Interview with Aleksandr Chursin
After long time of translating,composing, editing and of course procrastinating I am honored and proud to publish here my first interview with very talented young artist, also my former classmate from KGUKI and just an awe-inspiring, awesome guy, who I admire and love - Aleksandr Chursin. We’ve talked about art, music, influences, current political situation and how it reflects on people and their perception of art and overall covered few other curious topics.
Anna Metelina: So, as far as I know, you were born and reside now in Krasnodar, Soutwestern Russia. What do you think about art world situation in Russia in general and in particular in your hometown? Whither art moves , if it moves at all? If you could live any place in the world, where would you choose to live?
Aleksandr Chursin: Yes, I’ve been living here since birth. Of course, I can’t say that I am satisfied with situation in the arts in Russia, even more so in Krasnodar. As before, the public has little receptive to art, because of the fact that the viewer is simply not educated, art-wise. Most of the population of Russia for twenty years after the collapse of the Soviet Union existed below the poverty line, which you, of course, know very well. Thus, on the one hand, there is the older generation, brought up on the agenda-driven social realism, and on the other, young people in Russia who are not educated. For years, the question of cultural decline in the country had been simply ignoring, and as the the result, we have entire generation that can’t be called other than miscarriage of consumer society. I am not on the side of conservative art, but, in my opinion, “contemporary” Russian art is a pitiful sight. As for the second question, I do not see much need for emigration, I’m going to continue my education in Frankfurt am Main (Germany), but that is about it.
A.M: Tell me about your family. Did your family encourage you to become artist? Do you remember when and why for the first time you felt that you want to be an artist?
A.C: My father does not have arts education, but working in the art world sphere; mother is the economist. Since childhood I wanted to be a policeman, because of vast amounts of time spent at my mother’s work in that specific environment. My last two years at school were in the throes of the choice of profession. For a long time, I really wanted to go to the Law, I was very attracted to this profession. But I chose another one, and yes, I remember deciding to be surely artist, and surely the great one. Sometimes I think that I did make the wrong choice, but because of my total rejection of all these corporational orientations of strict discipline, I think, probably, nothing would come out of this.
A.M: Did you participate in national or international exhibitions? Tell me about this experience. What is the status of the artist and the system for exhibitions and competitions in Russia now? Have you not encountered stiff resistance of your works?
A.C: At first, I actively participated in exhibition, but only in Russia. When I took a close look at the whole “constellation”, I decided it was not for me. All these so-called competitions and exhibitions associated only with “rat race”. About rejection of my works you did get straight to the point, by the way. For some reason, my works always cause a lot of negative emotions from public, and sometimes from the organizers of the event. For example, in 2011,on literally day before the opening of personal exhibition at the direction of the Department of Culture of the Krasnodar state one third of my work was taken directly from the walls. They were considered immoral and offensive.
A.M: What do you think about the political situation in Russia? Do you think that art has to be involved in public life, has to change and influence political views and positions of the society? Do you see yourself as a political artist or artists who can influence the political situation?
A.C: Of course, there is no way to completely escape from politics. And I am very interested in it, as such, not as a genre of art. I still prefer to distinguish between those concepts. Generally, art people should stay away from politics as much as possible. You can find mass of confirmation of that in the world history. As for Russia, I’m not “for” or “against” the current government, I believe that by taking one of the parties side you end up deceived anyway. I see political art as just populism, not leading to anything and changing nothing.
A.M: Music plays an important role in your life. You are the biggest fan of abstract hip-hop that I know. Does it impact on what you do on canvases?
A.C: I divide music and painting, and there are two different me, though here and there I tend to absurdism as a way of expression. When people ask me what this or that canvas is about, I always say: “How should I know?”
A.M: What artists have influenced you? Who do you see as your contemporaries, whose work excites you? Do you have role models in your environment? Have your professors particularly inspired, encouraged you?
A.C: I was interested in different masters at different times. My preferences change all the time. The Official Soviet Art has made strong impact on me, for example, Andrei Mylnikov, Arkady Plastov, Tkachev brothers. I love Russian Impressionist Konstantin Korovin. I think, clearly that I was exposed to a strong influence of Egon Schiele and Francis Bacon. Bacon is still one of the most honored by me artists, along with Rembrandt and Edvard Munch. I don’t really care about contemporary artists, perhaps except Lucian Freud , but unfortunately he died 2 years ago. In fact, movie has huge influence on me, probably like nor any other art. I derive in it stories and images. There weren’t much encouragements in university, and I became quite skeptical to its teaching staff on my second year already, due to their ossified conservative views of art. to its teaching staff, I was skeptical of the course is the second, due to their intransigent conservative views of art.
A.M: People and their emotions are an important component of your work. Can you say that you like people or they are just interested to you as an objects? Most of the artist depict their close circle of people first. How do you find your models? How well you have to know the model to convey her/his emotions as good as you do it? Are there some famous people you’d love to capture on your canvases?
A.C: Yes, I’m only interested in people, people as such, regardless of the whole social and political nonsense. I am not looking for models to pose, almost all my works are painted from my close environment, or myself posing. Certain image appears in my head and this is exactly what eventually canvas turns out to be like. A model is just an object for observation, I have very formal interest to it. I probably can’t tell you names of people whom I would like to depict, but most likely they are artists, musicians, and filmmakers. By the way I recently create a portrait of Chikatilo*. (*Soviet serial killer)
A.M: What technique do you use? How would you describe the style you work in? What is more important to you, the subject of the picture, or how, the way it is performed?
A.C: I work almost exclusively with oil, sometimes with not always suitable for painting surfaces. I use a method alla prima , in most cases . I really enjoy the process itself. I believe the most applicable definition to my works is Transavantgarde. Naturally , I am concerned about the fact what I want to portray and how I do it. I am trying to make viewer feel some sort of inconvenience, some confusion because of not understanding of what is happening on the canvas. This is not aimless abstract painting, not even figurative one in their usual sense. Seems like there are the same people in my works, but in the implausible circumstances, which are rejecting visible reality.
A.M: Were you able to move directly into the art market after graduating, or did you have to work in order to survive financially? How were you financially surviving? Do you feel that the jobs you had to take to pay your bills had an influence on your art?
A.C: It has been only half a year since graduation, and nothing is really going on right now. I have small sales occasionally though. As for the art market, there no such a thing in Krasnodar, and it is not in a best condition on the national level as well, as far as I know. I have been working in the funeral house since 14 years old, engaging in production of portraits on tombstones, but I don’t think that it would affect me or my art works somehow. It is pretty boring and monotonous activity.
A.M: What do you consider to be the key factors to a successful career as an artist?
A.C: I think an artist needs the qualities of communication and assertiveness, as, perhaps, any other professional. The factor of exclusivity of the creative one doesn’t play special role. Audience and critics are not very much far-sighted.
Click here to see some of his recent works.