Svetlana Fialova- subject futures week

Sitting in on Fialova’s recent visiting Lecture during this year’s Subject Futures
Week, was an eye-opening exploration into the contemporary world of drawing.
Within her practice she explores traditional methods of media, by using ink and
Chinese calligraphic brushes, she then creates a fusion between these
traditional means and incorporates psychedelic contemporary imagery as her
subject matter. ‘Svetlana’s practice is inspired by themes which draw on
popular culture, the internet, TV, magazines or urban legends combined with
invented characters. With a certain dose of dark humour she depicts various
beings in unexpected or awkward situations.’ (N/A. (2013) Svetlana Fialova
[online]. Red Gallery- creative guardians. Available from:
[Accessed 12th February 2014.]) Fialova is heavily influenced by
tele-visuals; she is also very inspired by her own experiences and also likes
to incorporate these within her narrative illustrations. Within the frame of
her works she likes to distort the elements of perspective, she effectively
does this by creating layers within her large scale pieces. During her lecture
she explained how she liked to reference Magritte’s use of technique and the
way that he plays with space and perspective. She then continued to describe
how she wanted to develop her drawings by exploring her use of space; how she
is used to filling the whole entire surface and is now exploring using the
space more sparsely but meticulously.

When asked about the trajectory of her practice she expressed how subconsciously her works were always about her, even before she tried to complete a self-portrait. Only recently has she gained the courage and confidence to push the image more directly towards her. Fialova said how she had felt that conquering a self-portrait was such a challenge but she wanted to try something new and move her subject matter from out of her comfort zone.

Apocalypse (My Boyfriend Doesn’t Care) by Svetlana Fialova.

As the Jerwood Drawing Prize winner, Svetlana Fialova won the award with an inky portrait of her boyfriend, alongside a grand sum of £8,000. Achieving this title she beat over 3,000 entries that were submitted for deliberation by the awarding panel.  Her winning piece ‘Apocalypse (My Boyfriend Doesn’t Care)’ is an extremely coherent narrative that explores her boyfriend combined with elements referencing Albrecht Dürer’s works, it harbours vivid splashes of pink and turquoise alongside her use of blank ink. This piece explores her technique of merging a traditional method with contemporary subject matter. This piece ‘represents Fialova’s eponymous partner in trainers, shorts and a Hawaiian-print jumper. But this contemporary chap smokes a long pipe, like a nineteenth-century sailor, and the background is formed from disparate images, including fragments from Albrecht Dürer’s ‘Apocalypse’ series of woodcuts and a collection of blue and pink Crocs. Fialova’s fluid use of ink manages to bring all the elements together in a cohesive whole, past and present glued to produce a sense of timelessness.’ (Phillips, Sam. SP. (2013) Review: Jerwood Drawing Prize 2013. [online] The Royal Academy. Available from:,451,BAR.html [Accessed 12th Feburary 2014.]) Although her works explore a clear narrative that conveys an amalgamation of sources, they somehow remain suspended within that dense time frame that we as the viewer have displayed in front of us.

I was fortunate enough to have been able to contact Svetlana directly by email and ask her a few burning questions that I had about her practice and about her personal fascination with the language of drawing.

1) Sticking within your traditional method of drawing combined with contemporary visuals, do you ever feel like the two can serve as separate entities that are hard to combine together?

“Not really…I guess it’s a natural moment that happens when I combine my interests, I don’t think about it too much, like whether it is a decision I’m aware of or just an accident…like yes, let’s a pick a language I’m going to use now. These are possibly some tools that belong into some box of my schemes and I am able to use them. There might be some other better tools but I just don’t know about them (yet) or they don’t belong into my cultural and educational background…for example I could create a Chinese-style ink drawing of the trees in the background but instead I naturally pick the depiction of trees that I’m used to or have seen in the books or galleries before. I was always into ‘old masters’ and improving my drawing skills as I find it extremely interesting…I’m fascinated by the whole idea of evolution of illusion and representation in drawing and painting.(I’m currently reading a great book by E.H. Gombrich – Art and Illusion which pretty much covers the topic). Also I grew up in the 90’s and was a passive admirer of all different subcultures and pop culture, such as grunge and Nirvana T-shirts, skateboarding designs, music videos of Spice Girls, Fresh Prince, etc…that might have been some kind of subconscious influence as well.”

2) Do you feel that your practice has altered since moving to London, as you are working in a different environment?

“Yes, it has, I’m not sure if I could describe how it’s changed exactly…I’m probably more open about what I want to depict, more direct and aggressive in a way where I don’t use a metaphorical delineation as much as in some older works. I’m also more into cancelling out the story-telling, getting rid of illustrative intentions…I want the subjects to have a lot of dramatic charge instead of just being some characters in the story.”

3) Do you feel like your work has altered in any way since winning the Jerwood drawing prize?

“I think it would alter similarly if I didn’t win anything…It might have given me confidence in experimenting more though. “

4) How do you connect to drawing?

“(I’m not sure if I understand the question correctly). It is sometimes a painful process, hours of staring at the paper and getting stuck, but at the same time, the feeling of concentration that usually lasts up to 3-4 hours is one of the most satisfactory feelings I know.”

5) What does drawing mean to you?

“It is the best way I know to record how I perceive my being in this world.”

6) How would you describe your identity through the language of drawing?

“I haven’t been working with the image of myself for a long time…it’s a new thing, a new challenge in my practice. What I’m trying to achieve is probably a mixture of illustrational marks (such as eyes, ears, legs, hands) with highly suggestive irrational marks (deformed parts of the body, patterns, shading, symbols). My aim is to be more abstract, more general, bring the force of the image more strongly than just illustrate my appearance. Using something that I know so well (my face and my bone structure) maybe gives me more freedom to play with it.”

I am extremely grateful for the response that I received from Svetlana as I feel that she really encompassed the passion for drawing and effectively expressed the reason why we have that craving to explore and endeavour into the language and process of art in that way that we do. The pure satisfaction we receive from producing art; and the sense of documenting our personal journeys within our environment.


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