An artist who speaks her truth through intimate art-making
Social media does have its advantages; it allows people to discover and connect with the many talented artists that share their work on social platforms.
I came across Montreal-based artist Lana Denina’s Instagram account a few months ago while scrolling on the application’s explore page. The colour palettes she uses and her detailed illustrations of faces caught my eye.
Denina, who is of Beninese and French origin, is currently studying Marketing at Concordia. She remembers copying drawings from her childhood books when she was six. Then, she started painting.
Her style is unique. Denina’s art illustrates modernity and authenticity, exploring human relationships, body movements and morphological diversity.
My paintings are greatly inspired by our era of beauty and technology,” says Denina. “I also incorporate a lot of modern fashion into my art.”
Denina combines digital art and painting, representing people of colour is important for her as she feels they should be more included in contemporary art.
She looks up to different cultures. For instance, she gets inspiration from the art of the Shōwa era, a period of time in Japan that signified the reign of the Shōwa Emperor, Hirohito, from 1926 to 1989. Denina also admires Dan masks, traditional objects created by the Dan people, an ethnic group from Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia. According to The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the masks are integrated into the hierarchical system that governs political and religious life.
Her paintings are designed differently from each other. Some pieces are darker, whereas some are lighter; it all depends on Denina’s mood. The faces depicted in the artworks were envisioned by the artist, creating new beings. “They all are made-up faces from my imagination. It’s a mix of various faces I saw over the internet or in real life that I thought were unique,” said Denina.
View this post on Instagram
Moi vouloir Toi (2021) is an animated painting depicting a woman with a snake on her head looking at a man. The background changes colour, from green, purple, to a fading red, giving life to the artwork.
L’ocean du regret (2021) is a self-portrait of Denina from the series Wet, a collection of paintings she created where water is always present. In this painting, viewers can observe Denina standing in the water, with a cut over her heart. The piece is about giving one’s heart to someone fighting personal battles and the way it can be harmful for both people. The piece is painted with dark red shades, making the painting seem more intimate since it’s a self-portrait and red is known to signify intimacy and passion. It’s as if Denina was portrayed in her vulnerability.
I want to show my process of evolving throughout adulthood but also tell love stories,” said Denina. “Love is extremely powerful because it transforms people into vulnerable beings. It unveils the true nature of people.”
View this post on Instagram
Loving myself, suffering with myself (2021) is another astonishing work, illustrating a woman in a red background, sitting on a red couch looking at viewers. This painting is about self-love and the way it can be challenging to accept one’s self. “I mostly love my sad paintings,” added Denina. “ They express powerful feelings.”
Her most recent work, Puedes oírlo (2021), which translates to “you can hear it” in Spanish, is animated work, showing a couple sharing an intimate moment, while the sound of a heartbeat can be heard. This painting seems to be a remembrance of a past relationship, where one still remembers the heartbeat of a partner that they once heard; a sound that never left.
I’m attached to all of my paintings. All of them are unique and capture a particular emotion I was feeling at the time they were created,” said Denina.
She possesses the skills to fabricate her art with different materials. Duo Tone is a set of velvet rugs, each with a different illustration on them. She also designed a woven throw, inspired by the Suri tribe, a community from Ethiopia. A woman meditating can be seen on the throw.
“I want to tell stories about life, the good and the bad sides of life. Every human being on Earth is different and has [their] own story,” said Denina. “I want to represent people as much as I can.” For the moment, Denina is working on a silk scarf she is designing.“The sky really is the limit, I have so many ideas. Lots of new projects are coming up soon but cannot be revealed yet!”
Photos courtesy of Lana Denina.