February 22 2023


Meet, Alisa Gorshenina, a girl with an amazing inner world which she conveys through her art.

She was born in a small village in the Urals, Russia, on the mythical border between Europe and Asia, where her unique vision and identity took root.

Can you tell us about your artistic journey? How would you define yourself as an artist?

My journey as an artist began at a young age. I was born in a small Russian village. This place is very dear to my heart. My first childhood memories of myself are associated with drawing or creating something, sometimes I joke that I was already born an artist, that this was my destiny.

In my school years, I went to art school, in the evenings after regular school, where I always felt comfortable, in my place. I already knew then that art would always be in my life, no matter what I become when I grow up.

After school, I entered the art academy, in parallel with my studies, I created an art group with my classmates. We tried to develop art in our city, and organized various events and exhibitions. At this time, I realized that being an artist is a real serious profession. Later, the art group broke up and I continued my path as an independent artist, which I still follow.

My art is constantly changing, I started with graphics, then I made collages, experimented with ceramics, and later I discovered textile art. Now I’m working with a lot of materials, because I’m interested in trying myself in different directions.

If we talk about the “stuffing” of my works, then I always put myself, my condition, my emotions in them, it was like that in childhood and in my youth and now.

I have an archive of children’s drawings, the earliest surviving drawing from 1999, there is a self-portrait of me in which I cry. This is a very revealing and important work for me, it says that it has always been important for me to pull emotions out of myself with the help of art.

Your work is full of folk motifs, and you have your own unique language of symbols: water drops, eyes, sun and moon, stars... What personal stories are behind these subjects?

In my art, I create my own personal language of symbols, I like to work with symbols because they are multi-valued, everyone can see something of their own in them.

For example, the symbol of tears, as I said in the previous question, has been with me since childhood. Tears are not only about pain, they are about an overabundance of feelings and about purification. My tears are not water, but living beings that have absorbed a variety of emotions and experiences.

The symbol of the eye speaks volumes. When I was little, my dad everywhere painted the left eye of the god Horus – Wadjet, from Egyptian mythology, for him it was a kind of amulet. The things on which he painted this eye became alive for me, when I grew up, I unconsciously began to use this symbol in my works. Often the eyes in my works serve as an element of animation, they create the effect when not only the viewer looks at the work, but it also looks at the viewer.

The symbols of the sun, moon and stars also come from childhood hobbies. I have always liked astronomy and the way people think about space. Probably the theme of space is something the most mysterious and inexplicable, that’s why it attracts me. I try to endow the cosmos with my own meanings, I invent my own myths around it. The moon fascinates me the most, because it is the closest space object to us, looking at it I always feel a strange hypnotic attraction.

Once I wrote her a letter, like a living being:

«Dear Moon.

I know my feet are not destined to walk on your surface. My eyes are not destined to look at the Earth from you, as I look at you from the Earth. My hands are not destined to brush off the dust from your moonstones, nor are they destined to hug you. My body is not destined to feel your friendly cold, and my heart is not destined to beat more often from the realization that I am with you. I know that of the two of us, only I you, and you and your seeds don’t even know about my existence, and yet. I am writing this letter to you with a feeling of great gratitude for the feeling that you have been giving me since childhood. Thanks to you, I see the world voluminous.

With love, Alice.»

The female tree and the female bird are recurring themes in your work. What meaning do these images carry for you?

Many images in my works are of myself. Inside my art, I endlessly transform into different creatures.

Reincarnating as a bird, I rise above everything that exists, I rise to thinner spaces in order to look at everything from afar from there, to be cleansed of the vain.

The tree woman in various incarnations speaks about various topics that excite and interest me.

Sometimes it is about the growth of the body, sometimes it is about the growth of the soul. Sometimes the tree woman personifies my connection with the place where I live, and emphasizes the importance of my art’s connection with nature. The tree woman also speaks of my roots, each branch is a separate facet of a complex constellation of genes.

In February 2022, this symbol took on additional meaning, more and more often I began to depict bare roots, as I felt as if I had been uprooted from my native land and left to dry out on it. In order to reconnect with the place, I periodically perform a series of personal rituals that are also associated with roots and trees (for example, I go to the forest and hug trees or endlessly transplant flowers at home, imagining that they are me)

Creative people are especially sensitive to events in the outside world. And war is a great shock. How has the current political situation in Russia affected you?

The war turned my life upside down despite not hurting me physically. Everything that was built before is broken, and now I am trying to adapt to a new reality. But here it is worth mentioning that life in Russia did not change overnight, unfortunately this did not happen on February 24, 2022, but long before that. In recent years, political pressure has especially intensified, and after the outbreak of the war, Russia was covered with a new wave of repression. All those who disagree with the policy of the state, including myself, found themselves in a position where they are not welcome either within the country or in the rest of the world, but now it seems to me that the world is changing. I no longer feel like a foreign, unnecessary element.

