Živa Zena is an unconventional, self-taught artist originally from Czech Republic, now based in St Pauls. For Živa, art is a method of self-discovery and healing, more than a question of aesthetics and technique. Through the creative process she accesses the hidden world of her subconscious and materialises what she finds there.
How did you first get into painting, drawing and creating?
It feels like painting and drawing was part of my life since I was able to hold a pencil. I could not write yet when I made my first lyrics for song. This changed later into poems which were my main thing for many years. There was always a strong need inside me to express my inner experience through different creative acts. The way how I create now I have developed over last 5,5 years when it became essential part of my healing journey of my womanhood.
What inspires you to create new pieces?
The urge to create usually comes to me while experiencing intense emotions either positive or negative. I create when I need to process some difficult feelings, find out where is it coming from and how to move forward. I create when I feel too expansive to fit into normal reality and when I feel a potential to transcend myself.
What does the creative process mean to you?
The creative process is more important for me than the final art piece itself. While creating I experience something similar like a state of meditation – my mind is off, I am deeply inside me, I am feeling very connected to everything. I am able to be in the present. This state is very healing for me.
What counts as art for you? How would see the role of an artist?
Art is any authentic creative expression what mirrors the inner experience of the world of its creator. For me the emphasis is on that, not on the technique – that is the difference between craft and art.
The role of an artist is to share this creative expression what ideally has a potential to enrich other people – extend their point of view or open some hidden emotions.
How is being creative beneficial to your health and wellbeing?
Being creative makes me feel alive. It enables me to work with unconscious parts of myself- for instance heal old wounds in my lineage what I would not otherwise be able to access. These wounds can manifest through physical body as well as behaviour patterns so uncovering that makes a significant difference to my physical, emotional and mental health.
How has travelling and meeting different people affected your art?
While travelling I lived in very different conditions then normally – with very little material stuff, close to the Earth, facing different cultures and lifestyles. Art became a tool of communication above spoken language as well as a way how to digest all the intense experiences. Most importantly it assists my spiritual growing and healing of womanhood.
People who I have met weren´t following the mainstream model of life. They were brave enough to choose a different way and follow their dreams. Spending time with them helped me believe in my own dreams including my journey as an artist-healer. If I would stay in my country close to my family it would be much more difficult to overcome learned fears and limits and do what feels most fulfilling for me.
Your work is very spiritual, can you tell me more about the role of mythology in your work?
Interestingly at first there was my intuitively made artwork. Then I read and saw the artwork of somebody else and found a connection to concrete mythology. For example, when we lived in New Zealand Maori art and mythology were constantly coming through my work – before seeing or knowing anything about it. I would paint a woman and then read a myth and notice I made Hine-Ahu-One! Or back in Europe I have realized that all these statues of women with closed eyes are Persephone – which is my main archetype.
I strongly believe that land can talk. That the ancestors can talk. And that art is one of the languages they speak because it is not limited by rational mind. In the sphere of collective subconsciousness the ancient mythologies are still alive. My paintings and poems remind me of that and take me on the journey there. There are some amazing books which helped me to understand this better. I would like to mention Women who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes and Goddess in Every Woman by Jean Shiloda Bolen.
Why have you chosen to live in St Pauls and Bristol?
Four years ago my husband and I took part in an alternative building camp in France close to Poitiers where there were several people who lived some time in Bristol. They recommended it to us as a great place for artists as well as for people who are interested in alternative building, permaculture and a nature-friendly way of life in general. So we thought – we have to go there! And I think I don´t have to say that these aspects of bristolian life are most present in its eastern part – especially Easton, St Werburghs, Montpelier and St Pauls. So we ended up here. But as much as we love it is not our final station. We have land in our country where we want to implement everything we have learnt while living abroad.
What’s next for you? Where can we see your work?
I have completed a collection of fifty feminine healing cards with prayers called ‘Earthwoman: Awake the Ancient Power’ which I would like to publish this year. At the moment I sell postcards and prints of this collection as well as from collections ‘Identity’, ‘Sacred Body- Expecting’ and ‘Goddesses’. Some of it is for sale in a shop called 7th Sea on Gloucester Road. We are planning to be part of St Werburghs Arts Trail as well.
I am starting to offer female/earthy design for local businesses – logos, business cards, leaflets, posters…Occasionally I will have articles about womanhood in magazine for conscious woman called “She who knows’ which is based in Devon. The first one will be published in the summer issue. After a season you will find these articles on my blog http://blogen.zivazena.eu/
In the further future I feel like I will shift my focus from womanhood to fairytales as I have a one year old son who is showing me a new world that I want to reflex in my art.