Maria, congratulations for winning the People’s choice award of the Artzine Prize 2018! Your artwork “Mexican woman selling oranges” received the most votes from the public. Can you tell us the story behind this piece?
First of all, I would like to thank the whole Artzine team and all of the people who supported me for the incredible opportunity to be part of this project. It still feels surreal… Mexican woman selling oranges was the very first thing I painted after I came back from the best and unforgettable trip to Mexico, where I had a chance to stay for 2 months and explore the land that always seemed unreachable to me. While being in Mexico I saw amazing landscapes, and also incredible cities with luxurious resorts and business centres. However, as soon as you move away from all the noise of hectic cities you meet the true and undisguised reality, which is terrifying but absolutely beautiful at the same time. You can see and feel the contrast between wealth and poverty, that has divided people living on the same land for centuries and have separated them into two different camps that will never reunite again.
To me Mexico is like no other country out there. It is a country of sincere openhearted people, who perceive their culture and traditions through the bright colourfulness of their lifestyle and culture. I was specially touched by the vital role Mexican women play in their families. The expression on some of their faces tell how much they have been through. All their worries, struggles and daily routines left a scar that you can clearly read in her eyes…
When did you start your path as an artist and was there anything in particular that influenced you to take that direction?
I was involved with arts since the age of 4, when I attended my very first art school for kids. By the age of 15 it had already become pretty clear to me that I wanted to be a professional artist. I think my parents were the biggest influence on my decision to take up art as a career, they supported me every step of the way. It was quite impressive how sometimes they would even convince me to not give up and keep going, when I had doubts about it.
Knowing how challenging and risky this path can be, at times I lacked the self-confidence about whether or not I could do it. However, my parents always taught me that I don’t have to be like everybody else and take up a career that would only give me financial stability, but do the things that make me truly happy whatever it takes. That’s the most important thing in life. That’s what we live our lives for.
What inspires you to create your art?
My biggest inspiration comes from my surroundings. With the help of my art tools, I reflect my own vision of the world around me, paying careful attention to the beauty and simplicity of things. I cannot resist the magic and the wonder of light and how it interacts with nature. I think that catching the light is one of the most challenging but satisfying thing in life, and when I paint I try to bring that unique mood and atmosphere to my canvas.
Who are your reference artists and what do you value the most in the art of each of them?
There are so many artists I admire, however there are some contemporary artists who I’ve been following especially closely, such as Daniel J. Keys, Robert Schmidt, Casey Baugh, Henrik Aarrestad Uldalen and Josh Clare, and I would also point to John Singer Sargent as one of my favourite artist from the 19th-20th century. These artists impress me every single time I see their work, they inspire me to work even harder to learn the amazing techniques they use. They catch that mood of light in the compositions which I admire endlessly.
Maria, you state that color is your religion, and we know that your relationship with this element is very special. Could you tell us how do you perceive color and how does it influence your work?
Not so long ago I found out that I have a condition called coloured-grapheme synesthesia, which means that I see elements such as letters, numbers and even piano key notes in a certain colour. That is probably one of the reasons that explains my strong connection to colour.
Colour for me is a way to translate things that cannot be described in words, but can be shown instead. The way colours can show form, depth, sound is absolutely stunning to me.
You are a very young talented artist who has exhibited her work abroad in multiple occasions, and already enjoys international recognition. What advice would you give to those young artists out there like yourself, who want to leap into the contemporary art world?
Hmm. Actually, I wouldn’t mind receiving some advice too, since everything I know about the art world I learned it from my own mistakes. However, from my experience I have already understood several things that I can share.
Firstly, the more I get to know the art world the more I understand that I have no idea what it actually is. There are no rules, no system, no obvious way to leap into this career without loss or mistakes. Secondly, no matter what other people think of your work, you can choose to take it into consideration but you should always do what you think is right for you. There are too many people on this planet with so many different opinions about every single topic. You will never satisfy everybody at once. It makes more sense to do things that satisfy you first, as you can always find people who will like and support your work.
Which would you say are the greatest satisfactions your career as an artist has brought and brings to your life?
I think every single part of it! Everything about this career is already satisfying because I’m doing what I truly love. Of course, the process of painting itself, generating ideas for compositions, shopping in art supplies stores (even though sometimes their prices can really hurt the pocket!), traveling and meeting new people all around the world, exhibiting, being a boss to myself and not depending on anyone, learning every single day and more and more and more…
However, there is one special satisfaction which is incomparable to anything else: people’s reactions to my work. It doesn’t matter if the feedback is positive or negative, when people notice and pay attention to my work, that already means I brought some feelings to their lives. That’s the most important thing for me as an artist. When you don’t feel, you don’t live.
How is a day at Maria Liachovitskaya’s studio?
I usually work at nights. That’s the most productive time for me, and when I naturally get the most inspired. You feel really lonely but in a good way. You feel like you have the whole world only for yourself while everybody is somewhere far away, dreaming. When an idea comes to my mind, I can work up to 16 hours straight without even noticing how time has passed.
What projects are you immersed in at the moment?
I have moved to Copenhagen not so long ago, so my main goal for now is to organise my future studio. I have to change my lifestyle while I’m adapting to living here. However, I’m hoping to be back in the game soon.
What are your other passions in life?
I’m really passionate about make-up. It’s closely related to portrait painting, in the way that it allows you to highlight face features using make-up tools and colours. It’s equally intriguing for me to paint someone’s portrait, as it is to highlight somebody’s features using make-up.
Another of my passions is music. I believe there is no good painting session without music, so I taught myself how to play piano. We always had a piano at home, but nobody use to play it until I started learning when I was 13. I began improvising and learning from videos, and it eventually became one of my biggest passions and one that always helps me lift my spirit.