Double Star – this enigmatic title has more meaning than you could think and probably also more surprising. It’s saturated with different emotions and it relates to Tonya’s extremely intimate stories. She shared some of them not only through her oil paintings but also during our interview.
Art of Prague: Why Double Star?
Tonya Vinogradova: It’s very personal name of the exhibition. People find different meaning of this name but only one person understood it. I was very surprised that someone understands me so deeply.
Double Start means bipolar disorder. I’m suffering from this disorder and here you can see totally different parts of the exhibition. One is very colourful, impulsive, very on the top. Other one is extremely depressive. That’s also how bipolar works: ups and downs and the same about my paintings – I decided to combine two very important things for me.
Why did you name the colourful part “Glory”?
All you can see here in this room is connected with fashion collection by Gucci. Their clothes and shows for me mean fame and glory.
The lines in this series remind me a bit of futurists’ art and their way of showing every stage of movement. It seems like you’re showing every stage not only movement but also light. Is fashion your only inspiration or are you inspired also by other artists?
When I started to create this series I wasn’t inspired by any artist. I was just inspired by fashion. I found the way of putting fashion runway show into the canvases coincidentally. I opened my tablet even though I never use digital tools to work with. I took a pencil and tried to make some lines on the photos and then I noticed that it looks very interesting when I put only colours. However, I decided that I will never work with digital art – I can’t understand it. I decided that it’s better to put all these cool lines on the canvas.
When we talked during the vernissage, you mentioned that you’ve noticed that almost nobody puts fashion on the canvas. Is that another reason why you decided to do it?
I’m highly impressed by these people who make fashion. I tried to make some clothes also in abstract way but I felt I wasn’t able to make it fast enough. However, I wanted to be in contact with fashion somehow. That’s another reason why I decided to put fashion on canvases. A lot of people try to rewrite their emotions, experiences, preferences or just what they see. Also a lot of people take photos of fashion, videos, digital. But nobody did it with paint in a form of tribute. Or maybe I don’t know about it [laughing].
I guess we both believe that fashion is not only about the product – it’s also art.
Yes, it definitely is. For example, this Gucci’s collection highly impressed me not only with clothes but also with the whole show, models, all details.
Could you tell me the story behind the second, depressive room?
The depressive part was born this July. At the beginning of conversations with Life Is Ours, we were talking only about the Glory part. I thought I’m gonna present only this colourful series. But in July I lost my loved one – the person who showed me everything in this world and in the way put the brushes into my hands. He commited suicide. Before that I made one painting of him and I’ve been always telling him that one day I will say thank you to him if I were famous and cool and in the way I know the best. We laughed a lot about that. Then he disappeared and this exhibition is my way to tell “thank you” for everything he did for me. It’s very emotional, depressive.
In all these canvases you can see the darkness. All of them present the part of body – his body. I took them from different photos of him. It was the only way I could do it.
It’s very personal. How did it feel to create such a series? Was it a bit of a relief, kind of a grief helping you to slowly accept what happened? Or maybe the opposite?
It was very difficult also to show this series to everyone. But I promised him that everyone will know about him. Not the whole world but at least within my abilities.
It was very difficult to work on these paintings. I cried a lot. Every time I worked, I thought about him more and more and also about a suicide. I was during depressive phase of my bipolar disorder. So every single moment was very difficult. But I wanted to keep my promise.
Some people say that it’s very conventional to create after loved ones’ death. But I think it’s personal and when you show your personal emotions, it’s very deep. Not everyone can do it.
Exactly. It think touches the the audience more when you expose your emotions. It’s never easy and I believe it wasn’t easy to talk about them during the vernissage.
It was very difficult, you know. It was difficult to talk. My speech which I prepared before was very long about both parts of my exhibition. The part of the speech about dark series was actually longer. But when I started to talk I understood: “No, I can say only a couple of words.” It was too stressful.
It must have been stressful indeed. I really admire you.
Thank you. I hope that the dark part made people think. Suicide is something we talk about often but not everyone takes it seriously. Not everyone think about their relatives or friends in this aspect – some people don’t realize that someday can be just “click” and our loved ones are gone so we need to pay more attention.
I believe that there is still some stigma around psychological disorders. Do you notice that? Is showing people how it feels to suffer from psychological disorder another purpose of your paintings?
For sure. During my process of working – in ups and downs – I’ve noticed how colours change when my mind changes. During ups I always like what I’m doing and I think I’m a star, the only one who can do it and I’m so cool – too cool for a school [laughing]. But when I’m in downs I dislike everything what I’m doing. I just know how not to stop to create even when I hate it.
My loved one – Evgeny – suffered from schizophrenia. He was a great painter. I always saw through his paintings how his disease influenced him. In his normal stage his paintings were very clear, with very smooth lines. But when he had the disease episodes, I’ve noticed in his artworks the lines’ crashes and a lot of darkness. But these paintings were more interesting.
So do you think that art could change people’s attitude about mental diseases?
I think so. I read a lot of articles about the clinics and how they work with art therapy and how they help. I submitted my portfolio to a lot of open calls and I hope that I will work with one clinic in Philadelphia. They liked my portfolio a lot – we are in contact now aligning on details. I like how they work with their patients – they show how colours work with your mind without pills and different dosages of medicines. I like this technique, how they’re trying to find the right way for patients through art therapy. They sent my a few pictures of their patients during this art therapy and it’s amazing! It’s amazing how they find their way through art. I would say that art saves the world.
I hope so! Because it’s the best way to change the world.
Yes! It’s the easiest, the cheapest and the best way.
Excatly! But let’s talk also about your technique of working. A lot of people say that working with oil painting is not the easiest.
A lot of people say that it’s hard technique. When I tried to go to some art courses, I’ve noticed that everyone tries to start with pencils, pens or pastels. They say: “It’s easier. Do not touch oil! Oil is the last step.” but I can’t understand how to work with pencil. I understand oil more – I fell in love with this smell, I fell in love with the amount of colours I can choose and texture. I never thought if it’s difficult or not. In oil there are colours which theoretically you shouldn’t mix but I never think about it. I don’t care. I just mix everything what I see, what I want to mix. I paint with my fingers to achieve smooth texture of the main colour and then I work with brushes. I just feel how the colours want to work with each other.
That’s also the way of putting emotions on canvas.
Yes – I paint the way I feel. In the process of painting, I never invite people to my place. I don’t want them to see what I’m creating. I’m all alone – me and painting communicate somehow. Sometimes to talk to people on the phone during painting. I was into the conversation but my hand was just painting. So only my hands and real emotions worked on the painting.
It reminds me a bit the technique of surrealists – their automatic drawing.
Maybe. Actually lately I’ve noticed I do it all really often – I call someone and talk for hours and my hands do all the work. Maybe it’s my technique. Cool! Finally I realised what I’m doing [laughing].
You can see Double Star by Tonya Vinogradova in Life Is Ours Gallery till 13th of January 2019.