Thanks for having us, Sergey. You have a very interesting upbringing. Tell us about how you became a painter.-
Well, I was born in 1969 in Leningrad (St. Petersburg). I was hospitalized as a child with meningitis and basically paralyzed for a few years. My eyesight became very poor due to my illness, so my mother would bring me some art supplies while I was hospitalized. I really couldn’t move much, so I would look out the window and daydream with the clouds. Clouds are sort of a permanent subject in all my paintings. As I was struggling with the meningitis, I decided I wanted to go to art school. In 1976, when I was 9 years old, I saw an art competition on tv, and submitted my paintings. I came in second place. This began my career. In Russia, the art schools are free, but they are very competitive. I went to an art “pre-school” which was about an hour from my house, in downtown Leningrad. My journey started when I passed a test and ultimately enrolled and was accepted to the Serovo Art Institute.
What spurred you to come to the US?+
The art philosophy in Russia are much different than in other countries. Russian art is based on stark realism, and the subjects are much colder. After I graduated college, the concept of glasnost (increased government transparency) had just initiated. I would sell my paintings in on the street, but I was forced to share 70% profits from my sales through organized crime. In 1990, I met up with some friends in Moscow who had friends visiting from Boston and New York. With their help, I decided to come to the US in 1992 on a visa and travel a bit. In 1994 I went to Napa Valley and saw the changing colors of the vineyards and smell the beautiful grapes. So, I started studying Impressionism, and shifted towards painting with brighter, more vibrant colors.
Would you say the Soviet mentality still exists with artwork in Russia?+
The preferences are totally different in Russia than in the US market. If I wanted to make a living as an artist in Russia, I would have to conform to the norms of Russian artistic society. Generally, a colder more muted feeling. I like brighter colors and dreamscapes.
What was it like being an artist in 2009, during the recession?+
Before the recession, a lot of people were interested in decorating their homes, not to mention vacation or investment properties. It hurt…I lost everything I had, my house, investments, and many paintings. I worked with 50 galleries before the recession, and after the crash, it was down to probably 6. The galleries really struggled, and I also lost a lot of artwork in the process. Some galleries who were selling my paintings, struggled to pay rent, so they might sell my paintings and pay their bills but then go belly up.
How would you say social media has changed your view on other artists?+
There is so much content today. Is this helpful or hurtful to the art world? I think the quality of art is going to get better. When I paint, I paint the same kind of style (French Impressionism). I see social media as a great exchange of ideas. I get to explore new artists and different photography. It’s a new perspective and a faster way to uncover interesting techniques. If you want to be a successful, professional artist, you must be up to date on colors, subjects, frames. Social Media gives us a channel to find amazing content.