What constitutes contemporary art for you personally?
It is art that challenges the modern world with its complexity. In what way is it different from the art of before? It shouldn’t be necessarily pretty, it doesn’t owe anything to anyone, and it is what it is. The important thing is that contemporary art addresses the actual issues of today.
What is your role in today’s art scene?
I see the tendency to digitalize everything. My feeling is that art is moving towards digitalizing, just as many aspects of our life. It is imperative for me to preserve manual art. The preciousness of pure emotions and sincerity that are transferred through hands are unique. Many people tell me that my digitized works look different from my handmade pieces. At art shows, viewers quickly know what everything is about: it is in the details and parts that constitute the soul of the art object. You can connect with these details and part directly, without any devices.
What connects new and old art?
Art history is a story of ideas. For many years, art has been serving religious ideals. With time it became more secular. There is a certain succession between new and old art. People tried to understand this succession throughout the 20th century. Art is not something removed from life. It is somehow intertwined with life. The rise of Freud’s psychoanalysis and the parallel ascent of surrealism is just one example. The history of philosophy, art, and fashion are so much linked, interconnected, and interactive.
What was the turning point in your career?
It was when I sent my application to the Start Project at Winzavod. It became quite an exciting story for me: I, a 16 year-old girl, presented my works to become a part of this project. Well, curator Arseniy Ghilayev and the Winzavod President Sofia Trotsenko both selected me as a participant for this program. I was 16-17 years at that time, a teenager, just about to finish school. I suddenly understood that my art is of interest not only to members of my family and close friends but to other people who do not know who I am as well. I figured out that it was something that I would want to do. There were some hesitations though – do I want to do art for a living? It is quite reasonable when a person is seeking who she wants to become. Ultimately, I decided to focus on art.
Who influenced your art at different points in your life?
From my early childhood, I have been strongly influenced by my granddad, a socialist realism painter with a solid academic background. I spent a lot of time with my grandparents and tried to mirror my grandfather in many ways. He took me out to make sketches, showed me around his studio, I saw that he was drawing all the time. Thus, I have been working in art from a very young age. My family influenced me a lot in my search for identity as a teenager. My family was always supportive of me.
What subject matter in the outer world inspires you, fascinates you and unleashes your creativity?
Whatever I create reflects in a particular way my life. I use my personal experience in art to the maximum. Sometimes I think that people who interact with me closely should be terrified since they are privy to my chronicles and maybe see me in an unflattering light. So, please make sure not to offend artists. I believe that many events in my life still have to be creatively processed. Big events, love, and even small occurrences – they all leave some mark. From time to time, I have some sudden enlightenments when I understand that everything happens for a reason. All of it should also find a specific place in the Tania Pioniker Chronicles.
How would you describe the contemporary art of Russia within the wider context of international art?
It is art that is a little bit estranged from the world process. It is detached from international events, due to all of those global affairs. In my opinion, in a while, there will be some changes in our society, in our minds. My generation, as well as younger people, are aiming for international dialogue, they have a leaning towards pacifism. There is a probability that artists from the upcoming generations will be more actively engaged in the global art community than the great artists of the older generation, who are sometimes neglected due to Russia’s very controversial position in the world.
Tell us a few words about the piece on the cover of Boscomagazine.
Just like many other Russians, I love the occult and magic stories. This reflects our stronger links to the East rather than to the West. Items and objects depicting the symbol of the year – this year it is the pig – record extremely high sales. Even some of the fashion brands dedicated their collections to piglets. So, I thought that a New Year celebration with piggies would be an excellent image for the winter issue. In some cultures, the pig is a dirty animal embodying human sin. In others – it is a symbol of prosperity, fertility since it is prone to have so many babies. I decided to depict a pig family that gathered around a New Year table. There is a big and beautiful New Year tree, a stylized Spasskaya Tower. The piglets symbolizing the 12 months dance around it. They all have different characters, they are differently dressed and appear to be in different moods: someone is crying, someone is dancing, someone is playing around.
