Woman Plus...
  N 2, 2002

Irina Rilnikova

    "Hichkok is me". The project "I love..."In her photographs everybody jumps with joy: a bride in her wedding gown, a young girl - almost a girlie, cheery little old dame in company of her doggy… They jump with all their might, in a desperate attempt to overcome the Earth's attraction, to take off from the land, to experience the feeling of flight, of soaring, which most people can achieve only in their sleep (project "Why people do not fly?").
    Or something else: the photo pictures not Tsarevitch Ivan but Tatyana Antoshina herself shooting an arrow, following it all round the wide world in search of her woman lot, and, as a reward, at last meeting a handsome young husband (project "Tsarevna-frog").
    Another photo depicts buxom, strong earthy woman and light, touchingly defenseless youth on the balloon ( project "Museum of Woman").
    The artist, merrily jesting, draws us into an interesting game, intellectual and emotional at the same time: she juggles with habitual images and concepts and then, like a magician, changes them for their contrary, showing conditional and unobliging character of stereotypes, prevalent in the society.
    Her interest to reincarnation is unlimited: it is not enough for her to be the author - in her works she wants to be a heroine and creates as an actress new images, penetrates the other's nature, breaking temporal, spatial, gender and other barriers, erected through the long history of humanity. Project "I love…" pictures: Antoshina-vamp with a smoking pipe (Hichcock), Antoshina-burning match with a wide smile and a flame-colored mop of hair (Andy Warhall), many sided Antoshina - solitude (Van Gog)… The names of these works gives an explanation-confession: "I am Hichcock", "I am Andy Warhall", I am Van Gog".
    It is difficult for contemporaries to estimate the prospects of the future eternal glory, but in my opinion the name of Tatyana Antoshina will remain in the History of Arts since her works stand out against a background at any exhibition.
    What kind of a woman is Tatyana Antoshina in life? She is very strong, self-supporting and independent, a talented nature and a hard worker, successful and non-aggressive in her relations with the colleagues, a great visionary and dreamer.
    I suppose that the main thing in Tatyana's creative work is her immense woman power and joyous love for life. I am lucky since this interview is published in the March issue of the magazine, so I called it as follows:

Spring interview with Tatyana Antoshina

Tell us about yourself. How did you become an artist?

T. A.: Everything begins when I was a little girl… I think that the way for anything is paved in the childhood and I had a happy one. I was born near the Enissey with its tributaries - a huge number of rivers all together - and I remember that together with my father we walked far away along shore… Lofty steep banks surrounded us… My father would fish with a spinning rod from a rock and I would run about somewhere - I could see his little figure on the cliff and now and then his fishing-line glitter in the sun rays. During these trips we imagined ourselves to be the heroes of the Treasure Island, following in the tracks of somebody… It was very interesting. I often recur to that time, to the distant world of my childhood, where there were harmony and love.

My father had a friend, George Tereschenko by name. Once he called on us and saw me drawing something. He took a pencil and drew a self-portrait with a single line and said to me: "If you can copy in details my drawing you will become an artist, if you cannot then do not even try in future". For me it was a discovery at that time that you can draw with a single line. From the second attempt I managed to copy the drawing. Folks were delighted with it, they said that I was a success. It was my first experience. Afterwards the drawing was thrown to garbage and everybody forgot about it. But not me - I had a feeling that I became an artist.

In my childhood I tried myself in many different things - music, ballet, but due to some reasons all these exercises were interrupted. Then I heard that two girls from our school joined the Arts College. The college was located at the far end of our small town - Abakan - and I asked my parents to take me there. But they were very busy with something, so I took two albums with my great, to my mind, drawings and went to the college alone. They liked my drawings but the admission was over and they proposed to join in the next year. I stamped my foot and said that I would not leave unless they admit me. The director of the college was very surprised but admitted me.

Upon graduation from the college I studied at the Pedagogical Institute but left it and went to Krasnoyarsk to enter the Arts College. Even for me it was an unexpected turning point in my life - the idea was proposed to me by my friend Alexander Borchikov, who studied there already. It happened as follows: I came home and saw that my father was absorbed in some work. I said: "Daddy, please, give me seven rubles". He gave me money, not interrupting his work for a single moment. So I took my passport, flew away to Krasnoyarsk and joined to the second year of the Arts College; then I entered the Arts Institute and upon graduation from it I went to Moscow to the post-graduate course of the Stroganovsky Arts Institute; afterwards I stayed in Moscow.

I was dying to live in Moscow: people from the provinces consider the capital as the center of culture, they regard the Muscovites as very developed and advanced people since best museums, theatres, libraries, universities and institutes are at their disposal… But Moscow disappointed me not once.

At first I worked at a creative group on ceramics. The first impression was that strange people were busy to produce some works which nobody would need - you could not decorate with these articles neither yourself nor your dwelling. They called themselves "ceramists". What is ceramics? It is a material, something like metal or wood… A man, who calls himself as material, is a craftsman. So I joined a society of craftspeople who treated their work with great pathos. It made me laugh to see these big bearded men to deal with such trifle… This was my first perplexity regarding Moscow.

