Natalya Voroshylova

Please tell us about institutions that helped you to become masterful in painting? 

- If a person is not able to hear and see something all by himself, intuitively, all efforts are in vain. Institutions are just sets of basic rules. People helped me. I consider Alexey Alexeevich Kleidins as my main mentor in art. He was not my educator at the institute but my teacher at the «Rainbow» art studio where I was studying when I was a kid, from the 5th to the 11th grade.  He’s the reason I’ve made the most important choice in my life – to become an artist. But first I went to Moscow Pedagogical State University. Though it was not completely an art department we got really wide creative base. And subjects related to pedagogy and psychology still help me to study and move forward.

- As far as we are concerned, when you graduated from Moscow Pedagogical State University your thesis topic was related to jewelry art. Why didn’t you move further in this direction? 

- ​In addition to painting, graphics and drawing our faculty offered different workshops on artistic treatment of wood, metal, textile and other materials. My love for the jewelry and a chance to create it by myself inspired me for the coursework and then for the thesis. I understood that I would become an artist anyway, but at that moment I had only one opportunity to work with metals, and it was my university’s workshop. That was not the kind of opportunity you can just say no to.

Natalya Voroshylova,

Дизайн для фабрики "Красный Октябрь", 1998

 When did you succeed for the first time in your life? 

Success is in the details, in personal feelings and internal goals. I’ve been painting for more than 20 years and I’m still happy that something has happened for the first time in my life. I sold my first picture when I was a university student. That feeling of a tiny bit of success turned out to be a positive sign of my movement in the right direction. In 1998 the «Red October» factory produced caramel and chocolate candy wrappers based on my paintings. I felt incredibly happy when I visited somebody and brought a bucket of those candies. In 2003 I started the series of paintings called «Reflections». I sold my first work much later but it was Saatchi Art Gallery who bought it. In 2011 my work «Belorussky Railway Station» was added to the Museum of Moscow paintings collection. It was my first painting included to the museum’s collection. I had a feeling of overwhelming triumph. 


- You also created the series called «Buy!» where you quote the leading brands of fashion industry. Are you trying to please the customer or to draw attention of any fashion brands?

- Neither. I wanted to talk to the customers about emotions of buying desired things. Fashion brands items illustrated it the best way possible. Even people who have never dreamt of having a handbag from Chanel can easily imagine the feelings of those who buy such a fashionable thing. Why am I interested in these emotions? Because they are extremely close to the ones that the buyers of my pictures have. And I wanted to share these feelings, to visualize them, to immortalize on the canvas a moment of pleasure, a dream and euphoria.

Natalya Voroshylova, works from the series "Buy!"

- Your interest in the beauty ideals of our days evident in the series called «The Portrait of a Tree» is really fascinating. You told that you decided to deal with this problem with the help of depicting the life of a tree because you are primarily a landscape artist. Did you attempted to ensure a response from modern youth?

- The ideal of beauty is like an speculative image. It arises not from the reality but from its creative redefining by a single individual or a group of people bound by some common features, such as age, gender, nationality or education… The artist does the same. He doesn’t impose his views to the others but just guides the way of thinking. So I wanted to reflect on the essence of our face – what it is? A means of interacting with the world around you that you should maintain or a diary of the years you left behind where every wrinkle reflects a happy or sad story. As you pointed out, I’m a landscape artist, not a portrait painter, that’s why I searched for the plastic material for my thoughts in nature. And the best option was a tree with its branches, bark texture, trunk bends and marks like broken limbs or scratches resembling human scars. Did I seek for response from the youth of today? I never cared about my spectator’s age. It doesn’t matter. What is really important here is the desire to think, to feel, to empathize. The desire that is spiritually close to me. I know such people exist among all ages. Art has no limits and conventions. 

Natalya Voroshylova, works from the series  "The Portrait of a Tree"

- In your series «Plein Air Inside» you touched upon an extremely important issue of art objects presence outside special art venues. You go to malls and museums in the open air, remove borders between goods at the shop and museum pieces so that the difference disappears and you ask your spectators if they are able to value any items out of context. Do you think that real masterpieces must be presented anywhere they are appreciated, even if this place is not a museum? 

