As Spring begins and her subject, the landscape, starts to bloom, we speak with impressionist artist Kamilla Valiyeva about her process, passion for portraiture and the idyllic French pastime of painting en plein air
Tell us about your work
My art could be described as drawing on realism, but with an impressionist style. My favourite subjects are faces and flowers, because they are ‘alive’ and expressive. I like to capture the character of a subject, find the colour combinations that make it unique and its individual forms.
What is your painting process like?
I like to get together with fellow artists and friends in the studio, where we work on still lifes and other compositions. For portraits, we invite models or friends, and sometimes dress them in historical costumes. We also spend time en plein air (the great outdoors) to paint landscapes.
Tell us about your journey to become an artist
I started to draw quite early on in my childhood. When I was eight, I attended art classes in Baku and was keen to continue my art education. But when the time came, I changed my mind and decided to apply to Azerbaijan State Medical University. I have a diploma in medicine, but I’ve never actually had the chance to practice it, because after I graduated, I ended up working at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) for eight years.
Of course, I never let go of my dream of being an artist, and the opportunity eventually came when my family moved to Moscow. I had quit my job at the IFRC and, at the time, my husband was working and I was taking care of our children. It was then that I met my first professional teacher, the very talented Russian painter Alexander Ivanovitch Verstov. He was my private tutor for five years. After that I applied to the Moscow State Academic Art Institute. There, I took a three year course and graduated with a diploma in painting.
And now you share a studio in Moscow?
Yes, at the moment I share a studio with other artists in the historical Moscow Painters House, located on Verkhnyaya Maslovka Street. In the past, it has supported a great number of famous Russian painters, such as the late greats Igor Emmanuilovitch Grabar, Alexander Alexandrovitch Deyneka, Arcady Alexandrovitch Plastov and Yuri Ivanovitch Pimenov. The construction of Moscow Painters House was initiated in 1920 by the painter, historian, poet and art restorer Igor Emmanuilovitch Grabar. During the Soviet era the government supported the building of the project and allowed artists to live there and create work free of charge. Today, one building still serves this same purpose, and it is here that members of the Moscow Artists Union have access to free studios.
What are your methods and materials?
I’m what I call ‘bi-technical’: I work with oil on canvas as well as pastels and paper. I am extremely comfortable with both techniques and use them not only to express colours but to maximize their nuances in order to reflect on what I see and feel.
Where do you get your inspiration?
I like to paint portraits and can find something interesting in any face I see. In every piece, I combine a model’s features with my (the artist’s) perception and own preconceptions and impressions. This is why I think portraiture is the most difficult form of painting an artist can do. You are not simply reflecting a face, you are creating it. I also like to paint en plein air and work on landscapes. More often than not, unusual places, fresh air and nature can work as the best tool for inspiration.
Where have you exhibited in the world?
I’ve taken part in two group exhibitions in Russia – the first in late 2016 in the town of Gorokhovets in the Vladymirskaya Oblast region, east of Moscow. It was called The Gorokhovets Plein Airs and was supported by the Russian Art Academy, among others. It was devoted to the town’s 850th year anniversary and brought together the works of 20 artists, including me.
The second exhibition was held at the Serbian Embassy in Moscow in February of this year. Entitled Serbia on the Palettes of Russian Artists, it was devoted to 180 years of Russian-Serbian diplomatic relations and featured the works of 11 artists.
Later this year my colleagues and I are planning another exhibition in Moscow around the theme of landscapes and still lifes.
Tell us about what projects you will be working on this year…
More landscapes, flowers and all that spring can bring me. I also plan to stay in Baku for a couple of weeks and paint some cityscapes. Next year, I am planning to visit more interesting countries to paint vistas. While my next exhibition is planned for Moscow, I am currently investigating opportunities in Baku.
Have you collaborated with any other artists?
There are four Russian painters that I collaborate with. Usually, we organize trips and plan exhibitions together. As we share a studio and regularly paint together. Everyone works in their individual manner and colour palette but we still influence each other by giving advice and reviewing finished pieces. I find our collaboration useful, interesting and motivating due to an element of healthy competition between us.
Who are your favourite living artists?
These would have to include Russian artists Alexander Verstov, Sergey Aldushkin, Bato Dugarjapov and Sergei Kurbatov, as well as Russian/Azerbaijani Tahir Salakhov (who has an amazing house-museum in Baku) and Azerbaijani painters Sakit Mammadov and Mahmud Mahmudzadeh, as well as American painter John Salminen.
Then there is Alexander Ivanovitch Verstov, my first professional teacher, as mentioned earlier. Before starting our lessons, I was amazed by his impressionist paintings. He has an authentic and individual sense of colour which he brings to life via his characteristic brush strokes, both in oil and pastels. A bit melancholically oriented in vision, he would always add a part of himself to his paintings. Verstov’s work looks towards innovation yet at the same time has a classical approach, taking shapes and perspective into consideration.
Images courtesy of the artist