Afterwards I found more interesting company for myself, in the modern art, but there, for the first time, I met with gender inequality. I was bewildered to come to know that overwhelming majority of Moscow conceptualists - representatives of the most intellectual art - were men; women were their girl-friends, assistants or participants of the project, but never occupied the leading roles. It was my second disappointment in Moscow. Moreover, the names of very famous women, "Amazons of Russian vanguard", - Stepanova, Udaltsova, Exter - were well known in the capital. It seemed that further positive progress in recognition of the women role in the Art should have taken place, and where else if not in Moscow? But I noticed some steps back, moreover among those, whom I regarded as the best.

After the post-graduate courses I was proposed to start writing my thesis for a Doctor's degree and I would have done it with pleasure but unfortunately, in our country one cannot do research work and, at the same time, earn her living and feed her children. In my case I was obliged to do it. Moreover, the perestroika (reforms) was commenced and I had to change my job. Thus I became an artist due to my life circumstances.

Could you have done something else in your life?

T. A.: Yes, I could have done a lot of different things. In my childhood I dreamed to be an archeologist, then psychologist. I liked to study at the Pedagogical Institute (though I spent there only six months) and I could have become a teacher. May be, I could have done well in literature.

Shouldn't the artist concentrate on a certain kind of creation?

T. A.: Perhaps, there are people who can do only one thing all their life through, otherwise mankind can lose a lot, but they are genius. I cannot consider myself the one of them. Once I met an artist, who was not without talents, but who regarded himself a genius and did not want to sell his works as he considered them to be priceless. He used to refuse to the buyers, but the family of this unrecognized genius lived in poverty. I cannot understand and do not like that kind of artists.

Tatiana Antoshina in a new project "Scopophilia of Alisa Guy or about life of youths"It seems to me that should I concentrate only on one thing, I would have done very well! But I cannot afford it since I am fond of so many different things and have to earn my living. I am keen on one thing or another: photography, painting, computer-aided graphic arts, sculpture, interior design. I take a great interest in video… May be, it is bad from the point of view of the final result - I can hardly leave something important in the History of Arts, something, which can make me famous for ever.

As a spectator, I would like to say that I am rather interested in the variety of your projects. Tell us, how do you suggest ideas for them?

T. A.: In different ways. I can tell you how the idea of my project "I love…" was born. Once I saw advertisement: "I am what I eat". And suddenly I understood that I am annoyed and irritated by this playful "aphorism" replicated for a big audience. How often we meet with everyday slang, which arose from the new fashion for American society of consumption, and which is so untypical for Russian culture.

In reality, a man consists of something that he loves. We are what we love - and it is not a slogan, it's truth. Some time ago I was very fond of Van Gogh. His pictures, the story of his life his personal tragedy disturbed and upset me so greatly that I became a part of him. I had some other idols and heroes and in my project "I love…" , in some way, I transforms or re-incarnates in them, I give them myself in gratitude of their influence over me. And the second part of the project pictured the portraits of these people in the extreme moments of their lives, for example, I created a sculpture, representing Lev Tolstoy, ill and dressed only in his shirt, standing on the platform of Astapovo railway station…

In other projects you also rather often address the audience on behalf of yourself, acting as an author and as a heroine: we can see you in the project "Tsarevna-frog", in some works of the project "Museum of Woman". What does it mean - do you want to tell something about yourself?

T. A.: No, not at all. I do not aim at self-expression. I do not regard myself as extraordinary person, I don't think that my personal "ego" can give something to the world. What am I? I shall die like all the others and be pleased if at least my grandsons appreciate my art. It is of no value for the mankind. I hope to be a certain guide of actual general spirit and tendencies of the modern world. I am trying to catch them. It is quite natural that any success in it depends on the level of artist's talent since the more the artist is gifted the more simple truth is in his works.

What are these actual tendencies?

T. A.: For me it is easier to answer using the rule of contraries: I do not like negative, destructive tendencies in the fine arts, I consider that for modern Russia it is not pressing.

For example, lately we visited Germany… If you are an outside viewer you can see a real paradise: flowers on the window-sills, grass is smoothly cut, cow is clean and its jingle rings, hang-gliders are in the sky… I opened a window and thought: "My Lord, how beautiful is everything around!" And then I was possessed by internal desire to break or disturb something. You can imagine a young man, a German artist, bursting with vital energy and burning with passion - but day in and day out he sees this eternal order everywhere. He can feel protest against it and picture some destructive forces in his works.

I consider that for modern Russia this kind of fine arts is not pressing: we have awful devastation and poverty around us! We badly need something else, that's why the women art is so active nowadays.

Concerning the so called women art… A lot of artists, including women, deny not only its existence but even its definition. You call yourself a feminist in art and life… What do you mean?

