Interview with ARINA about her Solo-Exhibition
by The Bare
Hill Publishing, April
1. What can art enthusiasts expect from ‘ARINA – The Theatre of One
My hope is always
that people are inspired to produce their own creative energy by interacting
with my work. I believe I have created my own style, which I call
Hyper-Surrealism, and that anything can be imagined behind the images of my paintings;
any century, country; eye, skin, or hair colours, or no hair at all. It is all
dependent on your own perception of the universe and your own imagination.
Through engaging the imagination of the viewer they become immersed in the
creative process and this is a positive circle between artist and viewer
through the medium of my paintings. It is this interaction and positive energy
that I wish for everyone who sees the show and my work.
2. How did you come to choose the 20 Century Theatre in
Notting Hill as the venue for the exhibition?
Antonia and Tim (from
Lyes & Jones) are both from West London and so they knew the 20
Century Theatre and felt that it was both the perfect space, as a canvass for
my work, and location being in the heart of Notting Hill.
I felt that a theatre
was a natural space for me to show my work as performance is essential to my
artistic process; I try to put my imagination inside of an image and
live within it until I can feel the story behind it through my skin, from
inside, as if I was an actress who must play a character of this image. Then I
perform the image through the prism of my own imagination and life experience
and then I paint my own version of the image on canvas.
I was thrilled to learn that Charles Dickens had
read instalments of his novels here and that Sir Laurence Olivier made his
professional debut in the Theatre in 1925 as well as it being the venue for the
first ever production of Oscar Wilde’s Salome in 1905. The Theatre is steeped
in the history of performance and artists taking their work to connect with
their audience; I am very happy to be part of this tradition and a new chapter
in the history of this theatre.
3. Your work combines elements of self-portraiture with a more abstract
take on emotional representation – what inspires you? Are you directly
influenced by theatre and mime?
An endless source
of inspiration for me are the masterpieces by Leonardo da Vinci, Vermeer,
Raphael and all the Old Masters of Renaissance - Del Sarto, Jan van Eyck, Giotto,
Botticelli, Ghirlandaio, Perugino, Fra Angelico etc. alongside with the
Renaissance Humanist philosophy.
What fascinates me
most are the human faces with a fleeting expression of the eyes or a transient
smile, human emotions and feelings - are they still the same through the
centuries? Have human feelings changed at all? Can I, the artist ARINA from the
21st century, still feel what these people depicted on Masterpieces of the Old
Masters have been through? This is what always fascinates and inspires me.
As I said before,
I try to imagine the story behind images and then to interpret them as an
actress who will perform the character. I draw on my imagination and personal
life experiences, just as a performer of the theatre does, before painting my
own version of the image on canvas. In this way you can draw a parallel between
my own act of performance and that of the actress on the theatre stage.
inspiration and my main subject is the human spirit, the soul, feelings and
emotions, something that can be called a ‘litmus paper’ of the inner self. I am
challenged to express a pure emotion in my works, that of the flawless human
spirit. I explore Universal subjects that can be related to by any human being.
emotions do not depend on any boundaries; such as countries, languages,
mentalities, religions, races etc., so emotions and feelings can be considered
as a Universal language that can be understood and adopted by everybody in the
world. In this way you can see the shared universality between my work and that
of the mime artist and so yes, it is an interesting connection.
4. What shapes your colour palette and your use of colour symbolism?
I intentionally restrict myself with colours in my
work. My paintings are mainly black and white monochrome which enables me to
provide anonymity to the images I am working with. I position an image in the
middle of nowhere, without any recognizable signs of any given time or place,
or any other particular characteristics.
red in my works has, from my very childhood, a deep meaning for me. In Russian
language, in folk’s fairy tales, the word ‘red’ has an equal meaning to the
word ‘beautiful’. One of the best known Russian writers Fyodor Dostoevsky said
‘Beauty will save the World', so I believe that in my works I transform my
perception of the ‘red’ as ‘beautiful’ into a symbol of ‘saving the world’.
There is certainly some kind of mysterious
attraction in the colour red to the human eye. While working on my Masters
Degree dissertation I have found numerous contradictive associations to red;
the Russian Revolution and the Red Army with that entire Communist connotation,
the French Revolution with Delacroix's Liberty Leading the People and all revolutions in general, Zen-Buddhism
with the red colour of the chakra Muladhara corresponding to the vital energy
and vitality of blood itself, the Red Cross with its proclaimed humanity and
even the women burnt alive as witches in the Middle Ages for having red-hair!
