When it comes to photography, Martin Stranka is a game changer. His stunning works capture imagined scenes that twist our perceptions of reality. Each print appears as a film still from the most enchanting movie, or a window onto some parallel universe where everything and anything is possible. It's difficult to imagine how a medium so rooted in the realm of reality can yield such fantastical scenes. Read on to hear Martin's inspiring story and to discover how he makes his works (there's a method to his magic).
What are the concepts behind your work?
I am always trying to capture quite elemental and basic emotions and feelings; the internal monologues we have with ourselves. I see photography as the etching of a unique space between balance and serenity. I believe my images exist in that narrow window, those few seconds that exist between dreaming and awakening. I create images that are like film stills walking the line between fantasy and reality.
Tell us about the processes you use to create your pieces - is there a lot of post-production involved?
I never usually reveal my intentions before a shoot, simply asking my models if they want to collaborate with me so that they don’t bring any preconceptions to the shoot. I love to create spontaneity, relishing the magic of the very moment I eventually tell them the scene I have imagined. Sometimes I even keep the background story completely to myself – my concepts can be very personal.
Some photographers tend to storyboard, and while I think this is great for a commercial shoot, I prefer to only take the photographs when I feel the need to express myself. And yes, post-production is an integral part of it all. Sometimes there is little, and sometimes a lot – it depends. I see it merely as a tool.
How do you come up with the ideas for your photographs? Where do you seek inspiration?
Over 10 years ago I lost someone very close to me, and I was looking for something to act as an emotional valve that would help me escape, and photography became my outlet.
Music is a huge source of inspiration too. I can’t imagine creating my work without the music of Sigur Rós or Lisa Gerrard. It’s a never ending stimulus.
I also find inspiration in the everyday; moments that stop me and make me think, like the smell of autumn in those weeks when nature is preparing for its long sleep, or dust grains floating in the light of sunset (I could stare at that forever). It might sound quite silly and childish, but I love these daily moments. Life is endless inspiration.
When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
I don’t remember the exact moment. It was more like a natural progression to becoming an artist. I started taking photos and after few years people started showing interest in my work. I felt that I want to focus on art more and more, so I finally left my office job 6 years ago. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made.
What has been the greatest impact on you as an artist to date?
I would say it’s the personal messages and emails I’ve received from people around the world. Some of them give me goosebumps when I read them. Whether it’s someone telling me how my work has changed their lives, or the fact that I've inspired someone young to study photography after they visited my exhibition.
I once had an email from a man who was going blind who told me that my work had made his day, and that he was so glad to have discovered it before he lost his sight forever. I cried when I read this. I also heard from a teenage girl from Israel a few years ago, who was living in this warzone who told me how much safer my photographs made her feel. I sent her a print. These are priceless moments that mean so much to me and spur me on.
Tell us about your studio space - what do you love about it?
I live in my studio space. It’s in the centre of Prague with a view over the park. It is not a huge space but it’s big enough because I take most photos outdoors anyway. My favourite thing in my studio has to be my tree stump coffee table, and all the large scale prints I have lying around.
Do you have a favourite or most meaningful photograph?
‘Until You Wake Up’ is my strongest shot so far. The crashed car, wintry landscape and deer remind me of the accident that inspired me to start shooting, when I lost my closest friend. I have had this scene in my head for such a long time. It’s very personal and symbolic to me, even though taking photos in -15° celsius was out of my comfort zone, but I think this is when the magic happens.
Where’s your favourite travel destination?
I just came back from London and I really love this city. I love the cultural vibe there. It is a magic city that never sleeps. I love the art community, the diversity of population, and the right attitude to all minorities. It’s such a shame that so much tragedy has happened recently, but I always believe that love really wins.
Best advice you’ve ever been given as an artist?
Be yourself: loved by a few and misunderstood by the rest.
Modern Surrealism | Browse the Collection
Some people like pink, others love pink. But Emily Murray takes pink fandom to the next level. We’re talking pink hair, pink furniture, pink wallpaper - and a sensational pink house. The latter is the subject of Emily’s renowned interiors blog.
What tickles Emily pink? Rise Art finds out.
Tell us about yourself and what you do.
I’m the founder and editor of The Pink House, an award-winning interior blog inspiring fabulous family living. Alongside this I work as a freelance lifestyle & interiors journalist for a variety of high end publications. I also write a monthly interiors column for i-on, Scotland’s largest lifestyle magazine.
What inspires you in your work and life?