T. A.: It seems to me that in Russia it is not done to discuss women problems and most people believe that they do not exist. But in fact the problems exist and here is one of them - actuality of women art. At present there is a tendency in the world to turn to constructive and peaceful co-existence, but men were always very good in something very aggressive: corrida, war, wrestling, box, hunting… These are men affairs or occupation and they are connected with different types of murder. Nowadays even wars, though they still exist, turn into some concealed forms - change to terrorism, for example. It is a proof that the modern public consciousness apprehend aggression and violence as negative categories and does not associate them with the future of the mankind. That's why a woman, or, to be more exact, her creative and positive consciousness, which do not accept ideas of destruction and murder, is more actual now. Certainly, it is a sweeping generalization, which does not include a lot of real facts, but this is a general idea, which I am trying to express in my works.

As for my life principles: feminists are self-supporting and enough independent from cultural stereotypes. For example, I have never used my relations with men for my career. I always followed direct and open way. You would say that it's no wonder. But the real situation is that few women among those who succeeded shared the same lot. For me it is very important that I always have my opinion and takes all decisions myself.

t seems to me that your opinion on the woman art is supported by so many works from the exhibition " Art is of feminine gender", which became the event of the year. Part of the exhibition, occupied by the works of young women artists, is very interesting.
Tell me why modern art is inclined to complicated projects which require so vast and diffuse commentaries, so difficult explanations? Slogan "Art belongs to people", prevailing for a long period of time, demanded from an artist an exceptional simplicity for broad masses. It seems that modern artists do not need any understanding…

T. A.: Art always contained a lot of incomprehensible for the contemporaries. Remember, for example, the history of the impressionists: they were not accepted by the public, they had to establish their own salon of "outcasts" since they were expelled from everywhere. Their works were compared with the works of savages, it is a disgrace and scandal to violate all the laws of fine arts. Why then Fine Arts Museum named after Pushkin disposes such a wonderful collection of impressionists? It is due to the fact that at that time in France they were not appreciated and their works were very cheap. So Russian patrons of art bought a lot of their works and now they are in collection of Pushkin Museum.

Another example is post-impressionism: Van Gogh died mad of solitude and lack of understanding… By no means artists, who created something new, were a success and enjoyed recognition - more often it was quite the contrary. They were not recognized since they were not comprehended.

When you know that some picture belongs to XIX century you can put it down into the cultural context one way or another. This is history. But modern art should be compared with theory in science. Theoretical science finds new ways of development and applied science adapts new achievements in technology or in education. Modern art also finds new ways of development and only then traditional art, which attracts the majority of artists, adopts it to spectators or to applied arts such as design, decorative-applied art and others. It is so simple. Accordingly, just as fundamental theoretical science is too complicated for understanding of the common people, modern art cannot be accepted by everybody.

Does it mean that you, as an artist, do not set yourself a task to be comprehended and appreciated?

T. A.: It is not so simple. I do understand that what I occupy myself with cannot be popular with the people and I am not going to coquet with the public. On the other hand, I do not do it only for myself, there is a lot of people whose opinion I consider, opinion which is very important to me, for example, of the people who form the public opinion - curators of big museums. Besides, there are such consumers of art as collectors. Unfortunately in Russia there is almost no art-market, in other countries there is a big interest in acquiring of works of art. Certainly it is due to a low level of average income and lack of fashion for art in our country on a large scale.

At last there are international exhibitions which are the proving grounds for newest modern art. "Tashen" publishing house printed a big catalogue "Art at the turn of milleniums". Artists of middle age are represented there - forty-year-old ones who have already gone in history and made a new step in art. Those, who come afterwards, head for them. Though it can be odd and of no interest for the people, for the broad masses, even for highly educated ones, even for traditional art artists.

I do not like to say that we are worse or better than traditional art artists, we are just different, it's already a question of a personal choice. Everybody does his own work. Moreover, among artists, who claim them to be modern art ones, there are persons who do their work not very well, so, in this case, I would prefer traditional art artist drawing nice flowers.

When you insist that you do not need any understanding on the part of the general public, doesn't it mean that you are trying to conceal your vulnerability, to defend yourself from mental anguish, from disappointments?

T. A.: No, I am not a vulnerable person; my mother used to say that she had never met such a thick-skinned one as myself. I am very sensitive but that is another thing. There are self-assured and self-satisfied people, and there are very ambitious persons who suffer greatly from any pricks. I am neither first nor second. From my childhood I feel some self-reliance, may be because they loved and indulged me when a child. I am touched and impressed by a lot of things which I meet in my life, but it seems to me it is not so easy to sting or wound me.

What is the main point in your creation?

T. A.: It's a difficult question. The main point is love. Whatever good or bad happens with us, whatever is worth living and dying - everything is connected with love.

And the last traditional question in this interview of the rubric "Portraits of our women contemporaries": What would you like to address to our readers with, what to wish?

T. A.: I would like to respect themselves and listen to their internal voice in order to clearly understand what they really want to achieve and what they really represent themselves. At heart all normal people have the sublime and true feelings and you should see, understand, feel it in yourself and do not permit somebody to suppress it.