6 Questions with artist Elizaveta Rukavishnikova
We chat with the artist ahead of her new show ‘Code Request’
by JHBLive Posted: 2018/11/22
Back in September 2017, we visited the Moscow-born artist Elizaveta Rukavishnikova at her studio space in downtown Joburg’s Nugget Square. The area had been without electricity for a week and, Rukavishnikova, working towards a solo exhibition later that month, had been painting by candlelight. Now, with another show set to take place at Kalashnikovv gallery this December, we stopped by the artist’s studio again for a quick chat about what she’s been up to, her new work, art as a universal medium.
The last time we spoke with you was ahead of your first show with Kalashnikovv in 2017. How did it go?
It went well. It was an interesting step for me, a good learning curve. There were a lot of Russian people, there haha! I suggested we serve vodka with the food, but what ended up happening is that the food arrived late and so everyone was just very drunk. Other than that, it was good. It was my first experience engaging with people in SA on that level – seeing who’s interested in your work, hearing their thoughts on it.
Tell us about these newer text-based works.
So my idea is always to connect people and my work just started to take this shape. The idea behind the writing is also to unite people, because it’s not just one language, you can call it a language, I guess, but it has hundreds of different meanings. I’m kind of requesting my own code here as a reaction to world politics. The way we all have to answer to one code – that code being English. In the way we speak, do things, and think, globally, it’s heavily influenced by English. In reality, the world is much broader. I think it’s very important to create a world and a place for people with different cultural upbringings can feel comfortable. Life in South Africa for me, it’s my first experience in a Western world because Russia isn’t like that at all. The more I experience life here, the more I understand how unfair it is to create everything in an English form of thinking, education, behavior – everything. It’s possible to translate the words in these works into English, but the idea is to let people view it and understand it in their own ways and see how it grows in its own way.
How have people been engaging with these works so far?
People have been engaging with them already in my studio. The biggest amount of visitors is in my studio. Everyone sees their own things. It’s interesting to watch. One guy walked in and said “You put so many spaceships in your writings!” and I told him it’s about what he sees, it’s the beauty of being human to see your own things and take off the mask and glasses you’re forced to wear.
Tell us a bit about these other works. They look similar to the works you were producing last year, but what’s changed since then?
I’m definitely trying to keep a balance in my work and not fly too far away from everything. Because with these text-based works I think everyone thought I’d lost it. People were asking me: “Liza are you okay? What’s with all of this?” My family was even phoning from Russia asking if I was okay. So these ones keep me grounded I think. I’m using shapes which are universal, shapes and symbols you’ll find everywhere and which can be traced back to ancient cultures and times. You’ll find them in Africa, in India, in Russia and there’s so much similarity. When I was 17 I was quite interested in India and I was doing a lot of research on patterns that were from old Slavic culture, before Christianity, and old Hindu culture. There are so many similarities [between old Slavic and Hindu patterns] that it feels as if the whole world had the same kind of way of being and negotiating. I find the same in Africa. I found this old Slavic calendar which is just a circle shape with patterns and it reminds me of African traditional patterns – African culture is very broad, so I won’t go into detail – but I think the circle is the most universal shape you can find. Shapes like triangles and circles, I think, can be understood everywhere.
So does a lot of your research inform your art or is it the other way around?
It’s the other way around, actually. The things I research, the things I become interested in most often come about from places I visit and people I meet. But also, if I’m interested in something or something resonates with me, it somehow finds its way to me, you know? It’s all very natural.
And when can we see your show?
6 December at Kalashnikovv gallery, 6:30pm. The show is called Code Request.