OLGA VOLODINA, HUMANS AND THEIR VICES
Updated: Apr 21
The subjects that Olga Volodina likes to work with are humans and their vices: stupidity, cruelty, violence, and greed. She is also concerned about the manipulation of the masses, propaganda, nationalism, and all kinds of intolerances and rights inequalities...
What made you decide to become an artist? What is your background?
- I have loved photography since I was a teenager. I had a basic film camera and it was not cheap for my parents to support my hobby back then. As far as I remember, I just liked to click the shutter, its sound, and the feeling that I caught some precious moment. Later I studied photojournalism at the Moscow Institute of Journalism. I was romantic and naive and wanted to change the world by telling people the truth. In 2010 I left Russia. At that time, all free media started to feel serious pressure from the authorities, and many people who wanted freedom of speech went abroad. I went to Thailand, where I raised my daughter and discovered myself as an artist. So I came to art from a journalism background. I'm kind of translating the words into images.
What is your artistic background, the techniques, and the subjects you have experimented with so far?
I don't have any formal artistic background. I do care more about the idea and the techniques of its expression are always secondary to me. Therefore, I choose the implementation methods available to me at the moment and do it. I've experimented so far with mixed media, video projections, stop-motion, etc.
The subjects that I like to work with are humans and their vices: stupidity, cruelty, violence, and greed. I am also concerned about the manipulation of the masses, propaganda, nationalism, and all kinds of intolerances and rights inequalities. I encountered some by myself and my art is the answer to this.
What are the 3 aspects that differentiate you from other artists, making your work unique?
There is only one aspect. It's me. My works are unique because I create them. My works tell my story. They contain my pain, my anger, my beauty, and my ugliness at the same time. My works convey my thoughts and feelings. And there is no one else like me in the world. I'm the one and only and I'm unique. It might sound not modest, but at least it's honest.
Where does your inspiration come from?
I am inspired by the life around me: people, events taking place in the world, or behind the wall of another apartment. The world is beautiful for many people. After all, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. For me, the world often is ugly and cruel. I see it and I'm outraged and I'm angry and that inspires me. Anger and hatred were the leitmotifs of my childhood. At the same time, I have wonderful and kind parents who gave me a feeling of a safe home. But the school and the street were poisoned by nationalism and harshness towards people like me. It was very unsafe for people with an Asian appearance in the 90s to go out in the town where I lived. I was bullied at school, I accumulated a lot of grievances, and always wanted to take revenge on the offenders. I resented the injustice and prejudice with which even teachers treated me. It made me angry, but it made me be better than them. Over the years, the feeling of anger has transformed but has not gone anywhere. I've learned to fight back. Reply. But in my own way.
What is your artistic approach? What visions, sensations or feelings do you want to evoke in the viewer?
I want to sow doubt in society. I want people to question the beliefs they have simply because it is more convenient to live this way. In a world of propaganda and manipulation, unconditional belief in some dogma is a kind of mental slavery. I want people to ask more questions and question the answers they were given. A good example is my series of photos M2F(Male To Female) It's black and white images of transgender women made in classic nu style.
All of them are beautiful as female models in a magazine. Some people from the LGBT community accused me of being superficial and promoting long-gone beauty standards. They wanted me to represent a variety of transgender women of different age groups, body types, races, etc... They didn't understand that my images were meant, for an average Joe, who sees my artwork for the first time and begins to admire a beautiful woman depicted in it. Then he is told that this is a transgender woman and it might break his homophobic stereotypes. His first reaction is honest, and what follows is the work of propaganda and dogmas. This is my provocation. Many of my works are provocative, you just need to see it.
What is the process of creating your works? Spontaneous or with a long preparatory process (technical, inspiration from art classics or other)?
My creative process starts with a text on the topic. Probably that failed journalist and writer still lives in me. I write down all my thoughts, which later will form into an idea. Then I try to interpret the text using symbols and metaphors. And when I come to the implementation stage my work idea is completely clear in my head down to the smallest detail.
Do you use a particular working technique? if so, can you explain it?
It's a mix of good-old photography, photo manipulations, body art, and digital art. I also make all the costumes and props myself.
Are there any innovative aspects in your work? Can you tell us which ones?
Nothing really innovative. All the techniques I use are pretty well-known.
Do you have a format or medium that you are most comfortable with? if yes, why?
Most comfortable for me is printed photo work. I print my works as a limited series of copies in a professional laboratory on high-quality museum art paper, sometimes on canvas.
I also like working with performance art. I just enjoy the process.
Where do you produce your works? At home, in a shared workshop, or in your own workshop? And in this space, how do you organize your creative work?
Almost all of the main projects I did in my Bangkok home studio. Over the past few years, my daughter and I moved a lot and our conditions changed and were not always perfect for creativity. I filmed my most recent project at my friend's house under construction. It was an interesting experience. A proper working atmosphere is very important to me, so I prepare everything in advance: a space for make-up artists and models, a space for props. Everything should be in its place so that it is easier to find if necessary. I generally love order in the workplace. I guess this is how I compensate for the chaos in my head.
Does your work lead you to travel to meet new collectors, for fairs or exhibitions? If so, what does it bring you?
It does and it helps to find new collaborations and meet interesting people. I've been really missing exhibitions and art fairs for the two years of pandemia. All this time, I lived in a small ski town in Bulgaria, where I clearly realized how important socializing and networking are. I need a social-cultural life like air. I miss theaters, exhibitions, concerts, and people with an active stance and a progressive outlook on life. It's all like food for my soul.
How do you imagine the evolution of your work and your career as an artist in the future?
I don't know the future. All I know is that I will continue to do my art because it makes me tick. I will continue to speak about things that bother me and react to everything that happens around me. Of course, I want my work to be seen by as many people as possible and more exhibitions and more recognition, but even if this does not happen, I will not stop creating. This is a part of me.
What is the theme, style, or technique of your latest artwork?
The recent ULTRAVIOLENT photo project is dedicated to the topic of domestic violence. It is quite dramatic, made in a theatrical style with an element of grotesque. Unfortunately, I did not finish it, because the war started and I devoted most of my time to helping Ukrainian refugees. Together with a group of women from Kyiv, we organized a volunteer center that helps refugees children and their mothers adapt to the new reality. This is very important to me right now.
Can you tell us about your most important exhibition experience?
Every exhibition was unique in its own way. Perhaps, the most exciting was to exhibit the Metamorphosis project in Thailand for the first time.
https://www.volodina-photos.com/copy-of-metamorphosis It's my favorite project so far. It raises the topic of personal transformation under the influence of disinformation and propaganda. It's an allusion to how the media influences people's opinions and changes a person imperceptibly for himself. It seems to you that this is your opinion, you stop doubting and blindly believe whatever you are fed on TV. Media manipulation changes your personality and vision of the situation, turning you into a different person. This project was first presented to the public in Bangkok at the YenakART Gallery eight years ago. I should say it hasn't lost its relevance over the years.
If you could have created a masterpiece in art history, which one would you choose? Why?
I would not like to imagine myself as the author of someone else's masterpiece. I prefer to remain myself and create my artworks. Whether they will be considered masterpieces by someone or not, it will be my original story. I guess it's fair.
If you could invite one famous artist (dead or alive) to dinner, who would it be? How would you suggest he spend the evening?
Well, I probably would have gone to some kind of party with Marcel Duchamp. We could have spent the night drinking wine and talking bullshit.