17 May 2019 (Translated Text) ZIMA has been following Viktoria Lomasko’s work for a long time – For this interview we spoke about the presentation of her book ‘Other Russias’ in London her paintings in the office for the Grad project. The opening of Lomasko’s first commercial exhibition 'Separated World' at Edel Assanti in the heart of London marks a new chapter in the story of a Russian artist whose work has been overlooked by her home country yet is thriving internationally. Daria Radova visited Edel Assanti just before the opening of her ‘Separated World’ exhibition and spoke with the artist about the murals whilst she was making them. The conversation went upwards (Victoria was on the stepladder), but you can read the conversation below.
This is your first commercial exhibition. Why haven't you done any before?
Viktoria Lomasko: I never wanted to work with commercial galleries; it was important for me to be a completely independent artist. I also did not want to sell my originals, as I wanted to keep them for myself. I preferred to work on commission, publications and giving lectures.
Edel Assanti gallery owners Charlie Fellows and Jeremy Epstein showed genuine interest in my work and offered such good working conditions and professionalism that the question of whether to work with them or not didn’t even cross my mind. The fact that they were owners of a commercial gallery was not an issue given their excellent attitude. For me, the most important factor is that there should be no attempts to censor my work. Edel Assanti gave me complete freedom of expression, as well as access and use of all the materials I needed.
The last time we saw you was when you were painting murals for the Grad exhibition at Somerset House. Now you’re exhibiting at a commercial gallery that is located right next to Oxford Street with even more space available. How did this progression come about?
They found my work via my book Other Russias, and came to my fresco painting for the Grad exhibition. They were immediately interested in the format of murals, which, of course, is very unusual for a commercial gallery, because the murals cannot be sold and after the exhibition and will be painted over. For the purpose of sales, I brought my originals, including a series of work from Other Russias.
You recently returned from America. What did you do there?
I had been commissioned by Miami University to do a large colour panel on wooden panels at the King Library hall. After completing this work, I went to Los Angeles, to give a lecture on “The Last Soviet Artists” at the Wende Museum. On May 18, 2019 I am giving the same lecture at Pushkin House in London, to which everyone is invited.
Your exhibition is called Separated World, which is to say, the "divided world." Seeing as you travel a lot - is this how you see the world now?
Lately, I am constantly moving between different countries and observing the world becoming more and more close-minded. I see the same processes taking place all over the world: the continuous tightening of laws in Russia, Trump with his wall on the border with Mexico, Brexit in England ... Where is my own place when I cross borders? For example, moving through the post-Soviet world towards the Caucasus and Central Asia, my figure turns into an Orientalist figure. And in England, for example, I can become an object of study myself. It is interesting to record how my social status changes depending on geographical movements - through my personal experience I try to understand large social constructions.
Can you give us an example?
Before my first trip to Kyrgyzstan, I always painted with black and white materials, but when I first went to Bishkek, I bought colored felt-tip pens and pastels, imagining that in the spirit of Paul Gauguin and Pavel Kuznetsov I would paint exotic women on the background of multi-colored carpets. I was traveling there at the invitation of [the Bishkek feminist initiatives group].
Where are we going next?
From the "Russian World" goes the last Soviet artist with his suitcase with fragments of the Soviet empire. The figure is accompanied by poems - the exhibition includes a lot of my poetic texts. I wanted to make a poetic, symbolic statement - all the figures have more than one meaning.
Where does the last Soviet artist go next?
The last Soviet artist wants to conquer America with his art. And towards him, on the contrary, the igure of an Orientalist is striving, who penetrates into the dark world with matted grasses.
What statue is depicted here?
This is a real statue in San Diego. San Diego is located close to the border of Mexico, where many Mexicans illegally cross the border. As depicted in this work, a white respectable American family looks on at the powerless Mexican, whilst in the arms of both mothers their children. On the neighboring wall again appears the figure of the Last Soviet artist appears again, who whilst not being a ‘person of color’, is not a very white man in the Western world either. For me, it is interesting that the name of the exhibition and its images contradict each other - the exhibition is called Separated World, and yet the images, on the contrary, show that the world is one and cannot be divided into parts.
How much time did you spend in Russia last year?
Half of the year or slightly less. But now I am trying to spend more time in Russia.
I believe my themes are relevant to Russia. And I still hope that I may have an audience in Russian one day. I would like to give lectures and workshops for the new young generation. It is important for me to maintain relationships with my friends and colleagues, and to be aware of their professional work. I am always interested in what the art historian and curator Nadya Plungian does, all the exhibitions at the ‘On Shabolovka’ gallery, which is run by art historian and curator Alexander Selivanova, I find fascinating and I am also interested in the art of Pavel Otdelnova ... There are some professionals who make Moscow an interesting place.”