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A talk with Marina Abramova

Hi Marina, glad to have you at 2chairs! I would like to start our talk with your background – that was metallurgy. Could you please briefly explain what you actually were doing?

In the beginning, I studied metallurgical recycling, the metallurgy of secondary and technogenic resources, in Moscow (this is about the processing of waste formed after steel production). When I finished the eighth semester, I went to Germany to Freiberg on a dual degree program. After graduation, I got a job at the Technical University of Dresden, where I worked on nanomaterials (nanomaterials also belong to one of the fields of metallurgy – powder metallurgy).

Why did you decide to study metallurgy? Did you like physics or chemistry at school?

To be honest the choice was mostly random. I didn't really like physics or chemistry, but I had good grades on them and I studied in a class with a focus on physics and mathematics. I would love to study in an art class, but unfortunately, we did not have such classes in my hometown – a small town in the Moscow region.

I chose my profession for a few reasons: firstly, because of the word "recycling" (I liked the idea that I would do something useful for the environment). At that moment I did not realize that it was much more about metallurgy than about recycling. Also, there was not very large competition, which made it possible to study for free, and the University had a hostel for students.

Do you remember any certain things or moments that forced you to completely change your life? Can you call any catalysts for changing your mindset?

The dream of being an artist, a person engaged in creative work, has been with me for a very long time since I was fifteen. But around me, there were no such people at all and I did not understand at all what could be done to make this dream true and whether it would be possible. After getting a job, I was able to attend various creative courses and go on vacation with other people who are passionate about drawing. The most memorable was the trip to Provence, where we painted from morning till night and had interesting conversations – about the composition, the choice of colours, and the art in general. I was absolutely happy and for the first time thought that my dream was worth changing my life. Although after that point it still took me almost two years for the final solution.
Did you have any support from your family or friends? What did your parents who used to believe in your metallurgic career say?

My husband supports me the most, he was the person who was not scared by my decision, he still considers it right and believes in me very much. My parents have thought for a long time that it was just a temporary change and they were not happy when it came to be serious. I remember well how my mother asked: "So are you not going to look for a normal job?". Then I talked a lot about what I am doing and why it is so important to me, shared my ideas with my parents and showed them my paintings. Finally, they have changed their mind and now listen to all my news with enthusiasm and say that they are proud of me.

So, you decided to try yourself in the art. How do you get started?

First of all, I left the University and, it seems, I have not done anything except drawing for the first six months. It was a very important and fruitful period when I greatly improved my drawing skills. Suddenly an interesting idea came up that inspired me for the first series of works, then I organized my first exhibition. And shortly before the opening day, I finally registered with the tax office as an "independent artist" in order to issue invoices to sell paintings. So thanks to the German bureaucracy for the official start of my creative career!

Why have you chosen a watercolour? What does it bring to your artistic practice?

Funny, it looks like the same as I chose metallurgy as a profession – by accident. I have tried markers, liners, and acryl, but quickly realized that watercolour suits me best. I am impatient and do not like to wait, and watercolour allows me to work pretty quickly. Watercolours have their own character, in the end, it is impossible to conquer it, just as it is impossible to conquer the water once and for all. So watercolour is a full participant in the creative process, and you learn to accept accidents and mistakes that are almost impossible to correct in watercolour. This is very honest material. I can talk about watercolour for a very long time because I am still in love with it.

Where do you find narratives for your paintings? What inspires you the most?

I find stories for my paintings almost everywhere, sometimes on trips, but more often in ordinary life. Something interesting can always be seen, e.g. on the way to the store, on walks with my son, or outside the window of the subway car.

Usually, I take a photo, and then on its basis, I paint a picture in the studio, often very much altering it during the work. In general, in cities or city life, anonymity closely intertwined with the individuality of residents has been interesting to me for a long time. I try to look at it from different points of view, such as what a house or the feeling of being at home do mean, whether the same type of high-rise buildings are beautiful or ugly, how the city affects us, and how we affect the city, etc.

And I am also inspired by many things that are not directly related to drawing. For example, music. I almost always paint music that suits the mood of the picture. Or good food, because food is something very personal, associated with memories and sensations. And yes, gastronomy is a field of art too.

How do you feel about yourself as an artist? Are you satisfied with your new career?

Interesting question. To be honest, I feel that I am doing what I was destined to do and what makes me happy. And I am very pleased that I realized this now when I still have a lot of energy and a lot of time hopefully. However, the profession of an artist is a difficult one where incomes are unstable, at the same time there are many stereotypes, a lot of competition and still tangible discrimination. This is the price that you have to pay for the opportunity to create.

What are your plans for the future? How do you see yourself in a few years?

I have so many plans, big and small ones. I want to go to Sweden and visit the museum of my beloved watercolourist Lars Lerin. I want to write a lot of minimalistic works, develop my abstract paintings, write a book and illustrate it. I want to go to study. Also, I want to sell a lot of paintings and donate money to charity, or donate paintings to the hospital. I want watercolour to become a popular material thanks to my paintings. So I have a lot of plans and at the same time don't know where exactly I will be in a few years, but I think anyway I will continue to be creative.

Thanks for coming and for the inspiring story! It was a real frank talk. I wish you all the best Marina!