Does Not Define Us
BY THE RUSSIAN ARK | FEB 1, 2021
The Russian Ark Do you remember your first encounter with art?
Yaroslava Tichshenko Yes, I remember it very well. It happened in St. Petersburg, Russia, to which I travelled for entrance exams for the Saint Petersburg Art Academy.
It was my first time abroad and my first time alone in a big city with such gorgeous architecture. I obviously wanted to visit all the world-famous art meccas – Hermitage and the Russian Museum – but due to lack of courage at first, I was avoiding their unprecedented accumulation of art treasures.
So, one day I dared to visit a temporary exhibition at the Russian Museum dedicated to Konstantin Korovin and Valentin Serov. Then and there, in front of Serov's drawing of the Botkin sisters, I experienced my "Stendhal syndrome". I stood in the exhibition hall with tears running down my cheeks – it was too beautiful to take in at once. Naïve and tender teenager that I was, the emotion was very sincere. Now it is almost funny and embarrassing to recall this.
Valentin Serov, Portrait of the children of S.S.Botkin, 1900
Artwork © State Russian Museum
RA Where did you spend your childhood? Did it influence your artistic practice?
YT Rather no, than yes. In my case, I had a negative correlation, because the environment did not nurture my needs and pushed me to search for beauty elsewhere. I was born in a small mining satellite town, and no one in my family had ever done anything creative. This might have given me a raw, unfiltered, open perception of the world. I absorbed everything that was somehow connected with art. I considered it imperative to leave, and to go to a big city with cultural infrastructure.
This was indeed necessary at the formation stage, but once I found my creative voice, the geographic location did not matter as much: I carry all I need within me.
Artwork © 2020 Yaroslava Tichshenko
"The goal is to avoid the painting looking tortured and over-worked. It needs to look effortless, like you managed to paint it in one go, deftly."
— YAROSLAVA TICHSHENKO
RA What excites you the most in the painting process?
YT What is very important is the freshness of the work. It does not always come easy. The goal is to avoid the painting looking tortured and over-worked. It needs to look effortless, like you managed to paint it in one go, deftly. For this reason, I often pause my work for a while (sometimes months, sometimes years). I look at it later and then either correct it, change it or add to it. Or, if I still am unable to grasp that effortless aura, I discard it.
The chromatic impact of the painting is also of great importance to me, as I do not like modern brown paintings (old masters are a different story) and I avoid that in every possible way. In fact, I can't even see in that brown manner; my vision is very chromatic, and so are my paintings.
Photo: Courtesy of the artist
Copyright © 2020 @etamorette
RA Which great masters paved the way for you and influenced the way you think about your art?
YT I get inspired by many artists. For example, for my recent laconic still lives, I deeply studied the figurative paintings of Morandi, Weisberg, and Rauchverger. I am also amazed by the picturesque power and truthfulness of Konchalovsky and Mashkov.
I like very much the coloured silver hues of El Greco, the bravura of Velazquez.
However, the work of Bonnard and Vuillard is closest to me now. Recently, I read another biography of Cézanne and was amazed at his inner stubbornness in the desire to create “his own” art. I relate to each artist’s biography I read, it teaches a lot on both life and painting.
Yaroslava Tichshenko, Two Blue, Two Yellow © 2020 Yaroslava Tichshenko
RA What is “good taste”?
YT It’s a lifelong path. The concept is so subjective. In my opinion, taste consists primarily of selectiveness, colour harmony and nontrivial composition.
RA Which painting you could look at the whole life without getting tired?
YT A few reproductions of my favourite paintings hang in my studio. I have been looking at them for 4 years now and I still admire them as much as ever. In different periods in my life, different pictures have been on display. Now it’s Portrait of Meyerhold, so incredibly honest and yet interestingly composed and decorative; Still Life with a Coffee Pot by Pissarro, so fresh and containing its own secrets; and Portrait of Kirkaldi against the background of red roses by Mashkov.
RA How do you understand that a painting is finished?
YT This feeling is not momentary; rather, it builds up over time. In the first place, what is completeness per se? I cannot immediately say, looking at an artwork, whether it is finished. To do so, I need a certain amount of time to pass. I turn my work against the wall or hang it upside down and take a break from it. Sometimes a week goes by, sometimes a month or a year. Each painting takes its time to mature. Then, after a break, I look at it with fresh eyes. If nothing needs correction, it’s a wrap!
RA What is the hardest part about painting?
YT Just as we’ve discussed - completeness and freshness of painting.
RA What is “beauty”? Can it be objective?
YT Taste and perception of beauty are closely related concepts. We spend a lifetime learning to observe and appreciate beauty. People with similar aesthetic values tend to gravitate towards each other. I appreciate being surrounded by people who share my values.
RA If you could look over the shoulder of any great artist at work, who would it be?
YT Honestly, I would love to watch many artists at work - Konchalovsky, Borisov-Musatov, Vrubel, Serov, Lebedev. Reading artists’ biographies always transports me to their "artistic kitchen" and sparks my curiosity about their processes and techniques.
RA A painter is a composer or a musician?
YT Rather a composer. The ability of a painter not only to copy nature but also to digest, interpret, compose and prioritise what he sees is what distinguishes an artist from a craftsman. Art is a creative process after all.
THE RUSSIAN ARK
RA Shall an artist be hungry?
YT Everyone has their own motivation. For some, suffering and nonrecognition are an impulse for a creative breakthrough; for others, they are a roadblock. History knows examples of great artists being affluent, destitute, or oscillating between wealth and poverty.
RA What can modern creative people offer to the world?
YT Beauty. New reflections on the topic. Thanks to the constant recontextualisation, this search is endless.
"We spend a lifetime learning to observe and appreciate beauty. People with similar aesthetic values tend to gravitate towards each other."
Artwork © 2020 Yaroslava Tichshenko
RA Would you mind sharing with us one fond memory from the Repin Art Academy days?
YT I have many fond memories of the professor Igor Petrov. I love how accurately he selected metaphors to point out his students’ wrong colour choices. He compared the skin of models to porcelain or copper, while colours on students’ works looked to him more like tomato or meat colours. His remarks were always so sharp, precise and funny! He also said that when you set up a model, some kind of providence helps you to achieve harmony that can’t be later repeated. He educated my eye and shared many secrets of colour and composition which have defined my style.