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Surrender to the Fantasy – Viona-Art

Surrender to the Fantasy – Viona-Art

Art grows from society and becomes a reflection or an opposition. It speaks not only about the artist, but the subjects, and the world in which it was created. Viona has become one of the leading artists of the gothic scene, her photography – akin to the likes of the pre-Raphaelite artists in their day – rails against modern materialism and desires to bring back a romance and magical simplicity. The natural world features heavily throughout her work and models blend seamlessly into her settings. Even when her pictures are not posed, she somehow still manages to capture the very best of the fantastical creatures the alternative scene breeds. Her Wave Gotik Treffen photos are a gallery of gothic marvels.

But Viona is not simply an artist, indeed a work of art herself and one may truly believe she has stepped straight out of a storybook. I’ve always felt inspired by her and that we were perhaps cut from a similar cloth. Being lucky enough to have worked with this lovely lady, I was eager to take up some more of her time to page through the fairytale she weaves around her.

When did you start taking pictures and what was it that made you want to take them?
I discovered photography during art study in my teenage years. In school we had some optional subjects, one of them was black and white photography.

First we made pinhole pictures with cardboard boxes and learnt how to develop prints in a darkroom, got to work with old-fashioned reflex cameras and black and white negative film. The darkroom and studio in our school was actually created by my father, he had been a photography teacher in that same school for many years.
It was my father who supported me and showed me how to improve my photography skills. Some years later I decided to study photography in the academy of art. It is from that moment on that I seriously started to take photographs.

Since I was young I always tried to draw the things that were in my mind, mostly dreamlike and fantasy things. It was very frustrating to see that the drawings never turned out exactly how I imagined them. When I discovered photography I immediately saw the potential of truly capturing my visions of fantasy.

Why do you choose to model in a lot of your photographs and what do you look for when choosing your subjects?

Many of my photoshoots (the ones where I model) are “instant shoots”. I have an idea and I want to shoot it right away.
It often happens when I am on holiday, discovering some special place, where we then immediately organize a shoot. Because most models don’t fit in my luggage, I model myself :-)

Of course I prefer to work with a model, so I am always looking for girls who have that “extra touch”.
My models are often just normal girls, but they have the ability to really give themselves to the camera, to live their role or character. I like girls with a classic look on their face, natural girls.

What drew you into the alternative scene and what inspires you to this day?

At the beginning of my career, people didn’t really understand my subjects. They found them too extreme and too strange.
Actually they were not at all extreme, they were just something they had not seen before. But being different and doing things differently was enough to get stigmatized forever. That’s probably why I felt more comfortable amongst people who were also “different”. I got a lot of support from the alternative/underground scene, and that’s why I will always be grateful for their loyalty. Most of my fans are actually girls from the gothic scene :-)

Girls dream of romantic sceneries, every girl loves to wear a princess gown at least once… don’t they?
Though I work mainly on commercial projects now, my inspiration still comes from fantasy worlds such as old story books and children’s fairytales.

You also design and make your own clothing, when did you start and how did you learn to sew?

I started sewing as a child. I made my own princess dresses, and I still do :-)

I never really learned how to sew properly, but in the meantime sewing has no secrets for me anymore.
Sewing ballgowns is something I really enjoy a lot. It makes me forget all the rest, so it’s kind of calming and therapeutic as well.

What is your favourite era of fashion? Why?

At the moment I like the restoration / romantic era a lot. But it changes often. In every fashion era there is something I adore.
I think historical costumes are just so clever and elaborate, in comparison with that, most of modern fashion seems super dull and without any fantasy.

Why do you think that is?

I think it’s sad that people started to wear only functional clothes. Of course it is not possible anymore for woman to go out and work in those amazingly complicated gowns. But it’s still a pity. Fortunately we can still see some fantastic haute couture on the catwalks, it’s only a shame that it is nowhere to be found in the regular stores.

Maybe it used to be the same? The normal people wearing simple clothes and what we consider as historical fashion was only for the lucky few, just as it is now with the designer clothes? I don’t know, I only know I hardly ever find clothes to my liking in the shops…

How would you describe your style? What is your favourite item of clothing?

I think my style is “eclectic”. I like everything! It can be ethnic, fantasy or historically inspired…
What I don’t like though is being over-the-top-dressed. Too many jewels, too much make-up, too much detail…I believe simple is better, and stronger.

I like to see a well-designed piece of clothing that suits the body of the wearer. It can be eye-catching and truly special, but it should always stick to style and good taste. So I don’t have a specific favourite item of clothing… it used to be my Elizabethan ruffs, but since everybody started to copy them I lost my interest in the piece :-) I still like it, but don’t wear it myself anymore.

Maybe my hair is my favourite aspect in styling :-) It always has to match the style of the dress.

What do you consider the worst fashion faux-pas?

Ohlala, I love commenting on other people, but that’s a faux-pas on its own :-)

In normal life I don’t like girls wearing their trousers slung low below their hips so that you can see their g-string…
In underground life I always find it a pity when I see girls wearing big hoopskirts, putting a lot of effort in their big crinoline dress but forgetting to wear a petticoat underneath, so that all the hoops show through the upper fabric. I know, I am very critical :-)

You also organize a number of events, could you tell me a bit about them?

My oldest and dearest event is Gala Nocturna; a masquerade ball in a gothic church. All the guests show up in their most beautiful evening gown, very often specially created for the event. The evening is like a page from a storybook – the page where you meet your prince charming at a ball and dance till dawn in tones of mysterious music.

With my events I try to open doors for everybody who likes to take a step into a dreamworld and escape for one evening from the dull reality!

I open my stage for young artists and performers: classical ballet, opera, fashion design, historical dances, gipsy music et cetera.

You can best describe my events in the following equation: fantastic location + dreamy music + fairytale atmosphere + hundreds of elegantly dressed people = an unforgettable experience. :-)

Other than the events, your photography and sewing, is there anything else that occupies your time?

I enjoy playing with my four cats, going on horseback riding trips in the forest and organizing parties for my family and friends in our garden. (next to that, I work on the computer a lot – post production of my photos and trying to keep the strict planning and deadlines for different projects)

You travel to some amazing places, where would you consider the most magical place you’ve been?

Every place has its magic, I would not be able to pick a specific one. I enjoy discovering the world; it gives me so much inspiration and helps me to keep everything in perspective.

What advice would you give someone wanting to follow in your footsteps?

Always follow your own path and don’t let anything or anyone stop you from following it. I try to carry the torch of fantasy on my path and I intend to keep it burning until we can make a very big joyful fire at the end of the road!

If you could have three wishes what would they be?

Being unchained from society aka “being free” (free from money, corruption and bad people). Living in a beautiful environment with forests and a lot of animals. Organizing fairytale balls in my own little castle and having all the guests sleep over so that we can have breakfast together with cupcakes and scones the morning after!

Surrender to the fantasy:

published in Unscene