Come to the edge, he said.
They said: We are afraid.
Come to the edge, he said.
He pushed them.
And they flew.
Guillaume Apollinaire, 1880-1918
During my life I have been on a very long journey to reach the point I am at now: to have the opportunity to be an artist and do what I love most in my life. It would take a time to describe all of my experiences, and maybe one day I will write a book about it. Maybe, I am already doing this within my paintings.
Art takes such a big part of my life that I would say it is my life. Painting is like breathing for me, something that is vital and absolutely essential for me. Art has totally changed my life in October of 2005 when I began to study at the Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London, arriving there from Russia, from a little town in the Ural Mountains area.
I had an absolutely different life in my little town, and if somebody had told me in the beginning of 2005 that in three years, in 2008, I would have successfully completed a Masters Degree in Fine Art at the University of the Arts in London and will be exhibiting my paintings in London, New York, Miami, Venice etc., and that Lady Gabriella Windsor, Daughter of Her Royal Highness Princess Michael of Kent will be awarding me Art Critic Award at Mall Galleries in London during the Society of Women Artists exhibition, and that in 2010 my paintings will be selected to exhibit in at the world-famous Saatchi Gallery - I would never have believed it. I would probably consider them to be totally insane or at least to be joking.
At that point I only had my son in a whole world, no relatives and a totally frustrating life package. It was an incredibly hard time for me. I was slowly and painfully recovering from losing my mum in a tragic car accident. She was my best friend, teacher, source of wisdom and source of entire kindness. The pain is still here and I could not reconcile this loss for such a long time that it caused some health problems. Later on I lost my dear brother to cancer. Then I went through a long and depressive divorce procedure with my ex-husband with whom I had been married for 19 years. At times I felt so much loneliness and hopelessness that it was almost unbearable - I literally could not breathe because of the pain inside.
How I overcame it all is a long, long story. For years I was not even able to talk about my past to anybody, it was too painful for me. Also I always thought that it was a shame to load your pain onto the shoulders of others. I thought it was a shame to confess that you have lost any meaning and sense of your life; it was a shame to suddenly realize that you live with a feeling that you have almost wasted the only life given to you.
I don’t know how I would have lived now, and what my life would be like if at some point I would not have felt that my life cannot be like this anymore and that I have to change it to have a chance to be eventually happy. Now I am ready to share my life story with others, especially with those who are at a desperate point and are about to lose their last hope and belief in themselves. I can tell now that everything is in our hands and it is never too late to change your life for the better. I want to believe that if I did it - somebody else can do it too.
I would like to start with a story from my childhood which I believe has influenced my whole life.
I was born in the Far North of Russia, which is closer to Alaska than to Moscow, and for the first four years of my life I saw only endless white fields of polar snow around me. Arctic (Polar) day and Arctic night, which means six months when the days are in the total light, and the other six months when the days are twilight or in darkness. I remember Northern deer under the Northern Lights, always winter and cold, and sublime silence of magnificent endless snow, snow, snow everywhere you can see.
When I was 4 years old my Mum divorced my Dad and we moved to the one of the most beautiful parts of Russia – the Urals’ Mountains area.
I remember very clearly the morning, when I woke up and saw grass and flowers for the first time in my life. Being a small child and having only ever seen the whiteness of snow before I couldn’t imagine how colourful the world around me can be. I was almost shocked by the colours of flowers and their beauty. This amazing feeling of admiration of nature is still deep inside me. I remember the fear of that little girl, who had only just discovered all this beauty, that it might disappear from my life tomorrow, and once again I would only see the white of the snow instead of the gloriously bright and colourful flowers. I felt at that moment the strongest desire to save the beauty of the world in my life forever. I believe that it was the moment when the Artist inside me was born.
Painting and drawing was my passion from my early childhood, as far back as I can remember I painted everywhere I could find somewhere - on walls, on furniture, on doors, on clothes and even in lesson books at school. My Mum never stopped me from drawing on any surface I could find. She always encouraged my creativity and at the age of 8 she took me to a children's art school, as well as to music school to see if I could pass exams in both schools and maybe have a chance to be accepted into one of them. I was accepted into both and I remember how we discussed which school to attend. We decided that I should go to the music school, and I am still grateful to my Mum that she gave me such an opportunity to do so. I studied at music school for 7 years where I learnt to play piano, guitar and accordion, as well as studying music theory and history, and discovering the fascinating universe of classic music harmonies.
