Kazakh artist Annya Sand on painting as meditation – interview

The young artist tells Art Radar about her paintings influenced by Kazakhstan’s steppes and Russian culture.

Annya Sand is an artist who specialises in abstract oil paintings. She was born in Kazakhstan but has exhibited far beyond the borders of her country. Her next exhibition, called “The World of Obsessions”, opens at the Oneiro Gallery in Paris on 10 April 2015.

Annya Sand, 'Plyos', 2011, oil on canvas, 76 x 101 cm. Courtesy the artist

Annya Sand, ‘Plyos’, 2011, oil on canvas, 76 x 101 cm. Image courtesy the artist.

Sand’s art employs earthy tones with splashes of brighter colours. The artist describes her art as “decorative and sensory”, and says that she is inspired by emotions, with the paintings reflecting the innermost feelings of her day. Her works have been exhibited in Uzbekistan, London, Hong Kong and France.

Sand is not only a painter but also a journalist and an active member of charitable foundations. She has contributed to different publications, most notably to the culture section of Hecho a Mano, a trends and lifestyle Russian magazine. In 2010, Sand helped to organise an exhibition of both Russian and Kazakh art at Christie’s in London. The artist has also founded an award scheme for young artists.

Art Radar got in touch with Sand via email to ask her more about her work and inspiration.

Annya Sand,  'Untitled', 2010, oil on canvas, 131 x 98 cm. Courtesy the artist

Annya Sand, ‘Untitled’, 2010, oil on canvas, 131 x 98 cm. Image courtesy the artist.

What are the main themes in your work? Do you use repeating metaphors in your work that are important to you, or do you always come up with new ideas? Do you prefer tradition or innovation?

I am mostly inspired by my life experiences and views, by the past and the present, which I then translate into my paintings. I would say that I combine both tradition and innovation. I don’t use repeated metaphors, but the thing that remains constant in my work is my inner world. As it changes with time, my paintings also reflect that change. My art is primarily personal meditation. Through my creative process, I communicate with the viewer and prompt them to wonder about their life and experience.

Which country have you most enjoyed exhibiting your work in, and why? Where was your work received best?

I am exhibiting my work around the world, but I really enjoyed exhibiting it in London and my native Kazakhstan. It gives me pleasure to see that my works are so well received in the places that became a part of me. London and Almaty are very different culturally and yet it is fascinating for me to observe how people in both cities discover their own feelings and experiences through my paintings.

My next exhibition will be in Paris in April this year, at the Oneiro Gallery. I am really excited to be able to present my works in such a beautiful city and to show the Parisian art world my new collection, “The World of Obsessions”.

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Annya Sand, ‘Compulsive Rituals’, 2014, acrylic on canvas, 75 x 75cm. Image courtesy the artist.

How did your upbringing influence your art? What does art mean to you?

My earlier works were influenced by my Central Asian heritage, the vast steppes of Kazakhstan and its diverse cultural legacy. I am also influenced by my native Russian culture, Russia’s wonderful architecture, music and poetry. With my work I aim to bring the elements of Asian and Russian art into the Western world, highlighting the links between these worlds and cultures.

How was your art influenced by moving to London from Kazakhstan?

I moved to London at an early age. I believe that my experiences in London helped me to open up my perceptions and see the world from a different perspective. London is a melting pot of cultures, which makes it a unique and fascinating place, especially for an artist. I am interested in viewing different aspects of life in different cultures, and this is where I draw my inspiration from.

Annya Sand shows her work to the HRH Prince Michael of Kent at the opening of her exhibition "Study of Russia" at the Asian House, London, December 2013. Image courtesy the artist.

Annya Sand shows her work to the HRH Prince Michael of Kent at the opening of her exhibition “Study of Russia” at the Asian House, London, December 2013. Image courtesy the artist.

How has the political regime influenced or hindered the presentation of Kazakh art?

Most of the time the art is beyond politics. We can see the influence of politics on art, but in a different way than before. Artists become the voices of generations and countries. I am mostly fascinated by different cultures and general problems faced by the international society today. I see the effect that politics can have on people and the world, and I communicate my perceptions through my art.

Last year I presented the installation Artistic Block or Reflection of Our Generation, which reflected my view on the current state of the world in general and the contemporary art world in particular. I aimed to bring together two perceptions: of a generation of confused, brainwashed people, willing to sacrifice their lives for skewed ideas and invented new principles, and the confused, and somewhat wrong perception of art in the current art market.

Tell us about your solo exhibition “Study of Russia” that you presented ahead of the UK-Russia Year of Culture (2014).

I presented my collection “Study of Russia” in London in December 2013. It was a collection of Russian cultural icons. Through my work, I wanted to show the beauty of Russia’s landscape, its architecture, and explore Russia’s famous faces, such as Pushkin, Tchaikovsky and Gorbachev. It took me two years to create 15 paintings, and it was a deeply emotional journey for me.

Why do you want to support the dialogue between the Russian and British art worlds? Which world would you say you belong to more?

I wanted to encourage intercultural understanding between the two countries and cultures, and foster stronger relationships. Russian culture is very diverse but unique, and I wanted to show it in a new light, and to introduce my vision of the Russian cultural icons to audiences in the UK.

I consider myself an international artist. I am proud of my Russian and Central Asian heritage but I like to have a broad, international view of the world.

Annya Sand, 'Symphony of Russia', 2010, oil on canvas, 76 x 100 cm. Image courtesy the artist.

Annya Sand, ‘Symphony of Russia’, 2010, oil on canvas, 76 x 100 cm. Image courtesy the artist.

Why is oil your medium of choice?

For many years I chose oil as a medium to express myself, mainly because it allowed me to show the depth of colours, and to create my signature brush strokes and colour combinations. However, in the last two years I decided to experiment with new mediums, such as paper (for my installation Artistic Block or Reflection of Our Generation), and acrylic, for the new collection “The World of Obsessions”. Acrylic allowed me to invent new textures, and introduce a new technique for creating constant, unbroken lines.

Could you tell our readers how you use colour layering and blending to create a message?

I consider myself an abstract artist, and the use of colours is at the very heart of my works. I love colour, the subtle and harmonious mixture and its impact on a composition. In my earlier works I used earthy tones: ochre, shades of beige and grey, then topped them with touches of bright colours.

Other pieces, by contrast, are made on a darker background, over which light colours are added. I have my signature brushstrokes, which I tend to preserve across my pieces of work. My latest collection, “The World of Obsessions”, contains these brushstrokes, but the colour scheme is a bit different: I use a lot of white and pastel colours, giving the works a fresh, light feeling.

My figurative art, as in “Study of Russia”, incorporates more colour, which gives my works a sharper concept.

What direction do you plan to take next in your work?

The collection that I present in Paris next month explores my perception of the human mind. This is a new fascinating subject for me. I look into the complexity of the human mind and the way it affects the world and people’s experiences of it. I demonstrate my views both graphically and symbolically.

Another subject I am working on is a collection of Central Asian ornaments, their origin and evolution. In my next collection I will again be looking into my heritage, drawing my inspiration from it but viewing it through the present, world-wide perspective.

Elizabeth Kaplunov

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Related Topics: Kazakh artists, emerging artists, oil, painting, interviews

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