Russian-born, Bangkok-based photo artist Olga Volodina is a bold voice in conceptual mixed media art and combines elements of surrealism, social commentary and insights into the human condition. The 30-something artist is fast gaining an international following due to her evocative style and strong compositions. Her latest exhibition, “Ecstasy of Truth” is part of Bangkok Art Biennale 2018 (BAB) and includes works from her "Metamorphosis" project and photos from her "Imaginarium" series.
Showcasing at Sathorn 11 Art Space gallery, in Thailand’s capital, the event which runs until November 17, 2018, is a co-exhibition with talented local oil painter Kannika Jansuwa.
Exploring obsessions with smartphones and social media, women’s rights over 100 years ago, religion and politics, her work is as thought-provoking, mesmerizing and surreal as ever. Following the October 2018 launch in Thailand, Olga spoke in an exclusive interview with ADF.
Can you tell me a little bit about how you became a photo artist?
I really liked literature and history when I was a child growing up in the USSR(The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) and would put my thoughts on paper to try and catch the flow of my consciousness. I studied Journalism in Moscow and worked as a model at the same time. It was by working with professional photographers that I became interested in photography. I started with portraits of friends on a basic camera, then several years later I got my own studio and professional equipment whilst continuing with fashion shoots and nude photography.
I'm the type of person who suffers from overthinking and since it was too tough to keep this never-ending mental flow inside, I couldn't find myself in journalism and writing. After a while I learned how to direct this into my photography and my projects became more personal and conceptual.
Can you tell me about your latest exhibition at Sathorn 11 Art Space?
There were two performances. The first, taken from an existing project, “Metamorphoses” was performed outside in the street. It was interesting to see how everyday people passing by the gallery reacted. There were two models fully painted in white and covered in bandages representing our sick society weakened by fears and prejudices and thus easily manipulated by propaganda via mass media.
My second performance, “The Queens of Bedlam” is devoted to women’s rights issues in the 18th and 19th centuries, drawing attention to a dark era of history where women had no voice. There were many cases when a man, tired of his wife, had her sent to Bedlam, a mental asylum. Psychiatric institutions in those days were full of once sane women who through the cruelty of being locked up ended up mentally ill.
“Beyond Bliss” is the BAB theme and my exhibition, “Ecstasy of Truth” fits with this theme by representing the deepest emotional truths.
Can you talk about your creative process?
My creative process is initiated by the interaction with society and individuals. Human beings are always at the center of my artworks. I create images as a response to events in the world or my life. It starts spontaneously, then I write down the flow of my thoughts and associations, and later I find a proper form of expression. I don't have any specific time brackets for an artwork to be finished. I spend a lot of time on post-production. It really depends on many factors.
I always have to see a clear image in my head before I start to work on it, so there is not much left for improvisation during the shooting.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
Life, society and human beings were the main sources of inspiration for this latest project.
Your work is full of symbolism and statements about societal values. Why do you feel so strongly about this?
Photography is my way to communicate with society. Yes, I love to use symbols and metaphors in my artworks, I guess, it’s a "side-effect" of my love for literature. Why are my artworks quite "dark"? I guess because they are sincere. For me art is a kind of therapy. Through it I can address my fears, complexities and imperfections. I hope my pieces will help fight gender stereotypes and dogmas in human minds, rid them of prejudices, and make them question obsolete social and religious norms.
Art can make people inspired, happy or sad, draw their attention to something, educate them, but from my point of view, it all only makes sense if it's honest.
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned from being an artist?
Unfortunately, it’s that marketing rules everything nowadays. Talent is measured in "likes", "views" and the number of followers on social media pages. While many talented and really interesting artists are barely mentioned, some less talented ones who only care about money and fame, and are good at networking and shameless self-promotion, can achieve worldwide recognition. This situation is sad, but it cannot stop a real artist from creating their art because for them the process itself has as much value as any material rewards.
“Ecstasy of Truth” runs until November 17, 2018 at Sathorn 11 Art Space, Bangkok.