I get to visit some truly stunning homes as part of my job and I often come away with ideas. Most recently the Edinburgh home of Anna Atwal, owner of PAD Lifestyle boutique, has got me falling in love with fabulous wallpaper all over again. Apart from that, Instagram, Pinterest, brands’ press days and my favourite magazine, Livingetc – they always have incredible homes.
Is art and design important to you and if so, why?
Extremely important. It’s a brilliant way of getting outside yourself; seeing things from other people’s perspectives. And it’s the best way I know of adding your personality to your home.
What inspired you to start The Pink House?
After having children I was spending much more time at home, and started to miss the beautifully designed bars, restaurants and hotels I used to frequent. That’s when I decided my home would have to pick up the slack when it came to fun, fabulous interiors. The Pink House is about inspiring people to create homes that make them truly happy, despite the kids.
Do you have a favourite artist and/or museum?
I don’t have one favourite artist, but there are many I admire, especially in the genres of urban and pop art, including Dale vN Marshall and Rugman, whose work I have on the walls of The Pink House. I’m drawn to anything that makes a strong statement, vibrant colours – especially hot pink – and typography. My new find is the Go Pop print series by designer Tom Love – he’s used his collection of vintage bottle caps to create fun, bright, fizzy pop art; the bright pink Cherry Coke is my favourite.
How integral do you think art is to interior design?
I’ve planned a number of rooms starting with a beloved piece of art – that’s how my current living room’s colour scheme came about – the blues and greens are taken from the James Hawkins painting which hangs above the mantelpiece. James is an old family friend so the painting reminds me of childhood days spent messing about by the mountains in the north of Scotland.
What's your favourite travel destination?
Cambridge: the most beautiful city in the world – this is where I went to university and met my husband. It’s also where I had my thumb chopped off in a freak punting accident but I prefer not to dwell on that.
Do you Instagram and/or Pinterest? Who and what do you follow?
Yes – I’m a big fan of both platforms. On Instagram I’m @pinkhouseliving and I find masses of inspiration there. I’m currently crushing on the interiors of @housecurious, @makingspacesnet and @restoringlansdowne. I’m pinkhousepins on Pinterest, which I use to plan spaces and play around with colour schemes.
The Pink House | Guest Curator Collection
With Coachella in the rearview mirror and Glastonbury having officially kicked off, festival fever is everywhere. We’re donning our metaphorical wellies to join in the hype - and we’re taking you with us. Get into the spirit of summer and let us transport you right to the heart of the party with our top 5 artworks to bring the fiesta home.
This work illustrates escapism at its very best. Pop Art and Surrealism (our two favourites of all of the art genres) merge in Benjamin's works, culminating in deliciously trippy works that invite us to cross over from reality into a parallel world full of colour and possibility. Exactly what festivals are all about, right?
If Mexico’s infamous ‘Day of the Dead’ festival is your thing, this piece should be right up your street. A bold juxtaposition of the iconic skull symbol alongside Kristjana’s signature illustrations works to create a daringly dark print that would make anyone stop and stare.
Festivals are the perfect place to pull some shapes and dance like nobody’s watching (even though hundreds are). This effervescent work is full of vigour and sass. It would make the perfect reminder of just how great it feels to let your hair down and don your dancing shoes (or your best wellies).
For the musically obsessed, this piece is bang on trend. Vinyl is making a comeback (OK, it sort of has already) so immortalise the movement on your walls with this minimal yet impactful monochrome piece.
If you’re going to strut your stuff anywhere, a festival is the place to do it. Flower power will never go out of fashion, and this irresistibly colourful portrait is the perfect piece to hang in your bedroom to remind you - whatever the season - that summer is real and that paradise exists beyond the festival campsite. We'll be honest, we can’t get enough of Ellie’s playful illustrations.
Festival Fever | Browse the Edit
Award winning blogger Jenny Kakoudakis speaks to us about colour, art, interior design and why green is the colour to covet this year.
Brexit is real (well... maybe), but art has the power to transcend the national, political and physical divisions that lie between us. Rise Art looks at how Ben Eine and Yz's street art projects take us across and, ultimately, beyond borders.
Rise Art chats to the Jealous Curator about art and envy.
June has suddenly rolled around, and with it comes a host of exhilarating new exhibitions and events as well as exciting art world news. Tune in with the Rise Art Roundup.
Read our exclusive interview with Irene Hoff to hear her story, see her works in progress and get a glimpse at her incredible studio space.
We meet design duo Topology London for a chat about all things interior design and art.
Annabel Kilner is the commercial director for Made.com, the brand that’s championing affordable luxury design. Discover what she loves most about working for Made.com and browse her favourite artworks on Rise Art.