I started painting when I arrived Rome during the fall of 1979 (at the age of 7). I was from Minsk, a child in a family of ‘political refugees’ during the Cold War. During my wanderings around the ancient city, I fell in love with views of ancient Rome sold in street markets by the Ponte Cavour. These prints, from 18th and 19th centuries paintings done by the likes of Corot, Guardi, Canaletto, and others, inspired me to paint and draw for the rest of my years.
I re-imagine the spirit of these paintings with imagery culled from my travels to sites of ancient civilizations—the Greco-Roman, Egyptian, Cambodian, Hindu, Islamic, Incan, and the Mayan, a kind of ‘Grand Tour’ of the 21st century.
An element in most of my compositions is a Ghat, or ‘riverbank’ in Hindi. Literally, it is the border between water and land. Symbolically, a Ghat is the inflection point between the physical and spiritual worlds, a place where realms of gods (or spirits or nature) and man intersect. The Ghat can also represent the meeting point of nature and civilization, the front-line of the struggle.
In my paintings, this is expressed as nostalgia, or a lament for lost civilizations The ruins are the visual demonstration of time, of geological forces upon architecture. Similarly, The Sleeping Buddha, a feature of many compositions, depicts a sculpture reverting to landscape; the body of the Buddha dissolving into shrubs and hills over eons.
I paint with traditional materials. My tools and gestures are similar to what are used for writing. It is only as paint is layered in various thicknesses, that the combination of gesture and color creates a mimic of nature.
Painting is an opportunity to play god over a small area, to birth a world with few resources, and have a tiny taste of immortality. When I paint, I feel like the goose laying the golden egg. An egg of cloth, mud, and wood.