- Yeah, working on my «Plein Air Inside» project was an invaluable experience of interacting with spectators. For an ordinary person who comes to the shop, for instance, meeting an artist is surprising. It was interesting to watch how different people experienced this event, contacted me, what questions they asked. Besides, while working on the sketches, I examined the ways of objects presentation in different spaces. These sketches show the intersection between museum exhibits and items in boutique windows. I tried to free my spectators’ and my own mind of cliches and labels, to provide an opportunity to look at objects around us with a clear vision, like a child who has no idea what item he sees. And he examines it from scratch, creating his own image. In «vision mode» we stop measuring objects at their cost, brand affiliation or importance imposed by somebody. A sculpture in the State Tretyakov Gallery, a handbag in Central Universal Department Store (TsUM) or an unusual chair in a business center are equal for us. And it’s not about depreciation. It’s about our personal perceptions and an opportunity to create the value view of the world by your own. That’s why the works of art must leave museum spaces where they are put in a tough spot of specialists’ value judgements. We must live together with them, side by side, and feel them. Originally artists created (and still create) their pieces for the sake of people, not museums. The picture hangs on the wall. The sculpture decorates a house or a garden. Applied elements of art works don’t devalue them but give us a chance to see beyond the surface, to observe and analyze them for a long time. Living the whole life alongside the picture looking at it every day differs from seeing it at the museum, even several times. Because in our lifetime we also change and new life experience changes the ways of our interaction with art works. It offers a chance to discover something new all the time.

Natalya Voroshylova, works from the series "Plein Air Inside"

- Do you still go to malls and museums in the open air? 


- I’m currently working at a new project. It takes all my time. My last experience with «Plein Air Inside» was in 2019 when I went to «Mercator» plant, thanks to the «Time, forward!» festival organizers. It’s an interesting lesson and I’ll surely launch new projects related to audience reaction. It fascinates me.


Once you quoted Kirill Svetlyakov who thinks that works of art die in museums. Do you agree with that?

- Kirill has been working the State Tretyakov Gallery for years. An inside look at this issue kind of influences the perception. I don’t think that works of art perish in museums. Yeah, in a way they are listed for elimination, they don’t live with people for whom they have been created. But if they are available to spectators it conversely prolongs their life. Nevertheless, I am a modern artist and I create my pieces in order to fill people’s lives with new senses and emotions day by day. 

- Other subjects are also the focus of your attention. For example, man’s relationship to the metropolis. But your works are not really dramatic, it seems that you just admire the city you live in. Are there any hidden meanings in your pictures?


- Drama is actually not my kind of genre. I observe and share my observations with spectators, I encourage them to think. The city and the human being are not rivals or enemies for me, they are just two sides of the same coin. In my urban works I try to show that the city is flesh of the man’s flesh. Like, my beloved city, Moscow, was not founded by aliens. Year after year, age after age we put a part of us in this city, we embodied in stone our dreams, ambitions, ideas of something beautiful and right. I remember howI worked at one picture and photographed a new building near the metro station «Kropotkinskaya». Two ladies walking by wondered why I was taking pictures of this «monster». When they found out that I was going to make a picture with this building they were surprised and even displeased. The core of their indignation was the uselessness of painting something ugly while there are lots of wonderful old mansions around here. Eventually the picture was bought very quickly. It confirmed my belief that everyone has his own perception of beauty. In some cases I could work in a picturesque place but all the same people came up to me and said that «there was nothing beautiful». Then I showed them the landscape that already started annoying me for they could look at it through «different eyes». We get used both to beauty and ugliness but the thing is that these definitions differ for each individual.

Natalya Voroshylova, works from the series "The Weather Forecast"

- It’s really interesting to know more about your series called «The Weather Forecast» (editor’s note: «In «The Weather Forecast» project Natalia involves the spectators in a dialogue with the help of the images clear for modern gadgets users. The weather forecast for youngsters is not anymore a newscaster who gives you a weather report from TV screen but a smartphone app that allows you to find out the weather details anywhere in the world. The material for this series is unusual. The text is applied on acrylic glass though the background is made in traditional Russian landscape painting technique»). How do you chose the landscape you place behind a well-known sign? Do you move to the specified city to fix the landscape? 


I abandoned the images of specific landscapes for spectators could understand my message on their own. Some experts told me that if I kept in mind Paris I was to paint a landscape with the Eiffel Tower but I limited myself to depicting just the sky. Exactly that kind of a trick helped the spectators to join me in formulating their associations of the sky and the place. At the exhibition I heard people saying something like «this sky more likely reminds of London, and I’d also make Rome completely different». I’ve been working on this project for more than a year. All the cities were born in different ways. I gave grey gloomy skies to St. Petersburg and to date no one ever argued with me about it. And dark skies pierced with sinister lightning went to Tehran not because of frequent thunderstorms but in honor of the Soviet movie about spies «Teheran 43» I remembered since I was a kid. The clouds over Madrid were spinning like a flamenco dancer’s dress. And I certainly didn’t visit every single city (my project numbers already 36 cities, by the way) in order to capture the sky right there. For the main idea of the project is that we all have only one sky. We divided the earth by borders but the sky is the same when we look up anywhere on the planet. Although from painting point of you sky is a gifted artist who never works the same way twice, I might well have painted the skies for all the cities in the world without even leaving Moscow. It’s some type of artistic cosmopolitanism. 