I was very busy with my music school studying but in my spare time I was still enjoying drawing and painting. Following my early childhood experiences (when I first saw the colours of nature at 4 years old), when I started to explore painting, of course, the first subjects were images of flowers and leaves. Later on I begun to experiment with painting on silk because I felt the surface of silk is similar to the surface of flowers' petals - soft, silky and warm. Then there followed numerous experiments in different media and styles.
Despite of the fact that I loved my drawing and painting experiments, somehow it felt logical after successfully finished music school to enter Music College, where I passed my exams and then studied as a chorus conductor. I suppose that after all these years of musical training - music had no chance but become my second passion. I started to sing and play piano / keyboards in a rock-band and write my own songs and lyrics. I still have a CD with my own songs, I believe they are beautiful melodies and sincere words.
Whatever I was doing in my life I always wanted to be an artist, so after studying at Music College I decided to enter Art College as well, which I finished with a Distinction Certificate in Fine Arts. After that I worked as a designer-decorator and window-designer, I also had my own fashion house for three years creating and producing my own models / original clothes - all of my activities were relative to art. At the same time I was doing mainly silk paintings and participated at some exhibitions, including the Regional Exhibitions at the State Art Museum of Zauralie.
I believe that the Russian school of drawing and painting had a very big influence on me, as well as music and literature. The Art College provided me with the necessary artistic skills, but despite of the fact that I always worked in fields related to art - I have never had the time or opportunity to become a full-time artist. But then, in the beginning of 2005, I reached the point when nothing could stop me anymore, so I came to conclusion that the right time has arrived.
At this crossing point I decided to change my life completely and, as I had nothing to lose, I ventured to apply to a dream place to study for any artists - the Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London which is world known for it’s famous alumni such as Peter Doig, Anish Kapoor, Stella McCartney, Alexander McQuinn etc. Despite the fact that I could not speak any proper English and all that I knew at that time were some basic words and phrases and, as such, required an interpreter to assist me during the interview - I was accepted for studies with the proviso that I had to learn English and pass the IELTS (International Students English Language) exam, where the minimum score for English was 5.5 points out of 9. I hadn’t a clue if it was possible to study English up to this level in such a short period of time, but I wanted to study so much that I had no choice but to learn; and seven months later I passed my exam with an 8 points for ‘speaking’ English.
In October 2005 I began my studies at the Central Saint Martins College and was probably the oldest, but certainly the happiest student on my course. After BA studies I applied for MA course at the Chelsea College of Art and at the end of 2008 I successfully completed my education at the University of the Arts London with Masters Degree in Fine Art. At the MA Final Degree Show in September of 2008 I exhibited 5 of my large scale paintings and one of them has been bought by a legendary artist Gustav Metzger.
I am a full-time artist now and work at my studio in the very heart of London. I am constantly exhibiting my works around the UK, in USA and in Europe, and have participated in exhibitions in Australia and India too. My paintings have been recognised with International Painting Prizes and Awards. I work every day on my paintings, sometimes it is a hard but always happy work. Recently I started to work on my book in which I am going to write about my paintings and my experience of the art world and life in general.
Now I am happily married with a man who has the kindest heart in the world, who is the best friend not only for me but also for my son. My husband's parents accepted me as their own daughter and I feel myself as a part of a loving and supporting family. My son lives in St. Petersburg and got recently married as well with a wonderful girl and talented artist. My son is creating his own (very unusual-!) music and my daughter-in-low is doing amazing drawings. We all see each other as often as possible and there is lots of love for everyone in our family.
Art gave me Hope, Inspiration and Energy to cope with all of my circumstances. Art helped me to bring my life back. I believe that nothing is too late in this life, nothing is impossible and unachievable. There is always a possibility to go forward to approach your dream and never give up, never surrender. Life is a wonderful gift to appreciate and to live it to the full while we have it.
Though my paintings take most of my time, aside from my work I enjoy music, from classical to rock, roller-skating, swimming and walking in a country side or anywhere by the sea. I am a Cossack and love riding horses. I believe that loving horses as well as loving Freedom is genetically germinated in me through the generations of Russian Cossacks. I do enjoy reading and learning new things. I love exploring mysterious places; I enjoy traveling and would love to travel the world as much as possible. There are so many places on the Earth I would love to see - the list is endless.
I believe that we all create the World around us within our energy and I do believe in the Power of the Universe.
Lady Gabriela Windsor, Daughter of Her Royal Highness Princess Michael of Kent awarding ARINA the Art Critic Award, Society of Women Artists Exhibition,
Mall Galleries, London, UK, 2008