In many cultures however, this colour
symbolises passion and love and there is undoubtedly a very powerful energy pulsating
through it. Interacting on the subject with many people I found that the one
current universal is that red is mainly associated with female sexuality and
power, the most obvious expression of this being the poppy-red lipstick by Coco Chanel.
And finally the
colour red for me is, according to Tibetan philosophy, a symbol of
connection with the Universe, with everyone and everything at all levels of the
5. Can you tell us about one work in particular?
Yes of course, if we take
“Silence, Opus 3” for instance. I believe that
silence is the music and harmony of the Universe. For me silence is far beyond
that of just being a quietness or absence of noise. Silence is the space where
everything was born and everything came from. It is a cosmos where our consciousness
integrates with the origin of all creation, the source out of which all
One of the
quantum physic theories suggests that the Universe consists of strings that
vibrate throughout it. And when we are in silence we are in tune with the
Universe and can hear and feel all the vibrations of the world, and even
vibrations of the future and past. There are too many words and verbal litters
in the world – we should listen to The Silence, listen to the world, listen to
I paint Silence as a symbol of connection with the
6. Across the last five decades, the profile of Russian art has been
raised in London, how does it feel to be building on that cultural context?
I can only speak for
myself and my own work. Art is something that I am breathing with,
something that is vital and absolutely essential for me. Art takes such a big
part of my life that I would say it is my life. As far back as I can remember I
dreamt about it. In 2005 I decided to apply to study art at the Central Saint
Martins College of Art and Design in London even though I spoke no English and
required an interpreter for the interview! I moved from Russia and within 7
months had passed the necessary English language exam and begun my studies and
following my dream.
Now, after completing my education at the
University of the Arts London with a Masters Degree in Fine Art, I am a
full-time professional artist. I work at my studio in the very heart of London
and constantly exhibit my works in London and around the world. I exhibited in
New York, Miami, Venice, Rome, Hamburg, Marseille. My paintings have been
recognised with international painting awards in London, New York, Miami,
Venice and Hamburg.
I enjoy every
single minute of my work; art gave me the hope, inspiration and energy to cope
with all of my circumstances. Art helped me to bring my life back. I believe
that nothing is too late in this life, nothing is impossible or unachievable.
And whether that is building on the cultural context or Russian born artists in
London or the ever developing respect and appreciation of women artists in London,
I am very proud to be a part of that narrative and to inspire others to follow
ARINA's Contribution to the Universe
Interview with ARINA by Michele Andree Lemieux, 2010
This is a wonderful story of courage, determination and the power of a dream. Arina is an excellent role model for those who want to follow their bliss. Nothing has been modified or corrected in this article because its story is just too inspiring. So with joy, this is part one of Arina’s quest! Arina, thank you for doing this!
M.A: What is art to and for you?
ARINA: Art is something that I am breathing with, something that is vital and absolutely essential for me. Art takes such a big part of my life that I would say it is my life. If I wasn’t a professional artist I don't know who I would have been now and what my life would be like.
Art has totally changed my life, when in October of 2005 I started to study at the Central Saint Martins College of Art in London, where I arrived from a little Russian town in the Ural’s Mountains area. I had an absolutely different life in my little town and if somebody would have told me 5 years ago that I will be a professional artist based in London, exhibiting in the UK, USA and Europe at the venues like Saatchi Gallery, Mall Galleries and Venice Arsenale and having recognized with several International Painting Prizes and Awards - I would never have believed it.
I finished a part-time art college in Russia in my twenties and afterwards I had always been working in fields related to art, yet never having the chance or sufficient time to become a professional artist. As far back as I can remember I dreamt about it, but I don’t regret that I didn’t become an artist earlier, as I believe that nothing in our lives is accidental. The Universe wanted me to become an artist as well, and for exactly this reason I needed to have gone through all of the experiences in my life before to take the opportunity to stand in front of my canvases with my brushes and oil paints – to create my art works.
I believe that everything in our lives happens at the right time. I don’t think I would be able to create anything like my ‘Trinity’ or ‘Silence’ or ‘Wide Shut Eyes’ if I would have became a painter earlier. Only when grapes are perfectly mature there is a chance to produce the best wine that gets better over time.
In 2005 I reached a crossing point in my life. Everything around me at that point seemed to crush and change - it was a very frustrating time for me. Though in my professional career it was all successful, it was all good, but I couldn't do it anymore. I felt like I wasn’t living my life, but somebody else’s life and one day, at a crossing point, I decided to start a new life from zero – the new ‘ARINA the Artist’ one! I decided to change my life completely and, as I had nothing to lose, I ventured to apply to a dream place to study - the Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London that is world known for its famous alumni such as Peter Doig, Anish Kapoor, Stella McCartney, Alexander McQuinn etc.
