Sviatlana Petushkova, art as a means of self-acceptance
What motivated you to become an artist? What is your path?
I knew from an early age that I wanted to be an artist. I think that's what I was born to do. There are no artists in my family, but already at the age of 3 I knew that this was my path, I painted every day and I did it well. I could draw all the time, without stopping. It's the same way now. I didn't have some event that influenced my career choice, I grew up with that knowledge. In the first grade, I chose to go to the Art Lyceum, even though my parents wanted me to go to language school. After high school, I graduated from art college and then the art academy.
What are the 3 things that set you apart from other artists ?
The first thing that sets me apart from other artists is that I don't have a favorite artist. I am not inspired by anyone or trying to imitate anyone. The second thing is that I have a lot of skills that I put into practice. I'm an experimenter. I can paint, do all kinds of prints, sculpture, photography, and build installations. I am always looking for new approaches and techniques, developing my skills to make more surprising and unexpected works. I don't do just one kind of art. I am evolving all the time.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
I don't think inspiration exists. I just can't not create. It's the only way for me to live.
Tell us about the design of your works, do you have a long preparatory work or is it rather spontaneous?
All my work is painted from life. I invite sitters to my studio, sketch, take photos, think through the composition. I portray real, live people in my work. I do a lot of sketches, I build up the composition and then I work on the canvas.
What do you want to show in your work?
In my work I talk about accepting myself. This theme is very relevant to me. I think all people are beautiful, regardless of age, weight, or color, but not everyone can accept themselves. Every day we face criticism, we try to conform to beauty standards, to someone's expectations, to some artificial rules. We exhaust ourselves with diets, plastic surgeries, but this only adds to the lack of acceptance of our own bodies. Instead of looking for beauty, we are constantly looking for flaws. My mission is to show that there are no flaws, that it's just an imposed stereotype. And I want people to stop shaming each other and see only beauty in each other. I hope that my work will help people all over the world to accept and love their bodies. I face this problem all the time myself and it's not always easy for me to take criticism of myself. That's why I work on this subject. Also in my art I deal with love and friendship.
Do you use unusual methods and materials in your work?
I am always looking for new materials and approaches to painting. I use acrylic markers in my work. I have also abandoned volume and superfluous colors to focus all my attention on line and form. I also have a very unconventional approach to composition. A person is supposed to be portrayed in his entirety, with his head. I purposely left that, my work is laconic, there is nothing superfluous that would distract attention from the essence, I focus the viewer's attention on the beauty of the human body, cutting off all the superfluous elements. But I don't depersonalize my characters by hiding their faces, they are still very distinctive.
Do you have a favorite format? Why?
I don't have a favorite format, I like to try different things.
What difficulties do you face in your work?
My biggest difficulty is not being able to work with large formats because my studio is too small. But it is solvable. I hope that in the near future I will be able to afford a bigger studio.
How do you work? At home, in a shared studio, in your own workshop?
I work in my own studio and sometimes I visit other artists' studios to work in groups.
Do you have to travel a lot due to your work as an artist?
I would love to travel more, go to art residencies and participate in exhibitions, but because of the coronavirus it's more difficult now. I recently moved from Belarus to live in Lithuania and am still trying to get settled here and get to know the local community of artists and gallerists.
What has been the most beautiful moment of your career?
The greatest moment of my career has not come yet! The good things are yet to come!
How do you see your work in ten years ?
In ten years my work will be exhibited in Museums of Modern Art in New York and London. My work will be auctioned for hundreds of thousands of dollars and I'll have my own gallery.
What are you working on now? Are you planning an exhibition soon?
I am working on several projects at the moment, the first is a project about accepting oneself, and the second is political, as I am a refugee from Belarus who was subjected to political repression for my art. I am also working with my husband on a project for the Belarus pavilion at the Venice Biennale. I am a regular exhibitor - this year alone, I have taken part in six group exhibitions and presented my own personal project.
If you could create a masterpiece of art history which one would you choose?
I will create a masterpiece of my own. I don't know what it would be yet, but it would definitely go down in history!
If you could invite a famous artist (dead or alive) to dinner, who would you choose?
I prefer to dine alone. I don't like to meet famous people, I don't want to be disappointed. It's always a pain.