This protagonist is quite at home blowing Sunday Bubbles.
Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer
Russian origin artist Anna Dudchenko was born and raised in Russia, but moved to Oman in 1999, where she has been living and working for the last 20 years. Her educational background includes Masters in Fine Arts, Art History and English Linguistics. She has two decades of experience in the art business, both private and corporate, and besides being a professional artist, she represents established and emerging Omani and international artists.
For the last fifteen years, she has worked as art consultant on different projects and special commissions for private companies as well as the government. Among them are Albustan Palace Ritz Carlton Hotel Muscat, Muscat International Airport, JW Marriott Hotel Muscat, Amouage, Oman Oilfield Supply Centre, Royal Oman Police Club, Diplomatic Club, Oman Qatar Insurance Company, Swiss Airlines, Worley Parsons, Al Ahli Bank, AKGC and private orders.
As curator, she has organised various art exhibitions and curated displays at art fairs, both locally and internationally, and helped patrons build their private collections. She also used to run a regular column on contemporary art in Muscat Daily newspaper and has been a contributing writer for Art Radar Asia and ArtAsiaPacific.
She talks to Gulf Today about her life and work:
How has the Middle East, especially Oman, impacted your art practice?
I personally think Oman is a great place for artists. First of all, we have only one season in the Middle East — summer — which means you can always have your windows open in the studio or work outside whenever your work requires outdoor conditions. Second, it is easy to get noticed as an artist in Oman; “word of mouth” is one of the most reliable ways of advertising here. Of course, it’s a very small market but a very reliable one. You build long term relationships with the buyers and people interested in your art.
According to you, it is possible to marry Western aesthetic to Eastern sensibility in art?
You can mix anything you want in your artistic practice, and the more cultures you have been exposed to, the better. It’s all about generating ideas and ideas come from observations, research, communication, knowledge and experience.
How do animals, especially apes, help you convey your artistic message?
You are obviously referring to my series of pencil drawings, “Under the Influence” and “Happy, Wise, and Otherwise”. Animals have a lot of character, especially when you put them in human-like situations. Apes, chimps and gorillas have the most interesting facial expressions - hence they were chosen for this series. In “Happy, Wise, and Otherwise”, they have perfected the art of chilling, the art of doing nothing without being bored. What a dreadful burden – having nothing to do! Or, maybe not a burden, maybe they are smarter, wiser and happier than us. Because they know that time “doing nothing” has real value. Because they know way better than humans how to enjoy a lollipop, chill on the golf course, drink and laugh, look pretty and contemplate life!
In your pencil drawings you are realistic, and in your paintings, you are abstract. How do you respond to both genres?
After studying art for 12 years in Russia, I had developed fairly good academic skills. I can work with any media, be it oil, watercolour, acrylic, ink, pencil, marker, spray paint, industrial paint, charcoal, epoxy, textile paint or various mixed media. I do realistic paintings sometimes when I feel like going back to the classical school of art. It is always nice to switch from one genre to another, sometimes just to refresh your academic skills or simply try the new techniques. It is all about experimenting, which is the key to the artistic development.
Your pencil drawings are cartoonish without being cartoons. Comment.
When people see those drawings, the reaction is pretty much the same – they laugh! And it makes me happy. But apart from the obvious humour, there are hidden messages in every picture, which make people think, contemplate, build connections with their own lives and ask questions. These artworks are more than just entertaining pieces; you can call them “cartoonish”, but they are “fine art” in every sense of the word.
From where do you get your inspiration? We are sure you read satirical books for at least some ideas!
It is a very difficult question! Normally, the theme develops by itself. Often, inspiration is just a myth, especially when art is your full time job.
I believe in ideas, research, discoveries and skill. You don’t just wake up in the morning and get inspired - there is no such thing. You wake up, go to your studio and start working. And work doesn’t stop when you leave the studio. You keep thinking about it, you come up with new ideas, make changes, make mistakes, etc. As for books, yes, I read a lot, and I do like satirical books, especially written in the “black humour” style.
Is Russia your first home, Oman your second home?
I live between three countries: Oman, France and Russia. It’s nice to change the scene now and then - it refreshes your perception of the world and its current state. Change of scenery is also very important for creative people; it helps generation of new ideas. Without doubt, Oman has become my main homeland, and I was honoured to receive Omani citizenship in 2012. I travel quite a lot and sometimes I have to adapt to the size of the suitcase!
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