Earlier on this year the WILDABOUT team caught up with Greta Balčiūnaitė & Eglė Šakalytė, the North Acton immersive artists behind Motif Print Studio. In a candid interview the pair discuss their inspirations growing up, their artistry and their future goals and plans.
Tskenya: How did you get into art? Has it always been something you have been into from a young age? Did your parents harness creativity in you?
Eglė Šakalytė: I come from a creative family, my parents are artists who work with wood and my brother is an architect. So all my life I have been surrounded by art and massive sculptures that have taken time and energy to make – so yes, I have been surrounded by art all my life. I went onto study Graphics at the Academy of Arts in Lithuania, so I have played around with lots of different techniques for a while now; printing, etching, screen printing and woodcuts, you name it! It was there that I fell in love with screen printing as it is one of the most flexible techniques where I can work with different mediums and is by far my favourite!
Greta Balčiūnaitė: It is very similar with my family. My mum is a painter and my dad went to art school so since I was a child I have been surrounded by art and was brought up to appreciate it. Everyday there was a new canvas and new project being worked on at home – it was a really creative place. I studied Philosophy at university in Lithuania, then came to London to study Art Philosophy where I knew that aesthetics, ideas of art, beauty and what is opposite to beauty is what interested me. I found that screen printing was the finest way to express my creativity and love for all things visual – so Eglė and I got together to great Motif Print Studio.
TSK: I think it is super refreshing that your parents have supported your creativity, because a lot of artists that I interview or talk to haven’t been taken seriously-
GB: Yeah exactly, my family was appreciative and supportive of creativity from the very young age –
EŠ: To be fair, I think our parents would have been pleased with what ever we chose to do, but as creators themselves they were extra supportive and enthusiastic –
GB: Yeah, there wasn’t a push to do one thing over the other. I remember sitting in a car with my dad telling him that I was going to study philosophy, he looked overjoyed and said ‘I am proud of you’, I think he was just happy I was passionate about something!
EŠ: Now I think about it my parents really wanted me to study languages because I was good at them, then in the end I was like ‘Sorry, I love art.’ [laughs]
TSK: Are there any things that specifically influence you both as artists? Anything that has specifically influenced the vision behind the Motif Print Studio?
GB: We both adore architecture, especially brutalism, which is understandable considering we grew up in a Post-Soviet country, which was full of rough and brutal architecture. Our home landscape has definitely influenced our work. We take classic art and make them brutal and subversive with our prints.
EŠ: We use new technology to be able to bridge the gap between our classic love of architecture and art, hoping to bring new life to print. We cannot really name one, as there are so many artists that influence how we work and think – so it is very hard to just extract one artist or movement for our inspiration at the Motif Print Studio.
GB: Our inspiration is a combination of what we have seen, learnt and read over the years and it has boiled down into our original way of screen printing. Myself and Eglė share this creepy connection, when we finish one item we can just give each other this look that says ‘NOPE’. It is our sixth sense, we both share it, and that is what makes working with Eglė such an amazing thing.
EŠ: I love working with you too, Greta! And it’s so strange because we have only known each other for three years, so it is great to find that connection so early on. It really makes things so much easier, as we can both trust each other to make the right creative decision if either of us is not around – we are both perfectionists so it works well!
TSK: So if you had to describe your relations in one sentence what would you say?
GB: That is a hard one!
EŠ: Well, I always say that ‘I am the hands and she is the brain’ –
TSK: Aw, that is a nice artist-friendship brand slogan! You need to use that!
TSK: Going back to the point you made about both being perfectionists, do you think your perfectionism sometimes holds you back?
GB: Not particularly, it is good thing in our field to search for perfection, also we are both very stubborn. So we try our best to get things right from the very start. We follow things step by step, by the book, to get the best possible quality. Sometimes we could miss a step but we don’t –
EŠ: Sometimes we are in the middle of a project and decide to stop and come back to it the next day when we are refreshed. Or there are times where things just constantly go wrong, but we keep on pushing until we get it completely perfect. But there have been times where I have had to stop Greta and be like ‘Nah, we are crazy let’s go home’ – because if I didn’t we would stay in the studio all night.
TSK: Do you find there is competition within the artist community, do you get support from other artists for example?
GB: So much support! Everyone is so supportive, we can reach out to any of our friends for help and they can too.
EŠ: A guy came across our website and dropped us an email asking if we had any advice on how to use a specific type of ink, he lives in Manchester so we were all on a big group chat discussing the process. Everyone is really willing to help, it is a great community. You know, we are all in this together, and we do our best to help one another.
GB: No one is looking at you thinking ‘you are going to steal my customers’ you know, London is big enough for us all to survive as artists.
EŠ: Exactly, and we just print what we love, we do not print to sell. It is all about passion for us, if we were printing just to make money then there would be no point.
GB: We want to connect with people through our art, if they feel something then they will buy. Not everyone is going to understand our art and that is fine, as long as you get our vision and it moves you then that is all that matters.
TSK: So how do you feel about your current studio being turned into luxury flats at the end of this year? Considering there are not many print studios like this in London, what do you think the future for art printing is?
GB: I don’t want to be negative about this question even through us being pushed out is quite depressing. Our good friend James put it in a good way, he said ‘art is always changing, moving and finding a new space’, so I am still optimistic that art printing will of course live on. Artists will find a new way to innovate and spread the message of their art.
EŠ: James also said that it is worth us showing people that these studios are worth having, but it is so difficult when the government is so set on building anywhere where there is space. Artists and creators bring true value to areas like this, we add character and flare – it is just a shame that others don’t see that. That is why the art community still remains positive because we know it is us that add true cultural value.
TSK: If you were going to start an art movement, what would the movement be? What would be its ethos and values?
EŠ: It would start as this super underground thing, the people who want to know and should know would know. We wouldn’t be lunatics standing on corners shouting about our designs, we would start the movement in a sneaky way – through encrypted messages and things like that.
GB: Create a real paradise for print makers.
TSK: So, what do you think the future for your prints are? Would you move on to clothing?
GB: To be honest we are not so focused on material, screen printing is what we do and what we love. But that being said our art can be translated onto anything, so we can never say never.
EŠ: We are mainly interested in getting our visuals out there to see what people think of them. To develop as artists and people. We have such a flexible medium. No one really knows what the future could hold for us at Motif Print Studio – that is the most beautiful part of it!
THANK YOU GRETA BALČIŪNAITĖ & EGLĖ ŠAKALYTĖ.
Thank you Silvijah Gec for the photos