Though Iva Troj’s paintings share the sensibility and feminine grace present in Renaissance era art, her work is informed by her modern point of view. Growing up in the outskirts of Plovdiv, Bulgaria, the now UK-based artist was faced early on with male dominance in a communist country. She often expresses admiration for women artists like Italian Baroque painter Artemisia Gentileschi, whose mere existence was seen as problematic, while men at the time were painting women to look like dolls. “I so wanted to just go in there and change them all,” she says.
Troj considers the role of an artist as a “messenger” and “eye-opener”, and intentionally breaks molds of traditional beauty. “The themes in my body of work vary somewhat, but challenging the heteronormative perspective has always been a central concern. I am quite uncomfortable with conventional truth, especially the issue of gender conformity,” she says. This is evidenced in her more fantastical works: “This is the reason behind all the magic furry animals in “Lions and Monkeys” and “Garden” series, as they represent a view that doesn’t have anything to do with the male gaze or any kind of dominant perspective.”
Troj’s interest in concepts of beauty also takes inspiration from Japanese art and culture, first introduced to her by her grandmother, who practiced wabi-sabi. This Japanese aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete”. “Instead of using fancy words she showed me things and explained their beauty to me. Her house and her garden were full of evidence of beautiful imperfection,” Troj shares.
“I keep rearranging my work process, so preparation is really important. A process that is constantly changing implies focus and a clear definition of what the imagery represents,” she says. “The people in my paintings, especially the nudes, strive to represent a beauty that exists beyond the subjective views. My female nudes are comfortable in their skin and do not depend on any kind of male presence, behind the camera lens or in the background.”