Sofya Belinskaya - Works on Paper

Come and see the beautifully composed, imaginative watercolors by Seattle artist Sofya Belinskaya. Sofya's work will be shown at Gray Sky for the month of October.

 Meet the artist and sip some wine while you get to know more about her and the evolution of her work. Her opening reception coincides with the Interbay Artwalk.

Friday, October 9, 2015

5:00pm - 8:00pm


Gray Sky artist Julie Devine interviews visiting artist Sofya Belinskaya about her new work. 

JD: How did you become an artist?

SB: I think I've always loved the intimate and quiet process of making art. It became especially important when my family moved from Ukraine to the US when I was 10. Visual language became a space where I did not have to struggle with verbal barriers.
My parents signed me up for a figure drawing class when I was 13, and I found a space that I never wanted to leave, and just kept going back to drawing and painting.

JD: What is your daily painting schedule like?

SB: I try to spend 4 full 8-12 hours days in the studio each week, and then evenings after my day job. I'm not a morning person, so I tend to get in around 11. After having a few cups of coffee, checking my email and browsing the internet, I get to work.

I have to take off my shoes when I get in the studio, otherwise I won't get any work done. I sit with the previous days work and find something to listen to. I'm an avid fan of podcasts and audiobooks. Listening to someone else's voices and ideas tend to quiet the hypercritical thoughts in my head that frequently hinder my process. I take a ten minute break each hour or two, and walk away from the piece to give myself some space and stretch my feet. I visit studio mates and catch up, or go for a walk around my neighborhood if things aren't going well. I'll take a lunch at some point and usually stay in the studio until somewhere between 10 to midnight.

When I don't have large projects that take me out of the studio or other obligations, I try to stick to this schedule. The more I show up and keep a routine, the easier it is to do the work.

JD: Tell me something about your training and influences.

SB: I hold a BFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. It's a small art school across the street from the MFA in Boston. The program is focused on concept, theory and interdisciplinary practices. It was a great space to explore different mediums and ideas. After branching out into sculpture, printmaking, painting, and performance, I returned to working on paper. It was a challenging environment where I was asked to question my approaches and concepts. Ultimately, the experience opened me up to new possibilities of creating work and at the end of the day I can return to drawing knowing that its what I want to be making right now.

Currently, I'm really interested and influenced by artists who make narrative works on paper. Amy Cutler, Samantha Wall, Kara Walker are hugely influential. I find each of them negotiating and creating space for female artists to make representational works about their bodies and other bodies. This feels like a direct response to the cannon of largely male-dominated abstract expressionism and the hierarchy that exist with painting over drawing, abstraction over figurative narration.

JD: When I first learned of your work, you were drawing figures, often in pairs, with curious shadows at play. When I saw your new work I was intrigued by your shift in both media and subject.What motivated you to shift to new ground?

SB: The series of figurative drawings with cast shadows was a year long project. I feel like with all of my work I'm trying to tell a story, and often it's autobiographical or has roots in my personal history. When I begin, I have no idea where the narrative is going to go, so I find out the how, where and why by making the work. Sometimes there's a surprise and the drawing tells me how the next piece should begin. However, the stories eventually come to an end when I feel there's nothing more to add I move on to a new project. I can't really predict this or know why they end... But I have to move on to a new place.

I also wanted to try and work with color again, and giving watercolor a chance has been extremely rewarding, since I can continue to work on paper.

JD: How do you chose what houses to represent? Are they modeled after a certain time period or neighborhood?



Sofya Belinskaya, House of Flowers (II), 2015
Watercolor on paper, 25" x 19"

SB: Most of the houses I depict are spaces that I've walked by and exist (or existed) in my neighborhood. As I mentioned, my work is rooted in and a response to my life and surroundings. I have moved around a lot since arriving in Seattle and I have seen so many people in my and neighboring communities move. This city is undergoing considerable changes and developments. I find it striking, and feel compelled to make work that responds to what I come across every day.

I frequently walk around Seattle neighborhoods and take photographs or make small plein air studies when the weather is nice. However, the houses are not so much about a specific place or structure. I change elements in the process of making drawings, but they do reference local architecture and what is immediately tactile in my encounters.

JD: Houses often connote security, paradise, or a place to return to. In Jungian philosophy, a house symbolizes the dreamer's psyche or personality. Are you working with houses on a symbolic level?

SB: In a sense, yes. The houses work on two levels for me. When I first started making this work, I was fantasizing about spaces that hold history. When I pass by a house that looks so old and lived in, I dream about all the dust, grime, stories and memories that have accrued. I have moved around my entire life, so I can only imagine what that kind of space feels like. I'm trying to write mythology and describe my dreams about these spaces.

Additionally, I was reading Gaston Bachelard's "The Poetics of Space," where he talks about the experiences of houses and conceptualizes architecture in terms of bodies and psychological spaces. I am interested in this personification, houses becoming their own forms that exist without us inhabiting them; the idea that a space carries and holds so much that it becomes its own independent being. For example, the flowers that fill my houses are expressions of the house itself. The house fills to the brim and overflows to the point where they no longer allow us to enter them. They don't exist for us to inhabit them. Theses paintings are portraits. I consider the work to be figurative, but this time the body is a roof, a window, and piece of wood, instead of hair, fingers, skin. I like what Jung said, I think that's in there, I'm just projecting my psyche and dreams.

JD: How has living in Seattle influenced your artwork?

SB: In terms of the content of my current body of work, I think the answer is clear. In addition, I have really loved listening to and participating in the conversations that I find in this city. I am currently a member of Lion's Main Art Collective. We are a group interdisciplinary artists to who give priority to queer and trans voices. This group and other creative groups in the city have given me enormous opportunities to see different options for artists. It's inspiring to see makers who take the initiative to try new things and come together to make great things happen. 

Also, that grey blanket that envelops the city sky each year, and I can drink the best coffee in the country and withdraw into a quiet dreamy headspace, I love that.