Interview with Tania Rivilis
Tania Rivilis (born 1986)
At the age of 27, after graduating from university (Faculty of Media Design), Tania moved to Germany where she discovered oil painting. She worked hard on her technique and developed her own style. Only a year later, Tania entered the art world with her first solo exhibitions. Tania´s works range from classical to modern expressive style. For several years the artist worked with painting and graphics and had exhibitions in Germany, the Netherlands and Russia.
In 2016, Tania began to actively collaborate with creative brands and designers. Most of her works initially focused on historical portraits and still hang in the State Historical Museums of St. Petersburg and Moscow, as well as in London.
In 2018, Tania discovered a new style in painting – color, contrast and emotion became the main priorities in her work. This new stage aroused the interest of galleries and collectors – this led to a series of exhibitions in the Netherlands, Germany and the USA.
Since 2020 she is represented at Bonnard Gallery and from the beginning of 2021 she will participate in the art exhibition at the new Arcadia Gallery in Soho, New York.
Tania currently works and lives in Aachen, Germany, and continues to create artwork for future projects and exhibitions.
Through my work I seek to explore the fragile nature of human relationships, to understand the complex process of creating feelings and connections between two entwined universes. I am inspired by the endless fluctuations and multi-layered experiences within the souls of each participant in this infinite game.
Using contrasting colors, dynamic, almost graphic brushstrokes, I seek to emphasize the emotional impact of the moment, to convey the character of the scene, and to immerse the viewer in a transferred state, to project that state onto themselves. The structure of the pressed wood allows the oil to take on a new, unconventional tone that heightens the expressive power of the moment depicted to the maximum.
My work was influenced by various artists and movements, such as Russian critical realism and the group Peredvizhniki (The Wanderers), who opposed official academic classicism with its outdated canon. Such artists as Mikhail Vrubel, Filipp Malyavin, Saturnino Herran, Ruprecht von Kaufmann had an influence on my technique. Inspiration comes from everywhere and everything that surrounds me and makes me see the world from a different angle. For example, an important part of what my work has become now is the influence of David Bowie’s music.
I strive to combine shapes, colors and art history to find a new expressive language of beauty. Looking for interesting images and types, conveying the soul through appearance and gaze – my works focus on the emotional reading of the human image and the dialectical concept of the human soul.
Oil on pressed wooden panel. 90 x 100 cm
Ms.Rivilis, When did you first start to think outside of the canvas as an artist?
My story as an artist began at the age of 27, right after I moved to Germany. This upheaval obviously gave me the impulse to paint, to do something that had been itching in my mind for a long time. I began to study painting techniques, made numerous copies and studies of great artists of the past and present. The “Peredvizhniki”, often called “The Wanderers” (Repin, Serov, Kramskoy, Arkhipov, etc.) were like my golden standard. But what came out of it was not art, it was just imitation. I still lacked something great, something real, something that all my art heroes had. My artwork lacked me, the distinguishing part. All my attempts to get into oil painting were limited to copying and finding my own language and style. I only started to really think and see myself as an artist relatively recently – about two years ago, I think. In 2019, I discovered a completely new material for me – pressed wood panels. This discovery has led me to rework my painting and tap into a new source of inspiration and energy. I’m still trying to understand the flow that gripped me not too long ago, but I feel like I’m heading in the right direction.
Tania, what makes you choose a personality for your work: admiration or fascination? What captures your interest?
I am crazy about people, their faces and poetic images. When I see a person with an expressive appearance in a coffee shop, I stare at them like a madwoman (which is probably insanely creepy, so, sorry guys), but in my head I’m just sketching his or her features, enjoying the look on the crook of their nose. I’m fascinated by human characters. The ones that just stand out, the ones that walk into the room and everything around them stops. You instantly recognise them in a crowd – there’s always an aura of mystery around them. It seems to me that only the structure of the universe can be more complicated than the structure of a person. Relationships between partners, feelings, emotions, – all this inspires and fascinates me insanely. Probably all my works are dedicated to “man” as a complex, unresolved object, which becomes even more complicated in a relationship with another person.
