Tell us about yourself and background.
I am usually described as a ‘Russian-born British artist’, which is very true. However, I’ve lived in so many countries I often think of myself as a ‘citizen of the world’. I was born to a Russian family in the former USSR, grew up in Latvia, Czech Republic and Slovakia, went to high school and university in Russia, received my art training in Malta and Italy. Since 2005 my home has been in Great Britain but I work worldwide: my current schedule includes projects in six different countries.
Tell us about your work.
I create realistic portraits in classical style, working primarily by commission. I am best known for ceremonial portraits and paintings of children. I have tried working in different genres and techniques but my passion for classical portraiture has been so strong that I gave it all my time and energy. I’ve been painting portraits full time for the last 15 years. I also have a strong interest in painting fabrics and elaborate embellished garments, which makes me very suited for ceremonial portraiture and attracts most fascinating commissions.
What makes your work and approach unique?
I practise techniques that are rare today as they are no longer taught in art schools. My oil painting method is based on the traditional 17-century Flemish technique. I start with a detailed monochrome underpainting and develop the image gradually by applying multiple layers of opaque paint and transparent glazes. This technique creates visual effects that are not possible to achieve with modern direct painting methods. My pastel works are inspired by the coloured chalk drawing of the Renaissance. I work in Conte on toned paper and use a limited palette of only three colours – red, black and white – which can produce a surprisingly wide range of subtle realistic skin tones.
Why is your work a good investment?
I believe that classical portraiture is a unique genre that has a timeless value and is above trends and fashion. People are always drawn to well-painted portraits because they are more than paintings: they engage the viewer and provide psychological insights into the characters of the sitter and the artist. I try to create portraits that speak a universal language and communicate feelings and ideas that will be as relevant in the future as they are today. I care a lot about longevity of my works and use only premium quality archival materials and time-tested techniques.
Tell us about some of your achievements.
I would like to hope that my major achievements are still ahead, but I’ve had a few moments that made me feel proud. One happened in 2016 when I was awarded the status of ‘Living Master’ by the Art Renewal Center in the USA, which included my works in the ARC Museum of realist art and placed me in the same league as many great artists I had admired for years. Another memorable moment was last year when I was commissioned to paint a very important military portrait for the permanent collection of the Royal Regiment of Artillery (UK).
What are your sources of inspiration?
I draw my inspiration primarily from the great figurative artworks of the past.
I love exploring how artists captured their sitters, what clothes they wore, what settings they chose and why, how they resolved compositions and orchestrated lights and shadows. I can get inspired by passages of masterful brushwork, graceful lines, subtle colour harmonies and exquisite detail, meaningful props that contain hidden messages. When I work in my studio I think about what makes me stop in front of certain paintings, and I strive to create works that can potentially trigger similar emotions in people.
What you are passionate about?
I am passionate about reviving traditional aesthetics and standards of quality in art, particularly in portraiture.
Modern art is an interesting area of activity and experimentation, but I find a lot of it gimmicky and too focused on the desire to shock. I doubt many of those works will survive the test of time as they try to fit the trends that are fleeting, and also because they are not made with archival materials. It makes me sad because what we create today establishes us in the eye of the posterity as a culture. I do not want future generations to judge us solely by examples of modern art. Fortunately, there are many brilliant figurative artists active in the world today and I am happy to feel a connection with them and to see that realism is appreciated again in the 21st century.
Tell us the back-story of some of your projects.
One of the most fascinating projects of mine was a set of ceremonial portraits which I created a few years ago while living on the Isle of Man.
It began in 2011 when I was commissioned to paint two Speakers of the local parliament called Tynwald. I got an opportunity to meet very interesting people and learn history of one of the oldest European parliaments which is more than 1000 years old. I loved painting the gold-embroidered ceremonial robes and elaborate props which really challenged my painting skills! Later I continued the theme and painted several more artworks inspired by the Tynwald traditions, including a panoramic scene of national day celebrations with Manx folk dancers in the foreground. Three of those Isle of Man themed artworks are now on permanent public display and are officially part of the UK national collection of oil paintings.
Share with us your upcoming projects.
I have always wanted to work on some interesting projects in Russia, it was my dream, and finally it has come true: I am painting two very famous Russian film and stage actors Sergei Bezrukov and Danila Kozlovsky. They are very different but both incredibly talented and charismatic, and I feel extremely fortunate to have a chance to meet such amazing people and work with them. I am also getting ready to paint Mr. Howard Quayle, the Chief Minister of the Isle of Man, a distinguished politician with a fine taste in art. My list of private commissions for next year includes a number of portraits I will be creating for clients in England, Scotland, Sweden, Ukraine and Italy.
Tell us about where you are based.
I live on the south-eastern coast of England in the scenic East Sussex. Set in the private garden of our family home, my new recently opened studio provides a very inspiring environment for me to work in. The nearby towns - coastal Hastings and historic mediaeval Battle are both full of character and popular with visitors all year round. The history of this area is amazing and there are many picturesque ruins of Norman castles scattered around the county. London is only an hour away and I go there regularly to attend meetings and exhibitions.