Maria Arendt is a well-known Russian artist who lives and works in Moscow. She has contributed immensely towards the elevation of embroidery as a contemporary art form. Born in Moscow in 1968, she lived in the "Artists' Village" on Maslovka Street, Moscow till 1985. She was tutored in the fine arts in the 1980s by her grandmother Ariadna Arendt, a famous sculptor, and graduated from the M.I. Kalinin Moscow College of Industrial and Applied Arts in 1988. For the next couple of years Maria worked as an artist-designer, doing her first experiments in the fields of graphic art and collage and studies of iconography. Since 1989 to the present day, she has participated regularly in art exhibitions. In 1997 she became a member of the Moscow Union of Artists (monumental department). She has been a regular participant of the third to the eighth Biennale of Contemporary Art, Moscow. She also undertakes special projects and illustrates books in her spare time.
Maria’s works are in the collections of several international galleries and museums including the Russian Museum ( St Petersburg), the Tretyakov Gallery (Moscow), the Schusev State Museum of Architecture (Moscow), the National Picture Gallery of I.Ajvazovsky (Theodosia) and private collections in France (Toulouse), as well as the collections of Alberto Sandretti (Venice, Italy), Nicolas Iljine (Frankfurt, Germany), and Brian Eno (London, UK).
In 2020 itself she had her solo show “Architextile or all sewn up” at MMOMA (Moscow Museum of Modern Art), Moscow, and participated in "Gifts" at The State Russian Museum in St Peterburg; "What is happening in the world, just a winter" at the Artstory Gallery in Moscow; and the London Art Fair with Shtager Gallery. She has exhibited her artworks at Salon du dessin erotique in Paris; Saatchi Art Fair with Shtager Gallery; “Your feedback is very important to us” at Gogol House; Art Rotterdam Art Fair with Galerie Iragui; and participated in prestigious exhibitions, art fairs and biennales in Vienna, Torino, Istanbul, Vilnius, Bologna, Perm, London, and Moscow over the last decade.
1. When did you decide and what prompted you to become an artist? Please give a brief account of your challenges and struggles in your journey as an artist. Any role models?
MA: I come from a family of artists. My grandmother and two grandfathers – the first and second husbands of my grandmother – were sculptors, so to become an artist was relatively easy. Difficulties arose when I tried to find my own artist's identity, my own special style. Everyone compared me with my ancestors. At first, it seemed to me that I was experiencing resistance from their side – of course, not in a literal sense. But then I decided to co-opt my ancestors, which turned out to be a rather interesting kind of cooperation; my reference here is to the series Dialogue with the Sculptor. Now, I do feel that I’ve their support and in turn it so happens that I too have helped them to become better known. Of course, they have been my role models.
Dialogue with the Sculptor, Compositions, sketches and sculptures of her grandfather Meyer Eisenstadt,
Embroidered on linen and organza
2. What art project(s) are you working on currently? What is your inspiration or motivation for this?
MA: I have completed my big project “Architextile or all sewn up” and have just closed a solo exhibition at the Moscow Museum of Modern Art (MMOMA) in Moscow. I’m now currently working on a small series of works called New Window in Incognito or [Classic icon PSD].
The world has moved away; it is now online. Everything has become weird. And we just have to adapt to this new world; try out the options and opportunities it gives us. We create our own personal settings for objects in this space, edit them, and illustrate everything. You can put the image on standby [stand by], try to "photoshop", adjust and improve what we don't like, and if we don't like the result, just send it "for recycling" [into the recycle bin]. Or you can just lie low, click on [pause], and wait a bit. The key mystery is how the [play] button will work after that.
New Window in Incognito or [Classic icon PSD] Series, Embroidery and mix media
Multidisciplinary artworks from the exhibition Architextile or all sewn up at MMOMA, Moscow, 2020
3. Contemporary art has become very diverse and multidisciplinary in the last few decades. Do you welcome this trend? Is this trend part of your art practice?
MA: For me, contemporary art is a very important part of my life and I've been practising it for more than 15 years. It started with the fact that I started trying out different styles and trends, and nothing fascinated me so much as contemporary art, which inspires me and imbues me with energy and drive. It is most important that whatever you do gives you pleasure.
I held my first solo exhibition in 2008 at the Museum of Architecture (the Ruin wing) where I presented embroidery as art. Now this has become the main direction to my art.
Catalog of my multidisciplinary practice (embroidery, collage, sculpture, installation, etc) at MMOMA
4. Does art have a social purpose or is it more about self-expression?
MA: For me, art is more about self-expression; at the same time, I find it important that I explore the history of my family, study the related archives, and interact with several of my family members in my projects. Since the story is rather eventful and interesting, it is imperative for me that my audience also participates in this process. For example, when my sister and artist Natasha Arendt and I created an installation dedicated to our great-great-grandfather, the aviator Nikolay Andreevich Arendt, the audience were requested to make paper airplanes with wishes written on them and literally attach them to the mantle of our ancestor. This activity turned out to be very engaging and the installation became quite a big one.
5. Where do you create your art (workplace / studio)? What is your process?
MA: I work mainly in Moscow in my studio, but I also spend a lot of time at my ‘dacha’, my summer studio, by the Black Sea. The main style and medium that I use is embroidery, which I regard as a graphical representation on canvas. Sometimes, I arrange field sessions and work on my travels. All I need is fabric, thread and needle and I can start creating my own world. I don't need a lot of space for my kind of work. You can do embroidery anywhere, even in subways or trains, and any part of the world; l really like to visit India to create my embroidery art, especially in the winters.
6. To what extent will the world of art change in the post-Covid period – both in terms of what is created as also the business of art?
MA: Currently, an increasing number art events and processes are taking place online, and this trend will only increase. It is surprising that during the pandemic the works of many artists are selling quite successfully. This is probably because buyers do not have the opportunity to travel or go out for a meal to restaurants, and not too inexpensive art is something that gives them pleasure.
7. Tell us about any other interest you may have besides your art practice . Does it get reflected
in your art?
MA: I like to study and observe nature, plants and animals, and the smallest of details in them. In art, this observation and studying of minute details helps a lot, for example, to create psychological portraits. I have done a series where animals are depicted in human clothing with complete facial characteristics. This represents my view that humans are the most destructive animal in the world.
(All images are courtesy of Maria Arendt.)
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