Questioning Conventions

Questioning Conventions

Natalia Nosova is a Russian-born figurative painter, printmaker and photographer, currently living in London. The pillars of her art practice include: the recording of experiences from a female perspective, the incorporation of gestures and an expression of women’s roles in the world.

A: You work across paint, photography and printmaking. How do these mediums inter-connect for you?
NN: Photography and painting go hand in hand for me: one compliments the other. I take a lot of photographs and collect images from everything I see and use them to create collages as a source for my future paintings.

I always prefer to take photographic portraits myself prior to painting portrait commissions – this enables me to explore a wide range of poses and facial expressions and then to choose the most visually interesting image to work from.

A: From where do you collect your inspiration?
NN: I’m like a sponge, absorbing from my daily life and art around me. I see a lot of art in museums, books and on the Internet; this inspires me a lot. I always try to understand how every piece of art was made and the meaning of it, to distinguish every brushstroke, to understand why the artist made this choice and try to learn from them.

One of my favourite artists is Paula Rego. I was fortunate enough to visit her studio. She is a great character. She wants a woman to go beyond the image of herself, in particular of herself as a little girl, to then reconcile her position in society on a more secure and equal footing.

A: Your paintings often focus on the female perspective – why is this important to you?
NN: As someone who moved to another country and every day speaks a language which is not my mother tongue, ideas of identity – whether social, sexual, religious or of gender – are extremely important to me. 

In my work I explore the characteristics that determine our personal and social identity, questioning stereotypes and conventions.  I’m always looking for new ways of presenting notions of feminism and femininity using my experience, and encouraging a more volatile view of gender than of traditional ideology.

In my paintings I want to turn the depiction of women and female forms from being a surveyed object into something that is more powerful, and to create a place where feelings and emotions can take form.

A: They also consider physical gestures, creating a sense of intimacy and movement. Can you elaborate on how you depict this sense of fluidity?
NN: Posture and physical gestures are essential conditions for the generation of meaning and feelings in painting. I always try to paint a posture which is both sensual and conceptual in order to communicate something that is beyond the power of speech.

I want my work to convey a meaning that is hard to put into words but is instantly readable by the viewer. For example, in my painting The Pain I’m Used To there is a woman that rests her raised hands on a sharp sword that is placed in her mouth. Her pose forms that ultimate image of bodily torment, crucifixion. However, the nakedness of her body considerably changes the meaning of the pose. Painting her as a stoic and a seducer at the same time enables me to subvert patriarchal decorum of the traditional exploitative representation of women as object.

A:The Devil I Know will be shown at The Royal Birmingham Society of Artists Open All Media 2019 from Thursday, 14 March – tell us about this piece.
There is an interesting story behind this painting. Initially I painted a naked girl leaning over a bar thinking of jumping off with her face hidden, with a lot of bare flesh exposed: a perfect subject for the viewer’s gaze. I didn’t like it, as she was too beautiful.

When I returned to the canvas after abandoning it for some time, I had a completely new vision in mind: I removed everything that was in the background to shift all the focus on the subject and covered that beautiful body of hers with a shapeless flat rug as a protective destruction.

Narcissism is commonly considered a feminine vice and I appreciate and reconstruct woman with mirror imagery by making my subject look directly at the viewer’s eyes with a healthy self-esteem and by taking it beyond an unambiguous traditional presentation of the female nude. Only she and I know what could be potentially excavated from that floral destruction, and this makes things all the more interesting. That’s where the title comes from.

A: What other projects and exhibitions do you have coming up this year?
NN: Apart from the show at the RBSA I am planning a solo exhibition towards the end of this year, which means a lot of painting, study, reading, researching and many exciting commissions.

Natalia Nosova’s work will be exhibited at the RBSA Open All Media 2019, 14 March – 13 April, 2019. The Royal Birmingham Society of Artists, 4 Brook Street, St Paul’s, Birmingham B3 1SA. For further information, click here.

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The work of Natalia Nosova appears in the Artists’ Directory in Issue 87 of Aesthetica. To pick up a copy, click here to visit our online shop.