Svetlana was born and raised in Krasnodar, a town at the south of Russia, near the Black Sea. She, having graduated from Faculty of Art of the Krasnodar State University, was invited to stay on as a teacher and lecturer. After 7 years, having met and married another artist, Alexander Sokht, she left the University and they moved to Moscow opening a new door in her life: that of being just an artist.
In Moscow, she joined our sister organization IWA-Moscow and participated in a charity auction they helped organize for “Operation Smile”, a group of surgeons who perform freesurgeries to repair cleft lip, cleft palate and other facial deformities for the one child born every three minutes around the globe needing it. Svetlana was one of the many top Russian artists who donated paintings for the auctions. The one in 2004 was with the support of Christie’s Auction House and the 2003 auction was sponsored by “Peter Batkin & Philips, de Pury & Luxembourg”. These two grand black tie events raised substantial funds for these children and introduced Svetlana to the good that can be achieved by women’s groups in consort with artists.
Svetlana had the first exhibition of her art in 1988. Others quickly followed. She began to exhibit in Florence and from there in Munich, Berlin, Paris, Luxembourg, Geneva, London, Gant, Dublin and Barcelona. Her art also hangs in renowned museums and private collections throughout the world.
In 2003, Svetlana and her husband moved to Prague. Here they opened XP Gallery, a gallery- studio in the center of old Prague and four times a year they host a new exposition.
1. Describe your style of art and medium.
My style is contemporary fine art, or “Belle arte”, it expresses beauty in the time period in which I live. It is in the classic academic tradition but, as in the case of Dali and Picasso, an artist then develops his own style and techniques. I use oil on canvas and drawings with acrylics to create both abstract minimalism and figurative art in the tradition of early 20thcentury French artists such as Amedeo Modigliani and Henri Matisse. I paint mostly human figures, landscapes and flowers.
2. How do you select a subject or design?
In my beginning years it was a conscious effort but now it is a part of me and I no longer to look for inspiration, I listen to feelings. I express these in the colors I use, for instance red elicits passion, it’s hot. In one nude I add a fan to help her cool herself.
3. Is the artistic life lonely? What do you do to counteract it?
Yes it can be lonely but I need the isolation to work, it’s part of the profession. I am also fortunate to have married an artist, it gives me a companion who shares my love of art and who is a business partner. I also make time to attend IWAP’s French conversation group and as many General Meetings as possible.
4. What do you like about your profession?
Freedom and a feeling of harmony with the world. I could have done as was expected and followed the family tradition and entered medical school after graduating. To their disappointment I chose art as a profession. During my youth my grandmother encouraged me to take drawing courses, saying that all well bred girls knew how to draw well, but she never dreamed I would become a university professor of art.
5. What contribution does the artist make to society?
I often donate my paintings to charitable auctions. My gallery and painting takes so much of my time I have very little left to help in other ways.
6. What memorable responses have you had to your work?
I can’t help eavesdropping on my patrons as they analyze and interpret the symbolism behind each object or expression in my paintings. They are so profound and poetic in their descriptions that it always amazes me.
While in Moscow, one of my first foreign patrons saw a painting of mine in a catalogue, it was titled “Fanciulli” and portrayed four adolescents figuratively stepping into adulthood. His wife had just given birth to a son and they planned to have three more. He had to have it as a gift for his wife to commemorate this event. He flew from Munich to Moscow, paid for the painting, only to discover it was nearly impossible to complete the paperwork required to remove the painting from Russia. Svetlana took it with her to an exhibition in Florence a few months later and gentleman flew in on a private jet to retrieve it. The families became very close and the Von Grundherrs became their most important patrons, quickly opening doors to the rest of Europe.
I also cherish seeing previous clients and finding out about their lives and where they hung the painting and so on. I recently had an art collector contact me to ask for copyright permission to have holiday cards made of a painting he purchased 20 years ago for his brother, a priest at St. Barnabas in London. It was a contemporary icon titled “Christmas”. [see photo]
Once I had visitors who claimed that one of my paintings was of a woman who worked as a television commentator in Norway. I thought this impossible but they mailed me a photo later and she did look like her.
7. What research do you do?
My research is not for what I paint but for how to create the personal legacy my patrons and collectors expect to go with their paintings. I feel my life is boring compared to other female artists who have had many husbands and prominent lovers. I’ve been happily married to the same man for 25 years and as I mentioned before, I avoid controversial and political themes. I sometimes try to think about what I could do to create more intrigue and drama. Salvador Dali was a master of this in his time, but that style of self-promotion is passé, if I tried one of Dali’s tricks, like sitting in a tub with a lobster on my head for an interview, journalists wouldn’t give me a second look.
8. What is your dream project?
I am fortunate to have already achieved one. Our patrons, the Von Grundherrs, had a 25-room Bavarian chateau on the lake that they wanted decorated. Along with an interior decorator, we decorated each room with my paintings and favourite furnishings of the Von Grundherrs. When completed, they hosted a 3-day Open House in which they invited local villagers, friends and other nobility.
A future dream project would be my own sun filled seaside studio in Greece or Italy with no worries about local language, selling, or accounting. I would swim early every morning and paint large canvasses by day.
9. What is your favourite or most inspirational place in the world?
I love living in big cities like Moscow or Berlin but always dream of small seaside villages.
10. What is the main mistake made by artists?
Every artist has to make mistakes to learn and to be independent. Mistakes allow you to create our own style. Go deeper, don’t listen to what others recommend, go with your inner voice. Everyone can give advice but only artists can express poetic view of life, be generous, you have a gift of sensibility to life to give others, art enriches.
11. You grew up in a Communist regime, how did that effect our work, if at all.
Many artists did work that was pro-communist, this was popular at the time, but I avoided it. You could say living under communism led me to be non-political. My work portrays women and everyday activities. I don’t paint celebrities, skylines or landmarks. It doesn’t matter in which city or country I live.
11. Having been a professor and artist yourself, what do you look for in the art of others, for instance what do you see when you look at Raphael’s Sistine Madonna at the Swinger Gallery in Dresden?
I look at brush strokes, how it’s done, the color, how the artist construed space in his paintings, if his technique was clever for the time period. Being a professional is disappointing in that I am no longer able to see the painting as I did as a child. I automatically critique it. There have been only a couple of instances when I was able to feel the sound music of a painting and was instantly brought to tears. It was a hunting scene by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, from the 1500’s.