This May, contemporary Russian artist Anna Berezovskaya and her signature poetic realism return to Singapore for her Edge of the World exhibition at Redsea Gallery. We can’t help but be completely enchanted by Anna’s whimsical body of artwork and the sense of optimism that runs through it, and we’re enthralled to learn more about Anna’s stylistic choices and creative process.
Hi Anna! How do you describe your own subject matter? Do certain themes reoccur throughout your work?
I do not portray real life; instead I portray my own life, my own world. I offer an alternate world and try to get people to believe in it. And my paintings are meant to be timeless.
In order to do so, I use various symbols to convey my ideas. For instance, how does one depict courage? To me, courage is depicted by a knight (as seen in ‘Morning’). Another example of symbolism in my work is the use of locks and keys (as seen in ‘The Last Lock’), which represent mystery and discovery.
“Morning”, 45 x 55 cm, Oil on Canvas
There is also a Russian superstition that claims wearing an old safety pin will ward off evil, and I have included this in my work. I use snails in my painting as well! I’ve been inspired by snails and their symbolism. The spiral on the shell of the snail is a symbol of life. Also, these shells are their houses and the snails take them everywhere.
Through romantic narratives, my art captures the fleeting moments of beauty, joy and playfulness in our everyday life.
Your work initially struck me as surrealism, so I was curious as to how you arrived at ‘poetic realism’ in defining your work?
Generally, I use different styles like abstraction and surrealism. In terms of my style, I would say that it is a collection of my own emotions and inspirations that I draw on from other artists as well.
My ideas are, of course, separate and unique to me. I like to compare myself to a director. There are a lot of different ways to read and perceive. Simply put, my works feature regular stories that I have perceived in my own way.
As for techniques – you will notice a distinct horizontal line in the compositions of my paintings. This is an element inspired by naïve art, and naïve artists use it very often.
Do you have a favourite artwork of your own? Which piece is that and why?
My favorite artwork is the next artwork that I will create in the future, the one that I will begin to draw tomorrow. I am like a gardener who loves the whole process of cultivating the flower starting from a seedling. Every time I finish work on a painting, I go to bed in anticipation of the next morning, to when I’ll make myself a cup of coffee, go to the studio and in front of me stands be a clean, white canvas, a palette with new colors and a sketch of my next idea.
Is there anything you want your audience to feel or imagine as they look at your artwork?
Not particularly; however, I hope they are able to immerse themselves in the worlds I create. As you already know, I use various symbols in my painting to convey my ideas. The feelings that they get should be based on their own experience and interpretation of the symbols that I have included in my paintings.
For Edge of the World, my works will bring together humour and optimism through romantic narratives, I hope to present to the viewers that fleeting moment of beauty, joy and playfulness in our everyday lives through my paintings.
“Kissing the Birch”, 100 x 130 cm, Oil on Canvas
Do you fear people’s misunderstanding or misinterpretation due to the fact that they may not fully understand allusions to Russian life and culture in your works?
This is not the case, since I do not set myself the task of making paintings that convey Russian culture. If my idea needs a Russian way of explanation then I use it.
For example, the painting of Chris’s family required a sign of Matryoshka (Russian nesting doll) to explain what I wanted to convey. However, this doesn’t mean that I am only trying to convey Russian culture – often it is a universal theme from a Russian context. Another case in point is ‘Kissing the Birch’, which is about the universal theme of love, but yes, there is a Russian context with my use of the birch trees.
What have you learnt while creating your latest body of work, Edge of the World? And what’s next in line for you?
Each artwork is about learning and overcoming a particular purpose. In every artwork, I always make sure to use new techniques or methods with paint, to create new, original ideas and interesting metaphors. Working on each painting is like climbing a mountain – the path to the top of the mountain is complex, and sometimes so challenging that it questions your ability to overcome it.
Currently, I am taking a break, but I do have a lot of things I hope to be able to do. I have an idea for twelve paintings, one for every month, each representing festivals and holidays from different parts of the world that occur within that particular month. Or work on a selection of paintings featuring snails and what are connected to them. Maybe I’ll even start working a series, but leave it unfinished – just to keep people guessing as to what’s in store next!
The Edge of the World exhibition will run from 15 Mat – 14 June at Redsea Gallery.