“Since I was little, I was always very creative,” says Tjasa Iris. “I made many things out of wood, glass, paper, fabrics. I did lots of photography and painting, too. In the end, I liked painting more than all the other things.”
Today, the Slovenian-born artist has broken into the international art scene and is making a splash throughout Southeast Asia in particular for her large scale acrylic and oil paintings of natural garden scenes made distinctive by their unabashed use of colour.
“I am a colourist,” says Iris. “I am known for my happy, vibrant, bright colors. My roots are in European expressionism, but I am also part of the internet generation.”
It was at a personal exhibition in Singapore in 2010 that Iris was discovered by Wanthip Nimmanhaeminda, gallerist for the 116 Art Gallery here in Chiang Mai. Upon arrival, Iris fell in love with the place. Out of all the cities in Asia where she exhibited her work, from Hong Kong to Singapore to Kuala Lumpur to Ubud, she says that Chiang Mai was her favourite.
“I love the city, temples, people, markets, cuisine and big blue skies in the winter time,” Iris explains. “But what inspires me the most is the nature, the vegetation. My favourite place is Phu Ping Palace.”
The palace became a kind of temporary workshop for Iris, who lingered there painting scenes that will be featured in her upcoming exhibition at the Chiang Mai University Art Centre.
Notably, Iris has reached a point in her career where she is able to support herself solely on her artwork, and does most of her own marketing and public relations to create an international buzz. She has also made great use of crowdfunding websites like Kickstarter, Indiegogo and Rockethub to receive funding directly from her growing fan base, which has allowed her to finance her first book, Four Winters in South East Asia: A European Under the Tropics, due for release at the end of February.
The ingenuity of Iris’ self-made publicity machine – which she says has taken her from virtually unknown to the world stage in only the past four years – is perhaps the most inspiring thing about her. It provides a great model for other artists struggling to support themselves, particularly in places like Thailand where public funding is few and far between. Iris has already sold several of the paintings that will be featured in her upcoming show, with the going rate per painting at 100 to 12,000 euros.
“The business side of art goes better if we dedicate ourselves to it,” says Iris. “It does not just happen. The most important advice I had was from my adoptive father Tony who always said I have to move myself. Little can happen if we just sit in one place.”
The “Tjasa Iris – Gardens of Eden” art exhibition will take place at the CMU Art Centre on the corner of Suthep and Nimmanhaemin Road from 8th November – 30 November 2013. Entry is free. Visit www.tjasairis.com for more information.