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Victoria Lomasko: Art of Reportage

Updated: Mar 16, 2021

Victoria Lomasko is a Russian contemporary artist, who is based in Moscow. She holds a degree in Graphic Arts from Moscow State University of Printing Arts. Describing her work as accurate, rather than political, Lomasko’s practice explores contemporary Russian society, especially the inner workings of the country’s diverse subcultures, such as LGBT activists, migrant workers, sex workers, prisoners, and so on. Her book Other Russias is a collection of ‘graphic reportages,’ a self-described style of art making and record keeping. During the past few years, mural making has become a central facet of her practice.

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?

VL: I was born in the family of an artist. The decision that I would be an artist was made by my father before I was born. I remember myself as a five-year-old child in front of a painter's case with a 1 m by

1 m canvas, primed in purple colour to stimulate my interest and me trying to paint something with oil paints. I never liked canvases and oil paints. The apartment was filled with my father's paintings, and I didn't like that either. I didn't want to create art objects that had to be kept somewhere, somehow taken to exhibitions and sold to some concrete people. I wanted the main process to take place in my mind, and to be able to immediately share the result with a big audience. If it hadn't been for my father's pressure, I would have become a writer.

Despite drawing since childhood, it wasn't until I was about thirty that I felt I was doing my own work, because I began to include my texts in my work. And it was the moment when success began to come to me. I have a good art education in professional drawing and my own style, but that's not the most important thing. The main thing is my understanding of the world and how I see and tell people's stories. I am a drawing-writer. The synthesis of text and images is the most important thing to me. And my main success to date is my book Other Russias, a collection of graphic reportages published in six countries including by n+1 in USA and by Penguin in UK.

2. What art project(s) are you working on currently? What is your inspiration or motivation for this?

VL: I’ve been working on different versions of the same topic for many months already: “the Post-Soviet era must finally end”. I talk mostly about what is going on in Russia and Belarus, where old presidents have nothing to offer to society except repression and the return of Cold War ideology. I’m interested in the twenty-year-old generation who want to live in the 21st century in an international world. The situation looks more complicated than just a conflict between the Putin regime and the opposition. It looks like the line of time itself has broken down on our territory, and one era cannot change the other one in any way.

Permalockdown_1, 2020, The Horst Janssen Museum, Oldenburg, Germany

Permalockdown_2, 2020, The Horst Janssen Museum, Oldenburg, Germany

Permalockdown, 2020, The Horst Janssen Museum, Oldenburg, Germany,

photos © Horst-Janssen-Museum

Permalockdown, 2020, The Horst Janssen Museum, Oldenburg, Germany,

photos © Horst-Janssen-Museum

From the comic A Revolution in Belarus, 2020, Originally published by The Nib

From the comic A Revolution in Belarus, 2020, Originally published by The Nib

From graphic reportage A Trip to Minsk, Originally published by n+1, 2021

From graphic reportage A Trip to Minsk, Originally published by n+1, 2021

Молодежь молодцы - Youth are great, Девочки вы лучшие - Girls you are the best,

Народ един - The people are one

(Caption translations by Aakshat Sinha)

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?

VL: I don't think this is a new trend. In all ages there have been many artists engaged in a variety of art practices. Of course, thanks to advances in technology, artists have been given many new tools to create art, but that's not so in my case – I prefer to draw by hand.

4. Does art have a social purpose or is it more about self-expression?

VL: I think art can serve different purposes: it can be decorative to decorate apartments, or it can be political to illustrate political ideas. If we are talking about self-expression, it is important who is self-expressing. The scale of the artist's personality; how aware he or she is, how sensitive he or she is to the beauty of the world.

Once I was in London at an exhibition called “All Too Human: Bacon, Freud and a Century of Painting Life”. There were some really good paintings on display, even ones by geniuses like the Francis Bacon canvases. I heard a couple of visitors discussing the works, "There's nothing good here, nothing positive." At that moment, I thought these artists have an incredible and powerful sense of energy of the world, only in their vision the world is like an out of control train rushing right at us, promising suffering and death. Of course, this was real art at the level of energy and impact. But now I prefer artists like David Hockney who sees the world as a harmonious place and helps others to see it that way.

5. Where do you create your art (workplace / studio)? What is your process?

VL: I don't have a studio. Before the pandemic, I worked for three years on monumental projects: painting murals in museum and art gallery spaces and making panels for universities that found studios for my work process. It was a beautiful life.

I do not want to have a studio in Russia because I don't want to attach myself to anything in this country at all. There is too much control, pressure and censorship in Russia.

In the meantime while I can't create new monumental works, I do graphic reportage. My place is where interesting events happen: I will be there with an A4 sketchbook and quickly sketch events with an isograph.

And at home, I draw complex multi-figure compositions. I have a large light pad – the best purchase during the pandemic – and a table easel. This is quite sufficient for professional work. Most importantly, my cat Dwarf, who I took from the street during the lockdown, sits next to me. It used to be hard for me to sit and draw at home, but with Dwarf it became so cozy that I can draw at home 24 hours a day.

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?

VL: It is difficult for me to predict how the pandemic will impact the art industry; this is more a question for gallerists, art dealers, collectors and museum specialists. I can only see how the usage of social media news has changed: before the pandemic, everyone was creating something, going and exhibiting somewhere. And there were posts for social media “friends”. On my Instagram I keep seeing new art projects from the world's leading galleries and major museums showcasing the most famous international artists, but the rest has become much more invisible than before. Established mid-level professionals are holding themselves, but those who have not reached that level, I think, will be forced to leave the art field. Art is no longer an attraction, a hobby, and certainly it is not a celebration.

Now there is no room for experimenting, so everything must be sold, no matter if we're talking about art objects, catalogues or exhibition tickets. There is no more the eternal celebration around art with openings, art fairs and after-parties; so the way an artist looks, whether he or she is cute and sexy doesn’t matter anymore – what matters is what he or she can sell. I guess some of the collectors, for whom the social life around art was more important than the art, have started to buy less. There are more and more virtual events; however what I’ve heard is that sales are not as good as they were during past physical art fairs.

7. Tell us about any other interest you may have besides your art practice. Does it get reflected

in your art?

VL: Before the pandemic, I loved exploring the metropolises, walking in New York, London, Berlin on random routes. I also loved music, clubs and pubs. I feel like I'm talking about someone else . . . .

Now my main addiction is cats. In addition to caring for Dwarf, I also curate a couple of homeless cats, his brothers. I communicate with my neighbour, who I call "Cat’s Chief," and we make plans to feed the street cats and build houses for them. I've bought books about cat education and haven't given up my hope of training Dwarf. In between drawings, I'm always reading cat-owner chats and admiring pictures of cats. Without this, I will feel that I’ve wasted my day.

(All images are courtesy of the artist, Victoria Lomasko, unless mentioned otherwise.)


The artamour questionnaire is a regular series of interviews with visual artists across disciplines, who share their views about art, their practice and their worldview on a common questionnaire template. Like, comment, share and subscribe to stay updated.

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