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How I used lockdown to transform my art

I believe 2020 was a year like no other year for all of us. A year I hadn’t seen coming for sure. I wouldn’t say it was an easy one but it was not a bad one either. Let’s call it different. And so is the art I created during this year. Different in comparison to my more illustrative drawing style but not completely new to me, too. More likely, it’s a journey back in time –  with a twist of change and growth.

The technique I used to create my latest art series is something I learned many years ago in a windowless basement of a central Moscow brick house. It was during a three months stay in the middle of winter 2008/2009, after my high school graduation and before starting design college. I went in with no expectation and left with a lifetime’s worth of experiences. I stayed with the artist and decorator Angela Bidzhosyan, practically living in her basement studio near the Gorky Central Park. I only left the studio to sleep. Looking back now, this was the best exercise on surviving a lockdown.

From mornings (take into account that I’m not an early bird) to late evenings (dinner is way overrated), I drew, painted and produced as many new artworks as I could to put into my portfolio. Her studio was usually full of people as most of her income came from teaching adults to paint. It was an amazing environment to absorb and explore new ideas. I learned so much about classical and modern painting techniques, human anatomy, drawing with ink, furniture upcycling, painting restoration and even experimented with resin(back then resin was not as popular as now).

And it was here that I got my firsthand experience on using a piping bag and acrylic modelling paste as a way to build layered textured paintings. My work at this time was exceedingly inspired by architecture and ornaments. Naturally, I used the technique to create three-dimensional ornamental frames on canvas pads. After my return to Germany, I always wanted to explore further the possibilities of this technique but the timing was never right.

Fast forward 10 years, in the middle of a strict London lockdown, I turned off my social media accounts, grabbed some plywood panels, modelling paste and acrylic colours (all long time stored and never used) and started to rediscover a technique I learned so many years ago. But this time I did not use it to create something ornamental or figurative. No, I needed a mental break, a way to let go of the everyday turmoil. It was a combination of different things – a documentary on Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity nets, my own practice of drawing patterns, my failing at mediations (sorry but I simply cannot sit down and shut up my thoughts) that lead to the creation of the ‘Sculptural Hatching’ series.

While working on it, I focused on repetitive, monotonous movements that on one hand were therapeutical and a form of art meditation. On the other hand (I suspect) were a subconscious reflection of my every day lockdown routines as well as the frustration of being restricted and isolated. During the creation process, I tried not to plan but to follow my intuition and let the painting transform organically. Each painting is visceral and spontaneous, a mix of observations, ideas and materials. The result is a body of work that is part sculpture, part painting and part meditation. Somewhere between self-reflection and doodling.

I’m still playing the field, trying out different ideas and materials. I want to see where this journey can take me. And it seems that 2021 will surely provide enough opportunities for calming-down-and-healing-art-meditation-time.

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