Anna Ryabtsov

contact: annaryabtsov@gmail.com

 “I sculpt thoughts and sensations out of light and matter. My photographs tend to pursue the middle ground; the vast disappearing horizon line where our eyes lose sight and our mind takes over. Each photograph attempts to encompass everything and nothing, light and dark, serenity & chaos. The images surface to exist when there is a shift in perspective. Unnecessary objects dissipate and light molds the scene to a temporary and swift transformation from the mundane. My eyes hunt for those surreal gaps in everyday life.

 

 I am illustrating a philosophy, a state of being. The photographs serve not as an answer or but rather more questions. More ambiguity. Their meaning shifting from viewer to viewer, yet keeping the foundation unchanged. My current direction is to take the viewer simultaneously into vast landscapes as well as deep into the abyss of our senses. Still imagery becomes a  fusion of human and natural sound which work together to transport the self to an alternate state.”

Hello Anna and welcome to NotRandomArt. The current issue is revolving around the problem of identity. Is there any particular way you would describe your identity as an artist but also as a human being in dynamically changing, unstable times? In particular, does your cultural substratum/identity form your aesthetics?

Hello, Not Random Art, thank you for having me.  The question of identity is one so fragile and intimate in the human infrastructure, one that if not rooted, can twist in turn in direction of the current winds. I view identity as a choice, as every humans duty to find what identity is best for him or her to evolve with and be the truest purest form they can for the sake of humanity. I consider myself a thinker, a seeker, a visual being. My identity as an artist and human being go hand in hand. My thought process is purely visual, all senses, tastes, scent, are translated into images and colors when absorbed through my perception.  The photographs are a result of that fluid thought process. I try not to associate myself with a stagnant and already manufactured identification. One that diminishes the possibility of everything a human being can become by already providing the answers. Originally being from Russia (currently residing in the states), my mind retained certain facets from the culture but it did not compress my mentality. We will always contain a few seeds from where we are born but it is the ones you choose to grow with that will surface in your character and in your craft. I prefer to work under a worldly sense rather than under one cultural thought or group. This way of thinking helps to maintain my individuality and to view the bigger picture through ever-changing times.

The visibly sensual and at the same time mystical appearance of your creations brings up the questions about the connection with sensual perception of the nature and its aestheticization in the process of representation. How innocent is the eye of your camera, building the connection between the object and the viewer?

Photography is a tool for me that has the means of creating a connection with my personal outlook and the external world.  The eye of the camera fused with my own insight has the capability to mold a scene.  There are topics, thoughts and sensations that I try to illustrate that do not always seem to have a physical representation and need a piece of matter to come into our reality.  I want the viewer to see out of the box in an everyday scene through the use of light, color, and an altered perception. It becomes a mechanism for viewers to understand intangible concepts such as emotions, transcendence, and their own spirituality.

You wrote a moving description to your project Boundless: (…) The physical self loses its significance. Body, gender, age, all meaningless on this path. (…) Take a moment to breathe and thank your feet for bringing you this far. Most of your artworks can be seen as a diary from a journey: both inner and in physical space. How important is the physical, embodied consciousness in the result of your creative process? What is the difference between the psychical and physical for you, the imagined and real? Are there any particular kind of stimuli you find especailly fascinating on the way?

My work always tries to relate to the layers underneath our physical consciousness. They are visual representations of this infinite abyss that dwells deep within our minds and our selves.  The tug of war in the creation process of these images is to keep a balance between psyche and the physical for the sake of understanding. Conveying such airy concepts to a mass majority can easily be swayed to the wrong direction. This is where the imagined and the real come into play. The photographs are a combination of both. They are real subjects we have the ability to see with our eyes every day but require the influence of our creative thought and intuition to see beyond what is in front of us. Each image attempts to pierce through all layers of the physical body and begs to be too looked on purely from one’s essence. “Boundless” is a series combining a human-less landscape with the sound of a human moving through that landscape. The viewer becomes the individual exploring within the photograph. This project acts as a metaphor for the internal and endless journey into oneself.  The central piece of the series depicts a blurry nude human form accompanied by the sound of breath and heartbeat. The image is meant to convey a universal form, free of gender, race, age or cultural stereotypes. Simply the sound of one`s essence.

Now let ́s focus on your art production: Alternative Processes. It seems to stay in an interesting relation/opposition to your other artworks and relates strongly to the issue of identity. Could you give the readers more details about the process of creation, choice of models and the cycle ́s intellectual\emotional background? What influenced your decision of using the particular technique?

Alternative process is a series that focuses primarily on technique.  Majority of the series was put together from a process called liquid light. It is liquid emulsion that through a dark room process bonds itself to a material. The emulsion is carefully coated on a flat surface, then using an enlarger; a film slide is projected onto the emulsion, working a similar way as if projecting onto dark room paper. I chose to work with copper, aluminum, brass, and plexi. Due to the delicate and finite nature of this process, the final product many times (especially as a beginner) can contain imperfections such a deteriorations, marks, and spots, where the liquid light did not settle properly. It is a very meticulous process to perfect. My intention was to use the imperfections and quality of the emulsion to demonstrate a surreal and distorted view of the human face and figure. Creating these works helped me revisit the way I conduct my process. Since I normally focus more on the content and idea, creating alternative processed images in a digital age gave me a new perspective. The technique was also initially a challenge for me and required countless hours to get it closer to perfection. I was also able to establish a surreal effect using psychical materials rather than only conceptualizing.

