The Others, Interview with Natalia Grezina
From October 31 until November 3, RAW Streetphoto Gallery team flew from Rotterdam to Tourino (Italy) to participate in the international art fair The Others during Artissima art weekend. The location of the venue was a former military hospital that operated during the Second World War under Fascist Italy. Inspired on the location, the exhibition was titled, Blood in the Corner of the Eye, and it consisted of a multi-media installation that gathers four young artists who dared to dissect the human being in all its forms. The curator of the exhibition, Marth von Loeben, intended to generate a feeling of “familiarity” on the audience. In her own words, “[a feeling of familiarity is] a link to the atmosphere summoned by the artworks while experiencing a feeling of disorientation to the individual objects [, thus,] entering is stepping in a foggy, brutal mirror”.
At the Others, we have represented the gallery artist Natalia Grezina. Natalia's artistic practice is a constant dialogue with the many aspects of existence. It aims to find a reconciliation between society, individuals and nature. She finds a common language between these three components through the feminine medium of embroidery, which fully characterises her practice. For Natalia, embroidery is a serious practice: even though its connotation to the female world has always played against it. It’s a specific medium that allows her to combine different materials and to include an emotional component into the objects through the use of colors and gore aesthetics. The objects she creates through embroidery are made of organic and artificial materials: polyethylene is her canvas, which gets filled with soft cotton and is sealed with woolen thread and polished beads. For Natalia, the selection of these materials is a metaphor of human nature, she mentioned that “even though we are surrounded by a hard, manufactured layer, we always have something soft on the inside. And always a story to tell”.
What follows is the interview with Natalia Grezina
RAW Streetphoto Gallery: In the past, you told us that your artistic practice is a constant dialogue with the many aspects of existence and aims to find a reconciliation between society, individuals and nature. Can you tell us if Blood in the Corner of the Eye, helped you achieve your artistic purposes?
Natalia Grezina: I consider the goal of my artistic practice not as a final point, but as a vector towards which the process moves. Therefore, each exhibition in which I participate, is one more step in establishing links between the objects of my research. Exhibitions give me the opportunity to look at myself and my art from the other side, correct something in the future or leave it as it is. The process of finding answers to questions posed is formed by this constant analytical work.
RAW Streetphoto Gallery: During your university years, your first studied a bachelor in geography and specialized in social ecology, at Moscow State University. Do you think that your academic beginning still plays an influential role when you create art?
Natalia Grezina: Sometimes yes, sometimes no. If we mean academic education, I think that the main thing in this process is to learn how to think, analyze, be curious. And, of course, this skill is very important to me as an artist. My approach is not only embodiment of some images in tangible objects, but also telling stories about the world around us. And of course, geography and social ecology still inspire me although I mostly work with post-memory recently. The relationships between humans and nature is still one of the main topics of my artistic practice.
RAW Streetphoto Gallery: One of your artistic specializations is embroidery, how did you come to discover this nature of art, and that you could use it to develop your artistic philosophy?
Natalia Grezina:I chose this technique intuitively. After many years of drawing, I wanted to try something new and embroidery was the perfect option. I just remembered my childhood and how my grandmother taught me this craft. At the point when this technique has become the most important technique for me, it turned into a statement, a manifesto. This is how I defend the right of traditional female techniques to be called art along with painting and sculpture. This technique also makes my work even more mystical, because with every stitch I weave my emotions, feelings and thoughts into the body of the future work.
RAW Streetphoto Gallery: We are aware that lately, you have started to incorporate historical memory as a subject and as a tool to create art. Considering the historical past of the location in which The Others, took place, did you find it meaningful to exhibit during this fair?
Natalia Grezina: The history of the place greatly affects us, shapes our attitude towards the future. Of course, on one hand it is exciting to take part in the exhibition, which is located in such a place with special history and atmosphere, but it can also be a challenge. I appreciate when the exhibition space is not sterile, when art and space can transform each other, change and create another reality. Recently I have been discussing a lot about the effect of war on personality. That is why being in a former military hospital for me was an opportunity to strengthen the meaning of my works and put them into their spiritual environment.
RAW Streetphoto Gallery: How was your experience participating in an art fair for the first time?
Natalia Grezina: It was interesting and challenging. It is not easy for me to be in the spotlight, especially showing very personal things to so many people. But on the other hand, it tempers and helps me to look at my art from the outside, listen to different opinions, find a new home for my works. This is a valuable experience that I would like to repeat.
RAW Streetphoto Gallery: Our whole team is proud to have you as one of the artists of RAW Streetphoto Gallery. Having worked with us already for quite a time made me wonder if you have used any common subjects- such as personal, historical, or post-trauma- throughout your working course with RAW Streetphoto Gallery? If you have done so, do you believe that you will keep using this subject in the upcoming years, or are you planning to dive into new subjects?
Natalia Grezina: Currently my basic project is “The Hundred Year’s War”, on which we are working together with the curator of the gallery Marth von Loeben. The first chapter of this project was exhibited in RAW Streetphoto Gallery, where I found a lot of support. It was a powerful impulse for me, which helped to identify topics that are most interesting to me as an artist. War history and legacy, post-memory, the influence of space on personality formation are the topics I want to continue working on. But sometimes I also return to other researches in the field of culture and social ecology, because it is difficult to be always included into emotionally difficult and traumatic topic.
The world around us offers a lot of ideas that I can embody either in the work that has already started, or think about the new project.