Despite the fact that I could not speak any proper English, knowing at that time only some basic words and phrases, and having an interpreter to assist me during the interview - I was accepted for studying with the requirement that I have to learn English and pass the international students English Language exam. I hadn’t a clue if it was possible to study English up to this level in such a short period of time, but I wanted to study so much that I had no choice, but to learn, and 7 months later I passed my exam. In October 2005 I began my studying at the Central Saint Martins College, being probably the oldest, but certainly the happiest student on my course.
Now, after completing my education at the University of the Arts London with Masters Degree in Fine Art, I am a full-time professional artist. I work at my studio in the very heart of London and constantly exhibit my works around the world. My paintings have been recognised with international Painting Awards in London, New York, Miami, Venice and Hamburg etc. I work every day on my paintings, and sometimes it is a hard, but always a happy work.
I enjoy every single minute of my work, I love the smell of oil paints and mediums, I love the blank new surface of a canvas, I love wooden frames and stretches, I love my brushes and work clothes covered with numerous stains of paints - everything. I love every single moment of being an artist and I feel that finally I am living my own life. Art gave me the hope, inspiration and energy to cope with all of my circumstances. Art helped me to bring my life back. I believe that nothing is too late in this life, nothing is impossible and unachievable.
M.A: What inspires you?
ARINA: An endless source of inspiration for me are the masterpieces by Leonardo da Vinci, Vermeer and all the Old Masters of Renaissance - Del Sarto, Jan van Eyck, Giotto, Botticelli, Ghirlandaio , Perugino, Fra Angelico etc. alongside with the Renaissance Humanist philosophy.
What fascinates me most are the human faces with a fleeting expression of the eyes or a transient smile, human emotions and feelings - are they still the same through the centuries? Have human feelings changed at all? Can I, the artist ARINA from the 21st century, still feel what these people depicted on Masterpieces of the Old Masters have been through? This is what always fascinates and inspires me.
When I see a portrait that strikes my eyes, my soul and my mind-I try to put my imagination inside of an image and live within it until I can feel the story behind it by my skin, from inside, as if I was an actress who must play a character of this image in a theatre. Then I am doing an action that always inspires and mesmerises me – I perform the image through the prism of my own imagination and life experience and then I paint my own version of the image on canvas.
What inspires me as well is a painting itself as such a mysterious creative media that enables me to express a human’s inner, an emotional condition that can stir a soul of any human being and can be understood by anybody from any part of the world. Painting has no boundaries like borders or languages, countries or races, gender or age -it is a powerful Universal Language.
My paintings are full of symbols helping me to convey my philosophy into my work and often I germinate creative ideas for my work from my perception of the world around - from reflection of my thoughts and philosophy. My belief is that a purpose of art is to keep the world in balance and harmony and awareness of that gives me an entire inspiration as well.
M.A: When you are painting, creating, where does it take you? Where does your mind (spirit) travel?
ARINA: This is a fascinating question, thank you for asking me.
I definitely feel a connection with the Universe when I paint. It seems to me that my paintings are born by themselves and I just conduct them to the world within a creative energy that moves throughout my brushstrokes with paints to the images on canvas. I feel as if I am a conductor of the energy and I believe it is a positive one. I work for about two months on each of my paintings, giving them a birth with hundreds of brush strokes, but sometimes I feel like all of the paintings have already been created somewhere at a different level of the Universe and I just materialise them - transferring them into our world.
There is a certain interaction between the Universe and creators within their art works and there are always very strong vibrations around during the creative process. My deep belief is that it entirely depends on artists which energies they are appealing to and which vibrations are around them and their creations. There are two sides of the Universe-the Light and the Dark ones and there is always the main question for any creators and a choice, which side to support and stand by.
M.A: Do you think visual art, music and health are related and if so, how?
ARINA: Oh, absolutely! Certainly they are. I used to study at Music College as a chorus conductor and I still perceive everything in the world through a musical harmony, whether this is the harmony of singing voices, music, words or colours. I am trying to transfer the harmonies into my paintings.
I believe that all the creative media in art are related energetically and interact not only with humans’ health condition and mental state, but also with the Universe in general as well. It is all about Energy in the Universe – Energy and its vibrations. Energy moves through everybody and everything – we are all connected. And, of course, it is important which vibrations of energy go through you - negative, depressive, ill or positive, full of light, health and hope. I believe that the most strong and energetically powerful vibrations are produced within a creative process, whether it is art, music, or literature etc. – within any creativity.
