enterprises, Oculus Enterprises, amsterdams (109, 134, 302)