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Insights of an Eco Artist

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In conversation: Maria Myasnikova

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Maria Myasnikova (b. 1997) is a Russian born artist, curator (ReA! Art Fair) and teacher who lives and works in Milan. She works primarily with oil paint, spray paint, wood and found objects creating what the artist call Abstract Sculptural Assemblages.

25 November 2022

I work primarily with oil paint, spray paint, wood and found objects creating what I call Abstract Sculptural Assemblages. Within every Assemblage, I try to reinvent my use of mediums and practice. I work with what surrounds me: nature and found objects - these can be simple things like broken glass, seasonal flowers, tools like nails and fishing lines that are usually used to hold objects together; in my artworks, they keep things together metaphorically. I draw inspiration from everyday life to engage in abstract thinking as I attempt to realise the new artwork. The concept of every day is crucial to my practice: things, family, and moods represent the cosmology of my life.

Art is a profoundly dreamy, unconscious, inspired, and coincidental process where things arise that did not spring out of my pure acting intellect but rather a combination of all those elements. Frequently I find myself recomposing fragments; I like to use combinational methods where you take something and systematically combine it with something else. Each artwork begins differently: sometimes with writing, stories, or fantasy; the basis, however, isn't relevant as it's about how each media can function independently and interact. For instance, I would start with an idea as literature, continue it as a drawing, and finally introduce painterly elements.

I believe that Art should be self-explanatory; I wouldn't only want to speak to an intellectual, professional audience. I would say I am fabricating states of being that an audience absorbs or states in which work exists and in which it develops. I intend my work to be a reflection, filter, or resonant body for what is happening within the space of the artwork — the kind of atmosphere or narrative – a ghost of a place. I aim to render visible what is already there; the Assemblages I build are to be experienced individually – you can enter those landscapes, feelings, and moods.

Long-term projects are becoming more important to me. How can I observe a decaying plant throughout the year? How is the surface of the primed wood changing? How can I work in the long run? The present and every day contain elements of paradise, which is what my research revolves around.

See more of Myasnikova's work here.

What is your background, and what is the scope of your practice? 

My name is Maria Myasnikova; I'm a Russian-born artist, curator (ReA! Art Fair), and teacher residing and working in Milan. The idea of every day is essential to my practice; items, relatives, and moods stand in for my life's cosmology.

How did you become interested in Art? When did you realise that becoming an artist was your calling?

The interest was always there, partly because I enjoyed drawing and painting as a child and partly because my grandfather is an Art collector. My mother noticed the interest I developed, and after taking an exam, I enrolled in an Art school which I would attend after school. Unfortunately, even though I have obtained some academic drawing and painting skills, the combination of old-fashioned teaching methods being neither encouraging nor creative has driven me towards rejecting Art altogether and discarding any desire of ever coming near a paintbrush. 

Several years later, I moved to the UK to study in a boarding school before enrolling at the university, where I met Jeremy Bournon, head of the Art department in my school. He has put my confidence together, taught me, and encouraged me to apply to the City and Guilds of London Art School. I did and graduated in 2018 with a BA in Fine Art (Painting). 

As an artist, you approach your practice as an exploration and try to reinvent your use of mediums. How do you approach your practice and creative process? 

I change my medium and practice with each Assemblage. Art is a fundamentally unconscious, inspired, serendipitous process where things emerge that didn't originate from my acting intelligence alone but rather a blend of all those factors. I often find myself reconstructing fragments; I enjoy combinatorial approaches, including taking one element and methodically combining it with another. Each artwork has a distinct beginning, sometimes with literature, tales, or fiction; the source, however, is unimportant because the point is to demonstrate the independence and interactivity of each medium. For instance, I may begin a concept as text, develop it as a drawing, and add artistic components.

What can you tell us about what you call "Abstract Sculptural Assemblages"?

I create Abstract Sculptural Assemblages primarily using oil paint, spray paint, wood, and miscellaneous things. Nature and found objects, often used to hold items together, may also be utilised in my artworks to keep things together symbolically. I also employ seasonal flowers, fishing lines, and shattered glass. I use ordinary experiences as inspiration for my abstract thought while I seek to realise new artwork. 

In your artistic statement, you mentioned that "art should be self-explanatory". How would you deconstruct this statement for us?

