Can you tell me a little bit about you?
I was born in Moscow and spent my childhood there. At the age of 12 I was accepted into a school in the UK on an art scholarship and I continued to study and live in London after.
When did you first discover art or realize that you wanted to make it yourself?
I don’t have a clear memory when I started drawing and painting, it was always a big part of my life, I always needed to make something. When I was a child I think drawing and painting was very responsive to my experiences, my immediate surroundings, a way to process what was going on. Most of my work from that time imagines narratives or stories with impossible creatures or myths, but also a lot of life drawing. Studying at the Slade School of Fine Art in London was a natural progression and a more solid recognition of my need to continue to learn in this way.
What do you like most about working where you do?
London brings together so many artists with different backgrounds and experiences, sharing this and working together to bring something new to the conversation. Its an incredibly exciting time and place to make work and I am grateful to be surrounded by great people, works and ideas. I am also happy to have a studio with Cell Projects, which is a supportive environment to make work.
What ideas are you exploring in your practice?
Lately my ideas are focused in more psychological or unspoken behaviours, mindsets. My own dreams can be quite uncomfortable, and somehow help me to construct potential narratives. Most of the time I am interested in how I think about something than in how it actually looks like. Sometimes the figures or characters in my drawings are based on characteristics of people that I know, and these works start from life drawing. Most of them extend or stretch what is really there, reimagine it and bring it closer to how I think.
Some paintings have developed more contradictory relationships, they can be seen as abstract or figurative, serious or funny. And the possibility of this is interesting. In the past there has been a focus on creating a kind of space within the paintings, that finds itself within a suggestion of a face or a figure rather than their clear articulation. I am interested in the physical processes of developing an image
What is your process like?
Even if the image is preconceived, the actual process of painting changes things, it’s quite instinctive and finds its own logic, there is a kind of necessity to break this logic too. In this process I find that many of my ideas have to go through a process of change, just because of their physicality. There is a difference between conceiving and realising a painting, because in the end a painting is not an idea.
It can start with one, usually in a drawing or a plan and sometimes through writing. Recently I am finding that drawings have become very useful to the current body of work. As much as they are useful in tuning ideas, they can break an existing logic when I am in the middle of a painting, redevelop it.
As the painting goes on, its important for me to work through the changes that inevitably follow. In this I can find a kind of freedom not only in material but also within the changing narratives. For me, this creates a capacity for new relationships within the image, in objects, figures, ideas or spaces used in its development. In this there is a possibility to learn something I didn’t know before. In the end the ‘idea’ or the ‘object’ is not really the subject – and with painting you can see that.
I definitely have different focus points which work within a single painting. A kind of changing rhythm. It’s not just an attitude but more like a habit – physical and actually quite obsessive.
Do you have a day job or other work that you split your time between?
I tend to involve myself in different projects. Previously I worked in art galleries, magazines and collaborated with a London based architectural practice on several photography and research projects.
What is your studio like?
A lot of paint and turpentine. It’s kind of a mess, but it makes sense. I find that having lots of space around the work and removing everything else – helps my focus. Sometimes drawings get ruined with paint or other materials in the studio but I continue to work on them and find interesting relationships between disregarding something and caring so deeply about it.
Do you have any routines or rituals in the studio that get you into the mode or mindset to make work?
I try to be in the studio as much as I can, almost every day. Usually I start working at 10 and finish at different times in the evening. Sometimes I finish early and sometimes I find myself painting through the night.
How significant has attending art school been to your practice?
I spent four years studying a BA at the Slade School of Fine Art, it was a valuable time for me. The best part was working alongside other students, always talking about what we are working on, and trying to push it further. It was a great focus and really useful experience to develop my practice and understand how I can learn. I have so many good memories of the Slade, but I wouldn’t want to go back, it much more interesting to make work on my own terms.
What do you find most daunting, challenging, or frustrating about pursuing art?
I finished my BA last summer, and I think the most frustrating part for me so far has been to find ways to sustain my practice outside of school for the first time. I have had to face many issues related to money and visas this year as well as working through some mental health issues. All of this has had an influence on my work and by accepting these changes I am grateful for these experiences as they have given me new subjects and new understandings of my practice and of myself as an artist.
What are you working on right now?
Currently I am developing a body of work that is much more closely focused on narrative situations, I think that sex and night scenes have been at the core of many narratives this year. I started to spend a lot more time on underpainting. Ideas for some of the new paintings were conceived as a sequence, there is always a connection to my surroundings too. I also began to study Klee and El Greco much more closely.
A painting I am working on right now is probably titled ‘Kissing’, it began in multiple drawings where I was able to find a line suggestive of a body. The painting began from this line – which developed into a sequence of repetitions, leading towards a figure that is kissing itself. After a while the painting developed two more figures, one forming a kind of background space and another as an extension of the first figure.
Another painting is based more directly on something that I saw, I walked into an elevator, it was full of people, and there was a couple quite shamelessly making out at the back, and then two people in the middle started kissing too, I just thought – thats so beautiful I want to draw that – and after a few days I found myself developing these drawings into a painting.
Anything else you would like to add?