What’s your background?
I graduated from Stieglits Industrial Arts Academy (in soviet times “Mukha”) after spending six years at the Art Metal department there, studying such disciplines as forging, welding, etching, jewelry, sculpture, engraving and old traditional techniques of architectural drawings. I live and work in St.Petersburg, Russia.
Who inspired you to make art? How did you arrive at your style?
In the childhood my family travelled a lot, we lived even on the other side of the country in Vladivostok (near China, North Korea and Japan), it was in the early 90s. A time of the terrible rampant crime in Russia and an absolute lack of control by the authorities. But there is amazing nature, these foggy twilights on the ocean coast, ghostly jellyfish, fishing in the storm, emerald forests and weathered rocks – I will remember those things my whole life. There was no musty feeling, as in St.Petersburg, I breathed freely with full chest.
What themes do you pursue?
I think originally I took over my mom’s impressionability. And then I could no longer perceive the world in a different way. When she talks about a new book she has read, a movie or an exhibition she has seen, she describes it very inspiring – hand gestures in the air, smiles, embarrasses, uses different enthusiastic epithets … She sees this world as a child for the first time in her life… And always tried to tell me and my sister about something new and interesting.
I will not say that “once upon a time” “someone” impressed me to engage in art and since “then“… It just happened and (due to my stuttering) art became a comfort zone, I cannot do otherwise without it. It is a way of life.
Of course, academic education has had a huge impact – an integral part. But I am glad that I did not become a “product” of the academy, which, unfortunately, is very common. Artists with a classical education often stop at the edge of Method. There was no school totalitarianism, it was a healthy atmosphere, you could be absolutely free if you had the knowledge to prove what you want to create, can create have the know-how. We experimented a lot, and the most important thing is that we worked with real materials in our hands from the first days. And I think this is the reason why I boldly paint sand in rainbow colors now, paint fabrics, shoot films, do performances, polish and weld metal, sew shirts with my mom, create jewellery – I do whatever I want. I am free and extremely happy about it.
Is it difficult to work with young artists in Russia?
Very difficult. The country has a weak economy, there is almost no infrastructure for work in the field of art, a few opportunities for artists. In St. Petersburg, the second-largest city in Russia with a population of 5 million people, there is no structure-forming event or phenomenon – no contemporary art fairs, no biennale, no museums of contemporary art. This is an interesting time. Dusty, slow, stuffy on the one hand. But on the other – there are several people who are trying to change the situation. Micro spaces, cool micro activities – FFTN gallery (4 square meters), the secret Styd (Shad) gallery, Bioroboty19 art group, Yegorka’s communal apartment, a 24×4 gallery in the arch of the building and many others but these guys are my favorite.
For the second year in a row, the only activity that truly unites our art community in the city is carried out by the St. Petersburg branch of the NCCA under the leadership of Maria Katz. With more than modest budgets, they created the Curatorial Forum and Art Weekend. This is a big and very important matter.
What role does the artist have in society?
The artist in Russia is still like Yurodivy (an old Russian tradition of the Holy fool or Foolishness for Christ). We are not far from this even now. I do not mean exclusive religiosity. A historical inheritance remains, and today it is still very much felt in general, although I can see this change in the future.
What’s next for you?
I don’t want to reminisce in the opportunities that have been sidelined by the Covid-19 spread and closed borders. It became a real „broom“ that cleared life plans. But I am an active person, I live by art and try, as far as my head and heart allow, to analyze and feel every minute I live in the current realities, and its results turn into new projects. Now I am working on a performance in a strange and large location, preparing a personal exhibition in Moscow next winter, waiting for the installation of a 16-meters stainless steel sculpture next year, and finishing new work for the online publication on my website, which is based on 73 letters that I sent to anyone who showed a desire to receive it.
Liza Bobkova – www.lizabobkova.com