Oils. An explosive technique. What materials and techniques do you use?
My perennial favorites now are pressed wood panels. I sand them, grind several times for durability, and remove deep cracks. The oil fits perfectly, and my attempts to destroy the board went well – the material still looked good after a fall from the 3rd floor. As for scenes and plots, it’s all very simple – either I look for an idea, or an idea finds me. In the first case, I think about the composition, look for images and color schemes. In the second case, I simply take inspiration from what I’ve seen and project my vision on the board. In both cases (and this is the coolest part), I can never predict what will come out in the end. No matter how hard I try to plan, the creative wave always carries me away from the shore of rationality and logic. The texture of the panel also plays an important role – how the wood will interact with the pattern and color is impossible to predict. And I absolutely love it.
Do you still have people come and model for your paintings or do you work with photographs these days?
I used to look for models, torture my friends and sister with hours of posing, but in recent years I’ve been using photos as references. Although sometimes I still manage to paint from a model, for example when I come to St. Petersburg to visit friends at Art Academy. Working with photos simplifies and speeds up the process, considering that my main job (TV advertising and content production) requires a lot of time and effort. In fact, I don’t have free time until after the sun goes down, when there is no energy left to organize the models and do the interviews. I strive to use my time efficiently, so I organize photo shoots, take hundreds of pictures and edit them when it suits me. I was a little apprehensive about this, even kind of embarrassed to say it out loud, but then I heard a podcast with one of my favorite artists (Colleen Barry) where she said she works with photos (for the same reason of lack of time) and it was easier for me to accept. I’m not against technology – if you can speed up or streamline any step of the process to allow more time for creativity, I’m definitely in.
Oil on pressed wooden panel, 60 x 88 cm
Where does your inspiration come from? What are you trying to convey in your portraits?
Inspiration comes as it is wont to come-when you least expect it. You can sit there and try to come up with an idea, but it’s like love – it will find you on its own. It can be anything – a book, a scene from a movie, a person in a restaurant, music. I think the relationship and the complicated feelings between two people inspire me the most. In my work I want to convey that moment of capturing a subtle emotion, in the eyes, in a movement or gesture. We project ourselves onto the world around us, and as a person with a complex inner world that I sometimes get lost in and can’t see through, I look for similar moments in the people around me. I try to understand myself by understanding others.
We are all so different and at the same time insanely similar – that is my absolute inspiration.
Oil on pressed wooden panel, 60 x 88 cm
In your opinion, when does a work of art become important?
Good question. In my opinion, this happens when an artist manages to convey some kind of energy, to put a piece of his soul into a painting, sculpture, music, etc. This is not always possible, nor can it always be read or understood by everyone. It’s like being in a museum where everyone runs to look at a famous painting, and you’re suddenly left standing in a small room in front of a small painting and can’t walk away from it for 30 minutes: Like with a spell, it holds you, it carries some kind of message especially for you.
Where would you like to have a Solo Exhibition? What would be the ideal site or venue?
What’s happening to me now as a self-taught person is already incredibly cool! I’m grateful to fate, God, the universe, or whatever or whoever out there is responsible for this. I love the guys at Bonnard Gallery in the Netherlands who took me under their wing a year ago and breathed new energy and motivation into me. Recently, another art event took place in my life – Arcadia Gallery offered me to attend a grand opening of their new location in New York. This is just mind blowing! I have been following this gallery for a long time and am very excited about this event and flattered by their offer. I also really like the Fuchs Gallery in Stuttgart. I still have to work hard for a solo show in any gallery, so I’m under no false illusions about that.
I hope that this whole horrible nightmare with the virus will end as soon as possible and we will start going to galleries and museums again and enjoy art not only from virtual tours. Although online art platforms and galleries are becoming more and more popular, and I think that will bring a new round to the art market. In the meantime, I’m just enjoying the process of creating and this whirlwind of art experiences in my life that has suddenly hit me. I’m very happy.
Tania Rivilis. Contact
OFFICIAL SITE | taniarivilis.com
INSTAGRAM | instagram.com/tania_rivilis
FACEBOOK | facebook.com/taniarivilis