RUSSIAN-BORN DUO CHARMINGLY FUSE THE REPRESENTATIONAL & THE ABSTRACT: AN INTERVIEW WITH IGOR & MARINA

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1. Igor & Marina, did you meet at the Mukhina Academy of Art & Design? Was it love at first sight ?

Yes, we met in Leningrad’s Mukhina Academy of Art & Design. It was a very romantic time: a new school, new friends and new possibilities in life, but it took us almost a whole semester to understand that we were actually in love with each other.

2. When did you first decide to start painting together and what was the first work you ever produced as a duo ? 

Surprisingly, we started to collaborate only after moving to the United States in 1997.

" One day, whilst working at the studio on his abstract painting, Igor realized that something was missing and asked Marina to paint a miniature portrait in the center of the canvas. "

That work became very popular and the idea of a collaboration opened a new chapter in our creativity.  

3. How would you describe your art to an individual who is not acquainted with it ?

We have our own very unique art style and we call it neo-classical with a touch of surrealism. Our paintings are complicated in production, so to speak, multi-layered.

" We try to create an atmosphere of the enigma, enhancing the untold story behind every painting to stimulate the viewer to use their imagination and to become involved in the creative process. "

4. Just how much has an upbringing in Russia influenced your work? And, has living in the United States had an impact on your style? If so, how ? 

The strongest influences in our lives and work includes Russian Icons, the Italian and Dutch Renaissance, the classical artists, Old Masters, as well as world architecture including the beautiful design of Russian Churches, old cities and the countryside of Northern Russia.

Every person who visited St. Petersburg (where we are from), can easily understand what kind of cultural impact this city could have on the young and creative mind. To walk the streets described in great Russian literature by Dostoevsky, Gogol and Pushkin; to be able to visit the Hermitage Museum; casually stroll the magnificent embankment of the Neva River – all of this left a very deep impression on both of us. At the same time, the architecture of Chicago (where we live now) and the modernism of every day life in the US with its astonishingly diverse culture of New York give us new prospective when it comes to our creativity.

5. You mention that you have been together for 20 years but whenever you create art together, you spend most of your time arguing. Do the arguments mainly come from differences in opinion over the subject matter or is it more related to technical matters ?

Even though we possess absolutely different characters, over the years we learned how to compliment each other in our work.

"Sometimes a good argument helps us to find the best solutions and select the best ideas. And we think that the most successful paintings we made collectively. "

Although most of our canvases are made in collaboration, there are some abstract pieces that are solely painted by Igor and some figurative paintings solely made by Marina.

However, even when working separately, we have consultations and “brainstorming” sessions together. For instance: recently, Igor finished a commission of abstract paintings for the Regent Seven Seas Explorer, the most expensive ship ever built.  At the same time, while Igor was worked on this commission, Marina created several brilliant designs for our new paintings.

6. Marina, how would you describe your style and Igor, how would you describe yours ?

" The finest elements in our paintings such as faces and hands are made by Marina. The rough, more masculine backgrounds are made by Igor. " 

Actually, to work together more or less "peacefully", we decided to have one "Boss" for each painting. For instant, if the design is invented by Marina, she has the main voice when it comes to the continuation and finishing touches of the painting. If the designed is composed by Igor, the main voice belongs to him. 

Igor uses avant-garde traditions when creating some abstract backgrounds for the collaborative paintings. The strongest avant-garde influences could be seen also in our "Walkers" series as well as Igor's abstract paintings. Marina brings familiar images from the past into the present moment, allowing famous historical characters to be placed onto a modern stage set, with an abstract backdrop and futuristic accessories.

" As in life, it is important our work has a balance between yin and yang, male and female, light and shadow. We hope that our best paintings represent such balance."

7. Out of all of the pieces you ever created, which one is the closest to your heart? Why ?

It seems that we don’t have any particular favorite among our paintings. Every new work excites us and maybe the best ideas and the most beautiful images is yet to come.

8. Is there anything you both are fascinated with right now which is currently feeding into your work ?

Sometimes a change of scenery is a very good source of inspiration. Our first monograph, brilliantly published by SKIRA in Italy this year, will be featured at the Taormina International Book Festival Taobuk in Sicily soon. We hope that traveling to Sicily will give us many new impressions and fascinations for our future projects.

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