I have always been drawn to beings that move. Birds, fish, seeds, fallen leaves: creatures of peregrination and displacement. For almost twenty years, I have been traveling from country to country, unable to settle. My own journeys have impacted my art: I strive to create a harmonious whole out of elements from different mediums, cultures and contexts. How do diverse pieces fit together? Can they belong, despite the trauma of expatriation? Can they feel whole?
I was born in Belarus right before the collapse of the Soviet Union, into a family with collapses of its own. My grandfather was orphaned at the age of three and wrote poetry about it. He took his rhymes to the acclaimed poet Yanka Kupala. “There will be no true poets in your generation, for you are a child of war,” Kupala pronounced. Discouraged but forward-looking, my grandfather wrote me letters in rhymed verse, humorous and tender, insisting that I would respond to him in poetry. My other grandfather painted large-scale works but passed away before he was able to build a name for himself as an artist. These two stories of unrealized potential run deep within me, nourishing the seeds of my own ambitions. The flowers, when they blossom, are for the three of us.
When I was six or seven years old, my parents took me to the chairman of the national artist union in Minsk. I remember feeling so intimidated by his dark, wintry paintings that I did not pick a brush for years to come. The gray hues, in which my native city endures, are explained by centuries of its unfortunate history. So long that a mindset of impeccable grayness has been formed: blend it or – literally – flee for your life. Barely out of school, I found myself in London where I spent my twenties. I was practically living in museums, thirsty to fill the void of what I had not seen. London helped me form a new outlook. It taught me that art can be a celebration of life and creativity. Lightness to hold on to in the midst of darkness.
In 2013, wanting to belong, I returned to Belarus. The city of my childhood was starting to feel cool and fresh, Berlin-like. For the following seven years, I lived between Minsk and Athens, Greece, juggling very different fragments of life: art, poetry, overwork in the tech sector and the demands of new motherhood. It all came to an abrupt end in May 2021, when in the midst of a huge political crisis in Belarus, the regime landed an international plane to arrest a journalist. My husband and I got on the last flight to Europe before the borders were shut down. Life reshuffled again.
Fragmentation and recombination are what makes up my identity – and it is what I do with my art. I work with pieces of magazines and follow the material that leads to unexpected composition. Taking elements out of their existing context and seeking harmony in the new arrangement is what adds new meaning to the collaged work. In the years when printed magazines are struggling to survive, it seems appropriate to capture the zeitgeist of the dying medium: the colorful high-resolution prints, the gentle feel of the paper, the glossy touch.
As a woman, I am often my own model and my own subject. I like to explore the topic of womanhood with its fullness and limitations: the expectations and realities of our gender in relation to physical appearance and childbearing, career goals, the culture of accomplishment and parenting. The ancient magic of the female form and the glory of its present-day, multiracial, multi-ethnic landscape.
I used to feel pressured to choose what I am first and foremost: art or poetry, career or motherhood, business or the arts. Now my inquiry is centered on how to attain the harmony of all the collaged elements. Elements that are united by a sense of purpose and a great wish to belong.