Marina Chisty is a Russian-American artist who currently lives and works in NYC. Her abstract and figurative paintings embody the dynamism and multiple faces of the city, trying to grasp their distinctive differences and substantial equality as human beings. Marina approached art from a very young age, fostering her talent in children's art school in Russia. Her Russian roots are relevant in the development of her creative identity, bringing her closer to abstraction and the symbolic use of color. Throughout her studies, Marina reflected that art was her true purpose and continued to hone her expertise. Her portraits represent very different women, characterized by peculiar backgrounds and varied circumstances. However, Marina Chisty's art practice challenges racial, socio-economic, and physical barriers, emphasizing the common need for equal perspective and mutual support.
I love making sketches to organize the composition and create an idea for a series of paintings. I use a small notebook which is easy to carry. Drawing is a great practice when you capture moving human bodies. The small size of the notebook allows me to catch a movement and gesture right away on the spot.
Retro Kolkata : First of all, thanks a lot for accepting our invitation for an interview. it’s a great pleasure to have you as our Guest. Let’s start from the first question… Let's jump into the past. Do you remember your first interaction with art? When did you decide you wanted to become an artist?
Marina : Thank you for having me - it’s my pleasure to speak with you and your audience. I don’t recall any galleries or any art museums in the city where I grew up - it was a relatively small city in Russia. However, my father was my early art career patron who bought a couple of drawings from me when I was around 7-8 years old. This was the beginning of my art journey.
I remember my first trip to St. Petersburg a few years later which was a truly eye opening experience: Museums, galleries, and theaters were everywhere. In my teenage years I began traveling internationally and became obsessed with visiting museums. After that, I moved to New York, a City quite rich in it’s artistic and cultural offerings, and after a few years I was finally ready to pursue a full time career in art.
Retro Kolkata : What role does drawing have in your creative process and what’s in your sketching “toolkit” right now?
Marina : I love making sketches to organize the composition and create an idea for a series of paintings. I use a small notebook which is easy to carry. Drawing is a great practice when you capture moving human bodies. The small size of the notebook allows me to catch a movement and gesture right away on the spot.
Retro Kolkata : What do you consider to be the ingredients for a strong composition?
Marina : The idea, light structure, and of course the technique and mastery of an artist.
Retro Kolkata : What’s your philosophy on the nature of the portrait? What do you think it fulfills within society and what should its purpose be?
Marina : Since its early days, the function of a portrait has evolved from being a family record of a person’s appearance to something more conceptual. Personally, for me, the purpose of a portrait is the emotions and feelings the portrait evokes in the observer. It is less about the person in the photo, and more the mood that it conveys. The person in the image is a medium for the artist to express their message.
Retro Kolkata : How do you view the concepts of the real, the hyper-real, the authentic and the imagined playing out within your works?
Marina : I try to be authentic, imaginative and playful. Although I have an initial idea when I begin a work, I find it important to leave room for serendipity - oftentimes, discoveries are made and ideas are found in the midst of the creative process. For that reason, hyper realism is a bit too rigid for my taste.
Retro Kolkata : Your pieces are incredibly detailed. How long does it take to create a single piece and what is the process like?
Marina : First, I come up with the idea for the series, then sketch and create. This is a very simple process at its core, but once I begin, I make adjustments, and then my initial idea can change into something bigger than my original intent. For one painting it could take from a week to multiple weeks, depending on the size, idea, and complexity. I find immense value in being able to live with a piece for a few weeks after I think it is complete, as oftentimes I see opportunities over time, as opposed to in the initial moment.
Retro Kolkata : Tell us more about your workspace. What is the funniest or weirdest thing that happened to you in the studio?
Marina : I have just recently moved into a new studio space, in New York City. I must say, it is a bit of a struggle for artists to find good space in a densely populated environment, like NYC. Fortunately there are some buildings that are geared just towards supporting visual artists, though we, as a city, could certainly use more.
Retro Kolkata : What’s the latest project you are working on?
Marina : I am working now to finish up my current series - the faces of women of many different ethnicities. For my next series, I am interested to ‘zoom out’ so to speak, and explore more figurative and environmental studies.
Retro Kolkata : Artists and art lovers often have one painting by a great artist that has especially influenced them or holds special meaning. What is the one painting that had the biggest impact on you as you were beginning your career, and why?
Marina : I recall being particularly inspired early on, by the paintings of Paul Gauguin. His studies of the anonymous female forms of Tahitian women resonated with me, and led me to learn more about his story. Perhaps then his story began to inspire me even more than his works… the idea of uprooting and embedding oneself within, and celebrating, another culture.
Retro Kolkata : What feelings or reactions do you hope to arouse in people who view your work? Are you surprised by the reactions that you get?
Marina : I would be happy if a person glanced at least twice:) In our fast-paced modern environment, we move quickly, and even a glance is a compliment. My main goal is to provoke positive emotions and so far, based on the reactions I get, I believe I’m on the right path.
Retro Kolkata : Any words of wisdom to aspiring artists who want to pursue a similar career?
Marina : Dream big, believe in yourself, and be open and ready for challenges. And remember that art is not just a creative process, it’s a whole set of marketing, business, and communication skills.
Retro Kolkata : We (Retro Kolkata) are trying to build one single stage for all the artists, because we believe that artists are the most beautiful creation of God and geographical boundaries can never break their unity and harmony. Please say something about our initiative and any special message for your followers.
Marina : I find the initiative of Retro Kolkata to be an inspiring one, and I agree, artists the world over should be supporting each other now more than ever. Thank you for taking the time to talk with me today - I send my best regards to you and to your audience.
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