Natalya Voroshylova, works from the series "Отражения"

- Why should your works be kept in private collections? 


Private collections are the best vaults for my pieces. This is how they’ve been conceived. I create my pictures for people and it’s important for me that people could find any topics for discussion there, remembered nice moments of their lives thanks to them, showed them to their friends and noted «take a look, this picture tells a lot about me». There’s something for everyone. 


-  Where do people understand your art better – in Russia or abroad? 

- I sell them here and there but it’s hard to tell where they are understood better. I don’t directly contact the customers because sales abroad are carried on through the galleries. In our country people appear to have different perceptions toward my new works. Old fans of my art miss my early countryside landscapes. Among newcomers my projects not always evoke exactly the same emotions as I have expected but it just makes more exciting a dialogue between an author and a spectator. My art never faced outright rejection. Perhaps that’s why I don’t work on political, crucial, pressing issues. My creative search takes place in the fields of sensory perception, emotions and experiences of people.

- Have you ever faced any criticism of your works? 


- I have been painting for more than 20 years. No wonder that in the meantime I faced criticism in a variety of ways. And it came from different people: commissions who selected works for group exhibitions, art critics, spectators at the exhibitions and those who checked my social media. In some cases it was constructive criticism by real professionals. It was important for me to refrain from being upset when I accepted it and to draw something useful from it. To draw enough power to move on. The criticism was also emotional. When somebody expressed his opinion based not on his knowledge but on personal perceptions. Such criticism can also be helpful as an opportunity to look at my pictures through the eyes of a stranger. This experience is rather valuable, as long as people express their opinions correctly. The hardest thing is to accept criticism based only on complexes and unrealized dreams of a critic. Most commonly a person tries to disguise it as constructive comments. But negative emotions outpace the desire to be useful. Social media gives you the easiest way to cope with it: ability to block someone who writes to you significantly spares your nerves. It is worse if a person behaves like this face-to-face. And even worse if you know this person for a long time. You can’t resist further contact, so I just try to abstain from discussing my art with a man like that. 

Natalya Voroshylova, "Monorail", 2016

- What project are you working at now? 


Currently I’m working at an amazing project called «The Flowers of her Memory». The preparations for it took more than a year. I tried to figure out how to translate into a picture everything I had on my mind. Thoughts turned into images but I could hardly capture them on the canvas. The project is based on memories, so communications with my friends helped me a lot. I told them about my memories related to flowers, they told me about theirs, and we found lots of things in common. Some of those ideas I used in my pictures. This is how the mini-series «The Story of a Dandelion» was born.  It turned out that every person I know had at least a small memory about a dandelion. Someone enjoyed making daisy chains. Someone gave a bouquet to the girl he loved. I remember how I messed up my white jacket while picking flowers and making a bouquet. Dandelion stains don’t come out, I understood that once and for all after a scolding from my mom. For more in-depth examination of memory I studied scientific literature including the book of Eric Kandel «In Search of Memory». When the scientist explored the human psyche he analyzed the work of neurons, the transfer of information through electrical impulses and chemical substances. I am an artist, a person far from scientific research in biology, and this book really impressed me for it clearly explained in a scientific and fact-based manner everything I felt just as emotional experience. I have a dream that when my pictures are ready they will become a bridge between me and spectators, bring to the surface of memory long-forgotten reminiscences, revive the light images of old friends. 


-  What goal do you set in your work? 

- Painting for me is the means of exploring the world and connecting with people. The goal is to express the thoughts on the canvas as precisely as possible, to convey the reflections and emotions to spectators in an abundantly clear way in order to receive feedback. Without any interaction with a person whose eyes reflect understanding, curiosity or a question, art loses its meaning and is reduced to craft. Something like «Come here, hurry up, buy a picture».

- What advice would you like to give to all the young artists? 


- I advise the young artists to be sincere in their work. There are a lot of courses now where they tell you how an artist can become successful and conquer the market, how it’s better to use the latest fashion trends. But if you are not interested in your own work, if you don’t care about your pictures themes, what will you tell to the spectators, how will you involve them in your universe? And here is another advice: don’t be scared. Never give up if your friends don’t support you, if members of another exhibition committee consider your works weak and mediocre, if your pieces are not accepted to the contest/exhibition/gallery. We are all surrounded by real people with their own opinion, mood and interests. We’re like a plug and a socket for each other. Not everybody suits you, so you have to look for your soulmates. They fuel you with energy, endow you with power to create. And we are ready to give them all our time, art and feelings. 

You can buy Natalya's works at our online-gallery.

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