I realized that I must continue to do my job despite all the difficulties. I am not going to leave the country, despite all the risks. I want to be useful here, I want people all over the world to know that there are still those in Russia who are against the war. And there are many of us.

Just in case, I will say that the grief that I am experiencing cannot be compared with the grief of the Ukrainian people, and speaking about my feelings, I do not want to devalue their feelings.

Can art be a kind of refuge for you? Or is it a trumpet through which you can reach thousands of people at the same time?

It is both at the same time. On the one hand, I create my own reality, I feel comfortable in it, I surround myself with my works, they become part of my life, they are my amulets, my protection, my refuge. On the other hand, I am not locked in my world, I am open. I show my world to people and it can somehow influence them.

What do you think contemporary art should be like? And what role do you want your art to play in other people's lives?

Art should be what it is – different and owe nothing to anyone. How many creators exist, so many thoughts, tasks, directions in art exist.

As for my art, I’m glad when it finds some kind of response from people. Especially when the viewer sees more than just a shell. Sometimes people write to me what they feel looking at my work, and it really touches me. When I realize that from the void I created something that could hurt someone else’s soul, it makes me think that everything is not in vain.

Which of your projects are you most proud of and why?

To be honest, the war that the government of my country unleashed greatly influenced my perception of my art. Now I seem to be in some kind of intermediate state, in which there is a deep analysis of everything that I did, a reassessment of values. Since February 22, I rarely gave my feelings an open outlet to the public, it seemed that people did not need the thoughts and feelings of a Russian artist now, just like my art (unless it was anti-war work). And I began to wonder why my works exist at all, why I did them and continue to do them.

And in the end, I came to the conclusion that art is my life, so it was, so it is and so it will be. This is my way of communicating with the world, my way of reflecting. I make art because I can’t help it, and I will do it even if I don’t have an audience.

Looking back, I see my art as a single organism that grew and developed with me. I like works that were created in some kind of sharp artistic impulse, when an image comes in the moment, and I immediately embody it in reality. For example, the work “Maslenitsa” (Shrovetide), “Ural zmeitsa” (Ural snake), “Throwing My Hands Up”.

Or complex large-scale projects, for example, I really love my exhibition in my native village, which I created in 2019.

It was a total installation, I populated the whole village with my works and gave the locals and visiting guests a tour. At the works, I told stories from my childhood that happened to me in these places, and my works became, as it were, the background of my stories, the audience literally plunged into my world, saw it through my eyes.

Share with us your favorite book, movie, song and fairy tale that left a mark on you.

In my school years, I was very impressed by the novel The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov, I remember that I re-read it three times in a row. At the institute, I was amazed by the poetry of Boris Ryzhy – this is a Ural poet, who unfortunately died at the beginning of the 21st century. I don’t know if there are translations of his poems into other languages, and if they were, I don’t know if people from other countries could understand them, but he is definitely worth attention.

Of the films I really like Michel Gondry’s The Science of Sleep, he is very skillful in introducing stop motion animation in this film. I love David Lynch very much, I first looked at his work only two years ago, and his world impressed me very much.

My favorite cartoon is Shrek, I consider it a very deeply philosophical cartoon, sometimes I identify myself with Shrek. People were not kind to me as a child either, and I grew up, like him, with a great distrust of the world. I love his hut in the swamp, I also dream of living outside the city, somewhere inland. Return to the atmosphere that was in childhood.

My favorite band is Nirvana. My favorite album is In Utero. In general, Kurt Cobain as an artist influenced me a lot. I see him precisely as a multidisciplinary artist, not a musician. His work is very close to me, since childhood. The Heart Shaped box clip is an indicator of what it means to be an artist in the broadest sense of the word.

I also really love The Smiths, their music is something that I never get tired of, like the music of Nirvana.

I love Alla Pugacheva, she is a Russian performer, we call her Primadonna, she made a huge contribution to the Russian music scene, now she is openly opposed to the war, and this really supports me.

I also love the group Gosti iz budushego (Guests from the Future), Aigel and Lana Del Rey, Lana is an example of a person who bends her line no matter what, she is super.

Do you have any projects you’re working on right now?

Now it is very hard for me to work, but I continue to live all my feelings through work. I create some spontaneous separate works, not projects. But there are plans to shoot a big stop-motion animation, a short film that I want to shoot in my native village. This will be a real story about a magic stone that I found here as a child, passed through fantasy. I want to shoot this picture while I am in Russia.



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