What does the word “family” mean to you?
A lot. It could be that my family is not that traditional in the conventional sense with a father being the head of the family, mother, and children. My family is different: there are no men in my family at all. Mother, grandmother, my sister, and I – this is our whole family. We are all interconnected, sometimes conflicts occur. The family is something that is always with you. It is some heaven-sent island in our ocean of the modern world madness. It is a place where you can share your bad or good experiences. You can talk about your mishaps and successes, and you will always be heard out and find support here. What would my family look like in the future? All girls think about it. I do not know if there is a place for marriage in my life, and whether or not I can build a family of my own. Sometimes it seems that a family would stand in the way of my art. We’ll see.
How did your family impact your life?
I spent a lot of time with my grandparents when I was small. This is the reason why I have a strong link to previous generations. Let people talk about the way I am, but my grandparents gave me a particular upbringing. I am not going to produce bad things, disgrace myself for money, make some embarrassing moves. My grandparents raised me as an honest person.
Why do people create communities?
In our time people are very lonely. They try to attract all possible attention online since they do not have a real life. All these endless selfies, stories, subscribers are a really bad influence on mental health. People join real associations, not Internet groups, to feel more ease in their lives and to avoid depressing loneliness. The detachment of people, their aloofness from each other and disconnection from the world around us are all consequences of digitalization. People have difficulties in expressing their real feelings. They can limit themselves to sending likes – it is much simpler than talking about feelings and looking each other in the eyes.
How should a neophyte approach contemporary art?
Our people are not prepared for contemporary art at all. The parts they do not understand are being renounced or aggressively criticized, sometimes in rather strong wording. “I haven’t read Pasternak, but I still condemn him.” This phrase is still very much in vogue, we are still rooted in the Soviet reality, that restricts peoples’ horizons to the “right” things or “unacceptable” things. A lot of things were forbidden, diminished, turned down in the Soviet times. They say that even in our days some universities cover the history of arts only up to, say, Matisse. And that’s it. But that does not reflect reality, there is a lot of information for those who would like to understand, follow the succession of ideas, find out how art was developing from Matisse to our days. But you cannot process the history of 20th century art in just a day or two. There should be a specific educational system in this area for those who are interested and willing to know why their 5-year old son is not able to paint like Baskia. And why their cousin is not as good as Van Gogh. You should read books, attend educational seminars, listen to lots of lectures, they are all captivating! There are splendid educational programs at the Garage, there are heaps of information, and our Red-Line project is a perfect opportunity to learn more about the Russian contemporary art of the last decades.
Why and how should one buy contemporary artworks?
It is an essential question since our Russian art market is not that well developed yet. Still, there are some people who push it forward. I am always supporting Vladimir Ovcharenko’s initiatives, for instance. It is evident that Vladey’s auctions are a business model, and not just a hangout, there are no under the table deals. It is a real step towards building up the Russian art market. Why do people spend a lot of money on art? Each collector has his or her reasons. To have artworks to themselves and enjoy them every day. The art pieces contain a lot of energy. So, it seems that people acquiring art would like to be in a constant dialogue with these items. They vote with their money for that very artist to continue living and working. Artists have to eat, and some people forget about this. If the artist is engaged in art daily, it constitutes his work. When I was still studying in school and university, I had much less time invested in art. Now that I am 100% sure that art is what I want to be dealing with, I am at my desk from early morning and working all day. Sometimes I don’t go out for weeks. Unlike an employee of a company, I do not have a fixed schedule, but I discipline myself. Consequently, a person who is paying for my art helps me to live. The GUM Red Line Project is a wonderful initiative. There are thousands of tourists, people from different regions, cities and countries who stop at GUM on their way to Red Square. It is great that all those who are interested in contemporary art will have a chance to get to know it better. It is going to be a valuable experience not only for Russians but for the international audience as well. It is a significant step in promoting international friendship and making Russians closer to artists.