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"I vividly remember swimming into the cold ocean one day, battling the big waves of the winter Atlantic so fiercely, and with strength I never knew I possessed. I swam behind the point where waves break, and finally reached that place where the swells turned to calm waters, just peacefully reflecting the sun. I came back to the shore a different woman.” – Lena Zak

Drawing inspiration from the elemental forces of nature, Lena Zak's art channels the primal power of fire, water, air, and earth, as a metaphor for the resilience and strength that lie at the core of existence. Exploring abstraction with a minimalist sensibility, the artist uses basic colours, or “non-colours”, as a means to explore the principles of duality that transmute not only in her palette choices but also within her compositions.


In a city known for its vibrant and ever-evolving night scene, its openness to diversity, and its penchant for embracing the unconventional, spätis remain steadfast fixtures serving as beloved landmarks that bring people together. Nestle in the basement of Spätibrothers in Kreuzberg, the exhibition unfolds in a space stripped down to its essence. Lena Zak embraces a philosophy where, in contrast to the starkness often associated with traditional minimalism, each reduction amplifies her intent, and every subtraction strategically unveils hidden depths.


Descending into the back of the shop, visitors find the traditional notions of the exhibition space challenged, and artistic expression thriving in an unexpected setting. Against the backdrop of the basement's darkness, some paintings incorporate light directly, creating a striking contrast. This unique juxtaposition invites viewers to contemplate the interplay between light and shadow in both the artworks and the space they inhabit — exploring the boundaries between public and private spaces, and the transformative power of artistic intervention in everyday environments.


Basements transcend mere physicality, serving as initiatory realms where the courageous confront the shadows of the psyche. In Women Who Run with the Wolves, Clarissa Pinkola Estés describes the cellar, dungeon, and cave symbols as “ancient initiatory environs”. Using the Bluebeard tale as an example, she shows the power of female instincts and the harrowing exploration that leads a woman to unearth the truth of her darker nature and the sinister presence of the predator within.  “If a woman does not look into these issues of her own deadness and murder, she remains obedient to the dictates of the predator”.


Through a fusion of unconscious instinct and intuitive creativity, Lena Zak paints her own experience as a woman, and how to reclaim and control her inner power and strength. The act of painting itself then becomes a third space, where the artist can perform and flow freely, from her inner depths to outer manifestations. Creating a captivating dialogue between form and formlessness, presence and absence, the artist’s process is ultimately about setting the soul free. In this fictional space where darkness gives way to light, and where strength is found in vulnerability, the artist can express herself without boundaries, leading her to surpass her shadow self. 

Louise des Places, curator of the exhibition

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