The inescapable reality of a millennial: an interview with artist Sára Molčan

Molčan’s works convey a longing for a certain intimacy that social media has changed

“New Sincerity Nude” (2018), Sára Molčan. Image courtesy of the artist.

By: Kelly Chia, Staff Writer

This year’s Eastside Culture Crawl took place from November 14 to 17 across 68 East Vancouver venues. From painters to glassblowers, the festival showcased 495 artists, taking its visitors on a tour through the lens of art in East Vancouver. 

The Peak had the opportunity to interview one of the Culture Crawl’s Vancouver-based artists, Sára Molčan. Her works focus on how our culture has changed because of social media, using herself as a reference. On her website’s about page, Molčan says that her art plays with the masks people wear on social media. As many of us know, our curated online persona and our offline personality often overlap. We are still finding out how this shapes the ways we interact with our world and changes the ways that we are vulnerable. Molčan uses this conflict between the two versions of yourself, the curated and the genuine, and translates it into her art.

In two words, Molčan’s pieces are emotionally explosive, vividly exposing vulnerable parts of her life. With pieces like  “wyd bb,” an oil painting depicting her kissing a stranger and an iOS alert that reads, “Error: This situation is dysfunctional. Accept fate.” she reaches into the psyche of social media culture to pull out something that people can recognize. Though Molčan told me that her work is a way to work through her own traumas, there are many pieces of hers that people can relate to. 

“A lot of us interact with society in the same way,” she said. “My goal is to make people feel less alone.” 

To that effect, Molčan is interested in new ways for getting her audience to engage with her art. For example, her paintings have an augmented reality (AR) feature that allows people to interact in an additional layer of her art through an app named Eyejack. Viewers can scan QR codes through the app and view her work through their devices, allowing them to see extra details about the piece. Examples of this can be seen on her Instagram page, giving the paintings extra context in an engaging way.  

Her favourite piece that she’s painted this year is an oil painting called “Showing Pink.” Molčan paints herself in a nude sext, showing the reader an iOS alert that reads, “Are you sure you want to forward this content? Further transmission violates the intended use and implied trust.” Molčan said that often when nudes are leaked, the sender is blamed, even though the person who forwards it is the one who violates trust. It’s a highly relevant topic, of course, and the painting also gave Molčan some more agency. She told me: “By painting my own [body], and being vulnerable in that way, I take power back as a woman.” 

With so many of her works navigating trauma being shared on the internet, Molčan and I had a conversation about the consequences of sharing such traumas on social media. We concluded that internet trauma was like a double-edged sword: on the one hand, people expressing their traumas and experiences with anxiety could help readers recognize their own anxiety. But she worries that it can also contribute to a culture of comparison, prompting people to ask questions like, “Who had it worse?” 

People may be able to relate to the core feelings in her work, but she’s understandably cautious about sharing specific stories with her art. 

“I recognize that I went through hell and back, but I [also] recognize that my story is one of many. When you compare traumas, that’s when it [becomes] dangerous,” Molčan told me, prompting people to not dismiss their traumas because they don’t look like someone else’s. 

“Your stuff is a big deal,” she stressed.

This year, Molčan featured her art series, Love, madness at the Culture Crawl. Molčan also spent the entire festival painting on a large canvas, as she does every year.