Alexandra Sukhareva (b. 1983, Moscow) is a visual artist known for her process-oriented works. Her practice ranges from documentation to paintings, through chemical experiments and sculptures. Alexandra mainly explores the language of chemical processes. For example, the series of chlorine canvases are based on the process of burning, whereas light is understood not only as a ubiquitous agent related to life, but also as a medium of destruction. She has participated in exhibitions such as dOCUMENTA(13) – Kassel (2012), ‘Time, Forward’, V-A-C, Palazzo Zattere, Venice (2019) or Gwangju Biennale (2021). She recently opened a duo show with Denis Koshkarev at APALAZZOGALLERY in Brescia, Italy.
Matteo Giovanelli: Let’s start from the beginning, how did art come into your life and how did you start as an artist?
Alexandra Sukhareva: I usually recall my family history, the fact that my parents had friends among artists. But then I realise that I decided to be an artist when I was about twenty-one. I had just graduated as a furniture designer and then I realized that I had nothing to do with. Also, I used to think that I wanted to be a painter as I took continuous lessons since I was seven years old. But still I don’t think I succeeded as a painter either. I think my chlorine canvases are not considered paintings in the pictorial sense, rather they emerge from this failure.
So how would you describe your practice?
I have never tried to overlap it, but as for chlorine canvases, they might be samples of a specific sense of light. I would say they are burnt things among the other burning things around us. However, chlorine just accelerates the process of such a routine burning. It seems, light has been interesting to me even before these canvases. Those works, where I dealt with silver amalgam, were sensitive to the daylight. Most of them faded to disappearance in the daylight.
That’s clear, light is a constant presence in life. It shapes everything and gives life to what we see.
Yes, it is obvious how light makes grass grow from under the ground. For me, light is rather a signifier of desire, taking into account the complicated history of human relationships with desire.
Light is an energy we receive from our first breath, but it is also something that consumes us. It ruins the material and acts on us with the passing of time. How would you describe the relationship between light and time in your work?
There are some voices in physics, which describe time as matter, and I would add that light is also matter. So getting back to the works, they also carry the print of absurdity, they are examples of how matter can evoke and disturb itself, how it accelerates and consumes itself. As it tends to be total, you may observe similar things in organic and inorganic levels.
I think this idea is something that you have always proposed since the beginning in your practice and it seems to remain your personal signature. However, in one of our recent conversations, you also said that with the new exhibition at APALAZZOGALLERY something has changed. Could you tell us about this change?
Probably before I made canvases more intuitively, than now. Looking ahead, I would say that I can no longer rely on intuition. I remember I started to clearly understand what ideas light brought me during the summer of 2012, when I was making one of my first chlorine works. That time I saw how light can be a metaphor of the omnipresent absurd. I was wandering around the ZIL Cultural Centre in Moscow while it was under reconstruction. There were hills with piles of bricks and there was a blown-up monastery nearby. I realized I was in an environment with no way out of meaningless cycles of endless renovations. My earlyt canvases didn’t represent anything except, maybe, an effort of portraying a thought as an object. In those efforts there was a space for joy, as it should be. There was a process of image recognition or evocation behind my early works. And that is why the result rather resembled some remains, like archeological traces of scattered remains on the ancient linen.
Everything is sharper now. I think I have a tendency to ‘speak’ shorter/clearer, at least to work faster. Because, you know, when you are working to evoke an image, even a well-known one, you can hardly avoid a feeling of a stretched time. Now it takes me 30 minutes, even less. And I shifted from the “tracing” to the clarity of a sign.
So we could say that you started with abstractions until you got to sharper, more figurative paintings such as the house, the window shape or further representational forms in the APALAZZOGALLERY exhibition?
What has changed with this new corpus of work? The logic. The parts of the compositions and even the phases of a process tended to be connected and fluid. Today I am much more interested in the difference as such. I try to be focused… Probably, today if I have to choose between beauty and difference, I would go for the last one.
After this big change in perspective, what do you consider to be your greatest artistic achievement?
I started to appreciate staying in the present.
I will skip the question about new projects at this point, but I would like to end the interview by asking you what is your idea of the future?
I could deal with a questionable future as an ‘alchemist’ (many of us are), but as an artist I would like to deal only with the present. I think I am interested in something that cannot be detected with long-sightedness.
Alexandra Sukhareva & Denis Koshkarev. Take Off the Mask, Take Off the Hat
24/05/2023 – 2/09/2023
Piazza Tebaldo Brusato, 35 – 25121 Brescia
Matteo Giovanelli (Brescia, 1999) is an art historian. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Cultural Heritage from the University of Verona where he pursued a Master’s degree in Arts. With a background rich in academic study and practical experience he collaborates with contemporary art galleries, navigating various curatorial environments, from galleries exhibitions to museums and fairs.