Creative people have to be careful with this power-we are all responsible for which energy we are bringing into the world, all the artists are responsible for every single brush stroke they produce. I based my MA dissertation on the subject of ‘The Abuse of Beauty’ by Arthur Danto and in my opinion there are too many ‘art’ works that proclaim some violent, negative or just blunt and frustrating stuff. This is bitter and sad that nowadays the ‘cult of ugliness’ seems to be celebrating its triumph at the Art Scene - through the centuries art was bringing to the world the Beauty, Light and Hope.
Artists have a choice of what to create – to bring the Beauty, positive energy and Harmony to the world or to stand by the clearly dominating in the art world in the last two decades ‘cult of ugliness’ or ‘cult of emptiness’ and produce ‘shocking’ images to attract attention of media, some certain art critics and galleries etc. Well, perhaps, they will be the centre of attention - for a while. But afterwards, when the highlights will slow down, where do you think all these dark vibrations they appealed to and materialised within their works will go?
Nothing disappears on an energetical level, and the metaphysical monsters created within any negative works will not disappear either, they will stay in the world right behind these works and behind their creators affecting their life. Was this really intention of those artists or they just did not think about it? Even our thoughts are material - imagine how material and powerful the images you produce are.
I am never tired of repeating whenever I can that it is not only an honour and a privilege to be an artist, but also it is a huge responsibility. Art is a powerful tool and I believe that it has an ability to transform reality. We, artists, all have a choice - what to contribute to the future of the Art World. I believe that the more beautiful and positive artworks created today, the better the world will be to live in tomorrow. We all create this world around us and if you bring in some positive energy you are making a contribution to the Universe expanding.
M.A: How do you feel when you are painting?
ARINA: I feel peaceful, grateful and blessed when I paint, it is a happy feeling. There is certainly a bond between creative people and their work. When I start a new work it is an amazing feeling - standing in front of the blank surface of the canvas, looking at it, touching it and knowing that in time there will be a new creation, a new painting that at some point will begin its own independent journey in the world.
There is a particularly magical moment in the process of painting – at the end of the work. For weeks I work on a painting and I know every inch of the image I am working with - I look at it thousands times while working on it. I watch it changing, developing and growing under my brushes, but then, at some point I suddenly feel that the image is magically watching me back, eventually it looks at me!
I know that this moment is always coming, but it always happens at an unexpected minute and gives me goose bumps and shivers run down my spine. This mesmerizing and precious moment means that the painting is finished...as if it is telling me ‘Arina, your job is done, thank you and please, don’t touch me any more - I am born and I am ready to live my own life from now on...’
I wait for this moment and look forward to it from the very beginning of my work, it gives me an incredible feeling that through my
paintings I am actually talking to the Creator of the world – to the Genius and Greatest Artist created the Genius and Greatest Masterpiece – the Universe.
As promised, here is the continuation of Arina’s story and the power of a dream.
Arina, thank you for participating in this project. Without further ado, let’s continue from last week with question six (6)
M.A: Under what conditions do you do your best work?
ARINA: Well...first of all, I don’t really know which of my works are the best - they are all equal for me. I work on all of them equally, which means I am always trying to do my best and put my soul and inspiration into all of my works. I guess that I am a kind of ‘psychic perfectionist’ - I torture myself with a challenge to achieve the highest level possible in my work.
I work on a painting until I am almost satisfied with the result of my labour. Why almost? Because perfection is something that has no end, I would say it is an endless challenge, so I am never totally satisfied with any of the works I have ever done. I am sure that many of the artists perfectly know what I mean by this and often feel the same. Moreover I believe that this is exactly what it means to be a creative person, whether you are an artist, a musician, a writer or a poet – to be never satisfied with your creations, with your work, and being destined for the challenge to achieve perfection...
Sometimes I work on a painting on one breath and feel like a bird flying, but sometimes in a middle of work I feel that I have to leave it for a while, because the work is stuck at some point, then I come back to it, look at it with refreshed eyes and only then I can finish it. I know that many of my friends, artists, do the same. Inspiration is never guarantied and in my opinion, creative condition is an endless exploration and an endless process of finding your subject and yourself, an endless process of catching an inspiration and a dream – I would say, catching a Phoenix Bird in a sky...
I think that this is a normal creative process and creative condition.
M.A: Do you identify with your subject and if so on what level?
