Russian-born artist Katya Zvereva now resides in New York City, where she creates large scale installations based on post digital/analong woodcuts, which are mostly printed by hand. Her journey however was not easy: she set on a quest to find a place in this world where she would fit in. Coming to New York, Katya reflects, “It’s amazing when you don’t know anybody and slowly become a part of something that you never belonged to.” We sat down with Katya to learn why woodcuts are her weapon of choice (so to speak), how she stays creative, how she constructs and her future goals with her work. Because after all, an artist is the soul of modern society. JENNIFER STEVENS
SJ: Introduce yourself: tell us who you are and what you do.
KZ: [Laughs] Hey! My name is Katya Zvereva, and I’m an artist who creates large scale installations based on post digital/analog woodcuts, which I mostly handprint on different types of fabrics.
SJ: What’s your background?
KZ: I was born in Leningrad in Russia, which now called Saint Petersburg. However, for most of my life, I was living in Moscow- but that’s the less important part [laughs]. For my entire life, I was trying to find place, people and business of where and with whom I would fit into. I was on my way- a mission if you will, of finding a medium that I would feel with my body and soul. For some odd reason, I spent a lot of time with architecture and understanding of simple forms what encircle us. After 22, I realized that I will never have the chance to design and build architecture that I would see around me, so I quit and started putting all my energy into paintings. That path has led me to NYC to study art and the rules of old school painting along with contemporary art and different types of printmaking. I ended up with woodcuts and a studio in New York.
SJ: What’s your strongest memory of your childhood?
KZ: I have a lot. But my favorite was when I called my parents from boarding school and friend of my family told me on the phone that my younger sister was just born.
SJ: Can you describe the time when you first realized that creating was something you absolutely had to do?
KZ: When I was 5 years young, and my father gave me paper and pencils, and put a cup on table and asked me to draw it. After that, I think that I was always drawing and tried to draw everything that I saw on paper that was around me. I started create my imaginary world based on real life. I’m still doing the same, but on a different scale twenty-one years later.
SJ: What does “being creative” mean to you?
KZ: I don’t really understand what that means. Maybe if somebody can live and sublimate everything around to something else means not being creative. I believe that everybody around is creative if they put their mind to it.
SJ: What inspires you?
KZ: Everything around me. Love. I remember how I fell in love with a guy and I created whole series of works about war, which was based on people dancing at the parties where he was working. And also every situation in my life that I go through. But still, mostly people and their relationships with each other, and the world around me. And I’m figurative artist, so in each of my works, you will find a figure or face or everything in the same time.
SJ: What kind of creative patterns, routines or rituals do you have?
KZ: Finding the subject and exploring it over and over, looking at it from different angles. I have few themes that I choose and I fuck around with them continuously- I have a dialogue with my past and future through my actual. Maybe because in order to that, I’m splitting everything by three parts again and again.
SJ: What are you trying to communicate with your art?
KZ: I’m trying to communicate with my past and with the world around me. Because for me, it’s the only one way that I can explore society and people as an object, and how I can understand patterns of human interaction.
SJ: What’s your favorite art work?
KZ: Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni and his Volta della Cappella Sistina and Giudizio Universale are perfect for me.
SJ: In your opinion, what role does an artist have in society?
KZ: Artists are the soul of society. Through art, you can understand what’s actually going on with everything around- it’s like the litmus paper of sinful acts and thoughts of humanity. General level of education and interests.
SJ: What has been an inspiring experience?
KZ: To move to New York by myself and start a life from new point and level. Its amazing when you don’t know anybody and slowly become a part of something that you never belonged to.
SJ: How has your practice changed over time?
KZ: I’ve started my practice from painting when I was 15, and I was searching for the perfect medium. I ended up with woodcuts because it’s close to my philosophical point of view. Because when you paint or draw, you are applying paint or anything else on the surface over and over, layer to layer with what you’re working with. With the woodcut its opposite, you are getting rid of the parts and surfaces that you do not need. In the end, you have the material that you imprint on a clean surface in one layer once and for all.
SJ: What is your dream project?
KZ: I dream to make the biggest woodcut in the world that could cover a whole building outside and inside. I also want to create a museum of contemporary art- the biggest collection of art without storing it in the museum. But it’s a crazy project, I’ll probably be in my 50’s [when I do it].
SJ: What’s the best piece of advice that you’ve been given?
KZ: Never stop, even if you can’t keep straight or scared till death.