“On a poppy seed there is a little house,” starts a poem by Czeslaw Milosz, and it’s difficult not to think of it looking at the fantastic, nature-friendly works by Asia Wirazka who takes leaves and builds up the entire world on them – from London and Paris to Tokyo and San Francisco, a stroke of a brush at a time.
Joanna Wirazka, or Asia for short, is a 17-year-old self-taught artist from Poland. She did her first drawing when she was only three, and although her creative leaf painting idea became popular on Instagram quite recently, her love for arts has flourished for much longer. She’s been around on this platform for a while sharing photos, drawings and paintings, and when she’s been noticed by a bigger art-dedicated profile, she’s finally received due recognition. Now, her resume includes also commissioning her very own exhibition and setting up an online shop to sell her works.
“I’m born to draw and paint. Art is my entire life and I would like to share my passion with people to inspire them,” she says about her passion. “I wouldn’t be able to live without my artistic world.”
The most products of her imagination come to her without warning, or without any prior thought before the realisation – she says that the inspiration comes to her unexpectedly, and it takes a brief second to spark a new creative project.
Joanna came up with her unusual idea to use the purest offering of nature as her canvas by chance. She did her first leaf painting last winter, on the New Year’s Eve in 2014. A leaf with the bright night sky in purple and blue and a forest at the foreground of a galaxy was the project that started the series of the paintings.
“It’s quite funny, because everybody has been preparing for a party but I have just been painting a leaf all day,” she explains. “I had some dry leaves from the autumn and I was inspired by the galaxy and fireworks, so I decided to associate the leaf with the galaxy,” she says.
Painting a leaf is a process that starts with a wait – a maple leaf needs to dry behind the pages of a book, which takes around a week. Then, Joanna covers it with the first layer of black acrylic paint to make it her canvas. Later, it’s ready to be painted in all the colours of the rainbow: the final part is painting a landscape on it.
Aware of ecological issues and the problems that humans bring on themselves, Asia decided to paint on leaves long-term, because she wants to show that people can live in symbiosis with nature. She realises that we often take for granted what was given to us, and aims to change that mindset.
“We don’t have to cut trees to obtain paper for painting. Our Earth is in really bad condition. We have a duty to help our planet,” she points out. “It’s our home and if it wasn’t for it, life wouldn’t exist”.
What inspires her? Cities are prominent in her works – the lights of the Big Smoke and the Big Apple are one of the themes that appear in her paintings quite often, Californian landscapes also seem to inspire her. Bt there are also a few painters who she likes, and Van Gogh is one of them – she’s even done a leaf as a little tribute to him.
“I like his paintings because of the colours, really beautiful, full of different shades and very inspiring,” she confesses. “Recently I’ve fallen in love with Mark Ryden’s work – his mysterious paintings. They inspire me a lot, but this is an inspiration for canvas paintings. Currently, I’m working on a series of those. They differ significantly from leaves and the theme is different. I’ll show them soon!” Asia reveals.
Joanna is about to pick her university specialisation – does she know if she’d like to pursue arts? At the moment, she attends a biology-chemistry specialisation class in her upper secondary (in Poland, after finishing your primary and lower secondary school at the age of 16, you pick your specialisation for high school, usually a combination of 2-3 subjects you need to pass during the finals in order to get into uni).
“Biology and chemistry are my other passion,” Asia says. “Art is my hobby, a cure for stress, a moment when you can be free, do everything you want, express yourself and let your imagination create something beautiful. I’m not sure what my future job will look like yet and I know I must decide, but it’s difficult” she explains.
Unfortunately, the reality of Poland, and of the modern world in general which doesn’t always support artists, gets in the way.
“I’m afraid that I would have financial problems as an artist. Even now when I sell my leaves there are sometimes bad periods when I don’t earn anything. So this the main reason why it’s hard for me to decide,” she describes her worries. “On the one hand I want to be an artist but I also worry about financial issues.”