Your photography works are giving an absorbing, meditative sensations. What feelings and thoughts are experienced by you during the preparation period in your artistic project and while capturing the moment that results in the final picture?

The initial preparation process involves complete detachment from everyday life. I need to be fully absorbed with my idea process involving large amounts of sketching, autonomous writing, and reading to set my state of mind down a certain path. Questions and stories arise that I must find a way to associate a visual representation to them. My mind always tends to settle in thoughts concerning self identification, the allure of the unconsciousness and the hidden meaning behind our existence.                                                                                                                             Once I begin photographing, I fall into total engagement and unison with the landscape or object. It is a very meditative process for me and the one time I can actually sink into my own skin. Time is completely irradiated as well. If my body did not have natural pulls such a cold or hunger, I would completely forget such physicality existed. When I am exploring a space and the landscape opens up a hidden gem, I know this will be a photograph. That very pivotal moment sends a surge of awe and humbleness coursing through my very bones. A sensation I only experience when creating.

Sine the current issue of NotRandomArt revolves about the problems of identity, could you identify a specific artwork that has influenced your artistic practice or has impacted the way you think about race and ethnic identity in visual culture? In yur opinion, can art change the future for racial and ethnic identity?

How can art help us make sense of these complex histories?

My main sources of inspiration and influences in relation to identity have ironically not been the visual arts but books, philosophy, psychology, and religion. Two of the most influential thinkers for me have been Carl Jung and Nietzsche. Their words found me at the beginning of my artistic exploration into the self and unconsciousness and proceeded to guide my unformed thoughts.  A continuous force and personal undertone in my work is individuality, choice and exploration of the self.  This is not a new idea, most likely heard many times before but stands loud and clear. Art is a universal language. It can connect and create a space of understanding for the mass majority. No language is needed. It is an expression of thoughts and feelings so raw that many are only brave enough to understand it behind closed doors. Fear continuously interjects with their understanding and shatters it to pieces.  If used in an intellectual, educational, and community orientated manner, the future of art can and will transcend all doors that block our understanding and evolution of identity and the human race as whole.

Artistic expression in all forms from visual, to writing and music contains the histories and struggles of the people that brought it into existence. We may view our struggles and thoughts separate to those that appear different in our eyes but with the guiding hand being expression on an artistic level, we have the ability to see through new pair of eyes.

How do you see the relationship between emotional and intellectual perception of your work? In particular, how much do you consider the immersive nature of the viewing experience?

How you feel and what you think (the two main components of perception) play off of one another and are highly correlated while a viewer perceives the piece. My intention is for the emotional component to be filled with feelings of serenity and induce a meditative state. Feelings which are deeper than the everyday happy or sad. Once these sensations have settled in, the body and mind are ready to ignite more profound intellectual questions, philosophies, or memories. Many of these works strain to fully absorb the onlooker to provoke a more meaningful internal and external experience.   The method in which the viewing experience is conducted or performed is crucial since that is the only way visual information may take on new bounds. Looking at a piece should be a small experience within itself. If not considered in the initial creation process it may diffuse the meaning behind the work. After all, a photograph completes its final cycle after it is hung or displayed and receives a connection with an audience.

What is the role of technique in your practice? In particular are there any constraints or rules that you follow when creating?

My technique in creating work can be broken down into 3 parts. 1: Idea, 2: exploration 3: post process. The first component, the idea, is made of mainly of reading, sketching, writing, and researching. My inspiration stems from words and ideas so the process of getting lost in a book and my moleskin is a very critical first step in bringing a photograph to the surface. The second component, exploration is an unprecedented amount of time where, I begin to get lost in a space or studio set-up and wander. I scope out a location and completely zone into the space, my hands melting with the camera and my vision. The third component, post-processing, is the most convoluted and consists of countless cycles of revising, re-writing, re-shooting to see how images work together and how in line they are with the overall sensation of the series. There are no strict rules that I follow but I have a few general guidelines that I always keep in my when starting a project. One is to always maintain a level of flexibility when creating. It is such a fluid and ever changing process that becoming too rigid downgrades the work and prevents you from exploration. So if I envision a photo to look a certain way but while photographing, the scene takes on a new light, I just see where it takes me. Second is to always stray away from the every day. I like my work to contain a level of mysticism and a haze of anonymity. I always think if I am photographing in a landscape or outside of a studio space, how can this space look like it’s on another planet or how can I visualize the feeling of the space versus only the visual representation.

Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Anna. Finally, would you like  to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving?

Thank you for your time as well! The next stages of my work will be more directed to fully immerse the viewer in the experience of the image versus merely making eye contact with it. I want to engulf each of our senses (smell, touch, and hearing) into the visual to construct a non physical transport from the current moment for the viewer. The works will focus on a strict color palette, natural forms and light. Stay updated on www.annaryabsov.com and Instagram/annaryphoto

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