ARINA: I believe that any creativity is a matter of finding and expressing your own identity through your works. I guess that I bring some of my personality into my works anyway, even while portraying somebody, because it is still my own perception of that person - my feelings and my attitude towards him or her. Is it an identity with the subject? I am not sure in this case, but it is certainly my personal attitude towards the subject.
I believe that my inspiration and my main subject is human spirit, feelings and emotions, something that cannot be seen in a mirror. I am trying to express something that can be called a ‘litmus paper’ of the inner self. Of course, I lean on my own life experience in my work - all the images I depict are germinated from my own perception of the world. This is why I mainly use my own face as a model for my paintings – I express what I want to convey into my work within my face through my own imagination and life experience.
But, therefore, my works are not identical to me, they are not self-portraits. There isn’t my red hair and my blue eyes for example. My ‘Trinity’ is not a triple self-portrait, but a portrait of the main three spiritual conditions of a human being – the Light Spirit, the Dark Spirit and the Pure Spirit that keeps the essential balance between all of them. I am challenged to explore Universal subjects in my work that can be related to all human beings. However, in my opinion, there is a whole Universe behind any human face, but nevertheless I would like to consider that my work is not a traditional portraiture, but rather a performance of movements of the human spirit.
I intentionally restrict myself with colours in my work and my paintings are mainly black and white monochrome, which enables me to provide anonymity of the images I am working with. I position an image in a middle of nowhere without any recognizable signs of any given time or place, or any other particular characteristics. Anything which interacts within the minds of beholders can be imagined behind the images on my paintings, any centuries, countries, any eye or hair colours or no hair at all - it depends on your own perception of the world and your own imagination.
Therefore, by involving the imagination of the people viewing my works I would like to believe that my paintings immerse them in the creative process, encouraging them to produce their own creative energy – and I hope so much that it is a positive one. This creative circle gives me, as an artist, an opportunity to interact energetically with all the people who have seen my works. So I would assume that my identity is always behind my paintings, as well as a positive creative energy. Well, I hope that it is.
M.A: Does painting help you connect with your higher self, whatever that is for you?
ARINA: This is a deep and interesting question...I think there cannot be any unequivocal answer here, as there are so many different layers in the meaning of ‘higher self’. But if to relate it to matter of art and claim the ‘higher self’ as an inspired higher condition of your spirit and mind during a creative process, then yes, it does!
Also I think that attaining a ‘higher self’ can be claimed as a purpose in life, achieving your ambitions and goals that move your spirit to do something useful and inspiring while your physical body inhabits here, on Earth. I hope that I can assume my purpose in art as bringing beauty within my creativity and this is why I widely use the colour red in my work - as a symbol of the Beauty. I have never thought about it before in this context, but thanks to your question, now I believe that ‘the red’ in my work can symbolise my ‘higher self’ as well.
‘Red’ has a deep meaning for me and I widely explored this subject in my MA Fine Art dissertation. It took several weeks to investigate what ‘red’ has contributed to different cultures and art. I love to talk about ‘red’, it is an inspiring and contradictive subject - it has multiple meanings and I suppose can be discussed for hours. The meaning of ‘red’ has also changed through the centuries if to remember how many red haired women were burned alive in a fire in the dark Middle Ages as witches. I am personally glad to admit that nowadays this attitude towards ‘redheads’ has changed a little bit and I still have a chance to keep painting, despite of the fact that I am a ‘redhead’ and painting for me is still a kind of witchcraft.
If to be serious, I can briefly say that in many cultures ‘red’ means passion and love, also it is a colour of blood and danger, revolution etc., but blood is an essential substance for human life. In Tibetan philosophy it means connection with the Universe, connection with everyone and everything at the all levels of the entire world. In Russian language, particularly in folk and fairy tales, often the word ‘red’ equates to the word ‘beautiful’, for example this adjective was traditionally used to describe the sun - ‘the red sun’ ( in Russian - ‘красно солнышко’). What can be more vital for life and more beautiful than the Sun? No wonder that almost all the ancient religions declared the Sun as God, creator of the Light and Life.
I believe that images and objects, which have been created with passion, can take an immense power that is sometimes found in religious art, the powerful energy that has an ability to alter one’s mental state and even transform reality. One of the world famous Russian writers Fyodor Dostoevsky said ‘Beauty will save the World'. We all create the world around us and all of us have an opportunity and possibility to bring this beauty to the world – and all the creative people in particular! Artists are privileged and honoured to be able to create beautiful and inspiring art works. The more positive and hopeful art objects created today - the better the world will be to live in tomorrow.
Beauty will Save the World and Art is this powerful tool to bring the Beauty to the World - to save it!