You are working in London now; are you originally from there, or did you move there specifically to pursue your art?
I am ethnically Russian, but born in Riga, Latvia. I speak both languages, English being my third. At the age of 12 my mother and I moved to Moscow, where I studied at the infamous Surikov Art Lycée. It was an academic/traditional art school. I took painting, drawing and architecture classes. Then I decided to pursue my further studies in London, at Central Saint Martins. I came here to do a few short courses then, being only about 15-16 years old, and loved it completely! My mind had been blown by the freedom and the amount of creativity in the city, so at 17 I was already enrolled as a Foundation student at Byam Shaw School of Art, which was part of CSM then. I continued my later studies at CSM, too. Only been out of education for two years now…
You mention Robert Rauschenberg’s Combines being an influence; where/how did you first discover these? What/who are some of your other influences?
I also love his earlier collages. I never had studied (unfortunately) modern or contemporary art in Russia, as the schools there were/are too conservative. So the first time I saw Rauschenberg’s works, namely collages, printed in black and white in a small book about him, was by accident at Byam Shaw’s library. I photocopied them and made my own versions of those at the studio. My tutor back then immediately saw the resemblance, though, mine were “more colourful” and “crazy”, apparently.
I used to really like Sylvie Fleury. She has some crazy art works that she did when she was younger — with a lot of wit and style. She is a very nice person as well, as I emailed her and she replied! Coffee never happened but ‘almost’ was good enough for me. Now I prefer pieces that are a bit more rough than her work, as my own style has shifted now as well.
Isa Genzken — another major influence one me (excluding her latest show at London’s Hauser & Wirth, which was a year ago?). She manipulates materials, playing with perception, composition, sensuality… I’d want to have sex in front of her works! She’s just too good… I hate her the most I think.
Now that I sit back and think about it, I feel like I should mention Tracey Emin. It’s time to admit — it’s hard to do any type of art about my sexuality or being a woman after her. I always have to compare myself to her. And other people. She was/is a genius, and the way she lived during her youth through to where she is now — is an inspiration. Although I think my works are less ‘staged’ than hers — I hope they are more ‘true’. And also, surrealist’s thought and that of DADA members has always played at the back of my mind. I try to read their manifestos to keep myself going when it’s sad outside.
Where do you find the materials that you use in your work?
Depends. I prefer stuff that I get for free. Because it’s cheaper and because it’s less stress that you will fuck the work up. And the whole feel of the ready-made, found object — makes things easier. The only thing I love love love buying is fabrics! Or things like perspex, chains from fashion industry, or good quality wood to paint on. Spray paint is another fetish of mine. I buy it or find it. Otherwise, I use wall paint that I find places (like freecycle.org, at my studio complex, friends etc), wooden stretchers that other artists have left behind, canvases and acrylic that someone has thrown away.
You also use a lot of text; where do you find inspiration for the words or phrases you include?
Honestly, just comes to me spontaneously while I’m painting. Or while I’m at a bus stop spacing out. Or from songs that come up on my playlist. Sometimes I write down phrases or words that I over-hear at bars/parties, when meeting people. I keep my notepad with me at all times!
What do you feel is the most challenging aspect of being an artist that you’ve encountered so far (creatively, professionally, etc)?
The hardest is getting yourself back up after a year of being out of the art ‘academia’ and when you can’t get representation by galleries. When you have to work a few jobs to feed yourself and pay the unbearable, ever increasing, studio/flat rent fees. And doing jobs that you hate and are unrelated to anything creative — you want to die! Sorry to be so brutally honest. It is very hard to keep going, basically, and reminding yourself why you want to do it in the first place. Because then you have to keep convincing yourself that you’re a genius and the World needs you, so you have to keep going. I’m joking (not).
What do you consider to be your biggest success or moment of triumph so far?
I can’t say that I am not proud of the little ‘wins’ I’ve had in my life, and the little moments of where I’ve overcome myself or made other people inspired, but for a moment of triumph as such I am still waiting.
Can you tell me a bit about your daily routine or studio practice? What is your process like?
First I gather lots of various materials — it is an ongoing process. Once I see that I have enough at the studio, I start by playing with the fabrics and wood/other supports. I either start by writing text and painting it over (on the floor or wall), or spraying shapes onto the surfaces. Then I paint layers over that, and sometimes decide to manipulate the objects, combining them together. I do have many cigarette and coffee/tea/food breaks! I take lots of pictures of the process, making images out of that and posting those on Instagram and Facebook. I like seeing people’s reactions and then continuing. Some objects/paintings take a day to be made, and others a month and over. It depends. I usually don’t plan anything. Just go with the flow and whatever comes to my head, comes out.
Is there anything that you know now that you wish you would have known when you were just beginning as an art student?
Yes. Patience. And respect for other students. Learn from others and don’t be too competitive. I mean, be competitive — it drives you! But don’t overdo it. I wish we helped each other grow more than we did, and I wish I was less of a diva.
What do you feel was the most valuable aspect of your formal art education? Anything you wish would have been emphasized more?
I also wish someone told me to stop beating myself up for not being able/willing to be the geekiest, most conceptualised person there is in the World. It is part of the learning at most London art schools, but being an artist does not equal being THAT. It should be up to each student/artist to choose whether they want to follow the rules that were imposed on us by the academics in the past century, or not.
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