Art should speak for itself; I wouldn't want to limit my message to an educated, scholarly audience. Five different people can look at the same artwork and feel five diverse emotions; some might feel nothing, and that's okay! Ultimately, we connect with something within us, and if that is represented visually within an artwork, we have an emotional reaction. As a viewer, you should trust your feelings; you don't need to have a degree in the history of Art to connect with Art; you do, however, need to open your mind and heart.

I create states of existence that a viewer absorbs, or states in which work exists and evolves. I want my Art to act as a mirror, filter, or resonant body for the events in the artwork's space — a type of mood or story — a ghost of a place. The Assemblages I create are meant to be experienced separately so that you can explore those landscapes, emotions, and moods. My goal is to make apparent what is already there.

What can you tell us about your oil and spray paint artwork Infinite Web of Desires of My Heart? What can you tell us about the process behind the artwork? 

This artwork was supposed to be one of the commission paintings I was working on; however, it took a different turn and remained with me. This painting symbolises initial fear and then a return to the forgotten. I last painted in a classical sense in my second year of university. I later turned towards mixed media and working with found objects, creating Abstract Sculptural Assemblages. Something happened that day, and I could not make another clean geometrical painting for that commission I was working on. I got "out of control" and started painting aggressively, passionately, and almost blindly because my mind was no longer in control of my body and the gestural marks that appeared because of that overtake. After a couple of hours, I stopped and was initially terrified of the development; it looked nothing like what I first had in mind when I consciously picked up the brush; it looked like a mess. I hung it on my studio wall and sat there staring at it and furious at myself for quite some time. A week passed, and I began to see past the supposed "mess" and noticed more and more "manifestations of the subconscious". This is when I picked up the brush again and began adding white lines, connecting the two parts – the left, full of circles and dynamism, and the right with an attempt to initial structure, geometry, and angles. The painting came together, along with the words, written in my native Russian language – Infinite Web of Desires of My Heart.

In 2020, you were a guest artist/curator at the ReA! Art Fair in Milan. How was the experience of being part of this event?

I'm part of a group of young art professionals who created the cultural association ReA! Arte in 2020. Through our primary initiative, the ReA! Art Fair, we assist up-and-coming artists and creatives in promoting Art and culture, and I'm part of the curatorial team, and I occasionally show my works during the Fair as a guest artist.

According to Tracey Emin, Modern Art is simply a means by which we terrorise ourselves. Emin is continuously working on her artistic projects, and her primary focus continues to be on the issue of bodily identity as represented via emotional and spiritual anguish. Many contemporary artists are fascinated by the idea of identity, and most actively explore it without even realising it. This fascination may take the shape of many different artistic mediums, including painting, sculpture, computer art, installation, and performance, all of which can be found at ReA! Art Fair. Our purpose is to convey the human social predicament to viewers through the ability of Art to subvert conventional norms. We want the spectators to actively interact with the Fair and the artworks on an emotional, intellectual, and existential level, since we can only reach shared emotion via openness and vulnerability. Because Art can bring people together, we want the public to engage with the pieces honestly and freely without passing judgement.

In your opinion, what is the role of Art and artists in addressing social-political and ecological themes? And how do you raise awareness with your work? 

Suzanne Lacy, an American performance artist, once said: "New genre public art calls for an integrative critical language through which values, ethics, and social responsibility can be discussed in terms of art". Artists need to address social, political, and environmental issues via Art because I believe that Art is power. It can move one emotionally and motivate them to reflect, analyse, and trigger change. 

I work with found objects that are often broken and have lost their function; by putting them into a different context, they gain a new meaning and, consequently, a new life. 

I don't explicitly address political, social, and ecological issues within my works but instead work with human emotions and what surrounds us; it's important to remember that we live in the here and now, and we are inevitably affected by the world around us, and it is through processing, or not processing those emotions that the fertile soil for creation is constructed. 

In terms of the future, are there any exhibitions or projects that you particularly look forward to?

I'm always looking forward to creating new works; right now, I'm working on an old piece that I started a couple of years ago but never finished because I lost touch with the emotion and event driving it. It is now coming back as something else, and I'm excited to see what it turns into.

Lastly, what goals would you like to accomplish in 2023?

I want more courage to face my fears and traumas and turn them into Art. I want to feel free of judgement that I direct towards myself within my works, but not so free I lose the capacity to think critically. Overall, I want to do better, for myself, within my Art, and for the artists, we help with ReA!.

What’s on your mind?

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