Aneta Wnek loves strangers. Her visual art project Lifelines depends on the willingness of unsuspecting passers-by to sit for her drawings. Lifelines began on a whim during a trip to Thailand in 2004. Fast forward to 2013, Wnek is continuing the project as a CollaborART Partner at AGWA within the Van Gogh, Dalí and Beyond exhibition space.
To become the subject of art is the last thing one would expect when visiting Van Gogh, Dalí and Beyond, but Wnek has been ‘endlessly moved and surprised’ by the reactions to her project during AGWA drawing sessions. ‘The reactions that are probably most dramatic are from the most unlikely individuals.’ Wnek believes a comfortable space is created by the element of surprise combined with the intimate artist-to-subject exchange. Both participants are vulnerable and ‘here they end up sharing some really beautifully honest thoughts about their Lifelines experience, their portrait and themselves.’
But before any drawing takes place, Wnek takes around 10 minutes to form a relationship and connection with her prospective subject. ‘What I ask of a person is to let me into a really intimate personal space – and this is right at hello. I ask all of my subjects to look at me whilst I draw them. This calls for a great deal of trust; and it is really important for me that they know what it is that I’m doing and why. In turn I get to know a little about them… getting to know them a little helps me focus on the few lines that, in the end, are their portrait that hopefully captures a bit of their essence.’
‘What is also quite unique here, is that everyone I meet is already there for the art, they’re already absorbing the ambiance, they’re contemplating, questioning, are in awe of all that is around them; and then they get confronted by me. What I like about that is that they move from being observers within this space, to being participants and part of it.’
Wnek notes a big part of Lifelines is how the portraits are serendipitous and spontaneous in nature. ‘I really don’t try to plan who I’ll draw on the day. I do, however, tend to find that I approach people who are on their own, or in small groups chilling out as they are more likely to be happy to be distracted and find the time to engage with my odd proposition of sitting for a portrait.’
‘I consciously try not to be selective. There are faces whose features make them easier to draw whilst others inspire more intriguing portraits, however I do make it a personal challenge to not let that affect me as I think it is through the diversity of the people that the portraits as a collective gain more meaning telling a more complete story of the space, and capture a truer sense of place.’
Keep an eye on the Van Gogh, Dalí and Beyond blog for more insights into Aneta Wnek’s drawing inspiration and dates of her next visit to AGWA.