The Russian Ark Do you remember your first encounter with art?
Valeria Privalikhina It is difficult to remember any one particular encounter. I was born into a family of artists and our house has always been filled with paintings and art books. One thing that I clearly recall is that as a kid, my favourite album had the reproductions of Edgar Degas.
RA Where did you spend your childhood? Did it influence your artistic practice?
VP I grew up in a small Siberian town on the banks of the Yenisei river among mountains and close to the forest, so nature has continuously fascinated me. Perhaps this surrounding taught me to love subdued natural colours; it is difficult to rival nature in this sort of perfection.
RA What excites you the most in the painting process?
VP I am most thrilled when starting the work, when I lay the foundation for future paintings. What counts the most is the first impressions and first emotions arising from the subject matter, which I try to transport to the canvas as fast as I can before the freshness of the feelings wears out or fatigue kicks in.
RA Which great masters paved the way for you and influenced the way you think about your art?
VP My list is infinite. At different stages, I learnt first from some, then from others. In a hindsight, the greatest influences have been Joaquín Sorolla, Édouard Vuillard, Claude Monet and Valentin Serov.
"What counts the most is the first impressions and first emotions arising from the subject matter, which I try to transport to the canvas as fast as I can before the freshness of the feelings wears out or fatigue kicks in."
— VALERIA PRIVALIKHINA
Photo: Madina Murtazina
RA What is “good taste”?
VP Maybe it has to deal with the harmonious perception of reality? The ability to see and bring aesthetic harmony to your life, work, appearance and home.
RA Which painting you could look at the whole life without getting tired?
VP Any painting from Monet’s Water Lilies series and The Birth of Venus by Botticelli.
RA How do you understand that a painting is finished?
VP It is difficult to describe this feeling. It is intuitive, like I have a personal detector for completeness. Sometimes it is worth setting the work aside for a while to be sure that the painting is complete, or, on the other hand, that it needs a couple more brush strokes.
RA What is the hardest part about painting?
VP To be able to stop at the right time. To not lose that what made you start painting in the first place—the very first impression.
Artwork © 2020 Valeria Privalikhina
RA What is “beauty”? Can it be objective?
VP I call beautiful everything that is in harmony with my aesthetic sensibilities and that brings aesthetic pleasure. Beauty is something so intangible; it is inherent in every object and yet everyone sees it in an instinctively chosen combination of elements. Can it be objective? Probably not.
RA If you could look over the shoulder of any great artist at work, who would it be?
VP So many names come to mind, but I'll pick Rembrandt.
RA A painter is a composer or a musician?
VP Depends on the painter—oftentimes he is both at once.
RA Shall an artist be hungry?
VP I don’t think so. In the history of art, there were many examples of artists living in abundance and those in poverty. But if we define “hunger” as a thirst to create, to express oneself, to make important statements, then definitely an artist should be hungry. I guess every artist should ask himself: Can I not create? And the answer most likely has nothing to do with wealth, but only with an internal necessity.
RA What can modern creative people offer to the world?
VP Probably the same as always. Art reflects on beauty, the world, its issues, its people. It comes in so many shapes and forms that nowadays everyone can find something that resonates with their inner world and aesthetic sensibilities.
Photo: Madina Murtazina, Artwork © 2020 Valeria Privalikhina
RA Would you mind sharing with us one fond memory from the Saint Petersburg Art Academy days?
VP All those years flashed through my mind, and how many of these moments there were! Warm ones, challenging ones, funny ones.
I will share the first memory that came to mind. In the first and second year of our drawing course, we had an exceptional professor—already of a certain age, but still so passionate about his profession and art. He was strict and demanding.
One day, I stayed late in the workshop to fix my drawing. I was alone. It was a quiet evening, and I did not expect anyone else. Imagine how startled I was to see the professor suddenly walk in and look at my work. What was even more unexpected is that he sincerely praised my drawing. I was so emotional and excited that I completely missed the technical advice he gave me. The whole of the next day, I tried to remember what he said because I needed to make more progress on my drawing. But the only thing I could remember was that warm sensation and the feeling that I was on the right track.