Two Different Cultures as One Decorative Melody: interview with Tashkent painter, Marie Korovina5 min read

 In Central Asia, Culture, Interview
Marie Korovina is a painter from Tashkent, Uzbekistan. She studied at The Republican Art Studio of Frumgartz in the late 1990s and graduated from the State Goethe Institute with a Contemporary Art diploma in 2015. Since then, she’s worked as a journalist for News of Uzbekistan and ZOOM Central Asia magazine. Prior to quarantine, she was based in Rome, Italy but has returned to her hometown of Tashkent. 

Korovina draws from both Eastern and Western influences in her art. Many of her paintings evoke fantastical stories of the Silk Road and are mythical in nature. Her usual approach to interpreting events in her life led her to be an exceptionally expressive artist. Katherine Leung sat down with Marie to talk about her art practice and her latest paintings.

Like the nomads that come before, you’ve “traveled on caravan roads to experience thousands of sunrises and thousands of worlds.” Can you talk about the role travel plays in your art practice? 

I paint majestic imagery and tell magical stories in my paintings. I buy plane tickets and take my paintings with me to exhibitions in other countries. When I come home, I put art materials in my suitcase: unusual brushes, gold paints, and gifts for friends. I consider all of these things “art supplies” because they all help me create.

The further I get from Uzbekistan, the more unusual and unfamiliar the land is. Outside of Central Asia, very few people know about Uzbekistan. Foreigners typically think I’m from Kazakhstan or Afghanistan when they ask about my origins. Of course, these Central Asian countries are similar to my homeland of Uzbekistan in their multicolored skies, which I draw a lot of inspiration from in my artwork. 

Central Asian nations are also united by their old soul with traditional core values. I consider it a moral duty to introduce people to the beauty of Uzbek culture when I travel. That motivates me to continue creating so that I can spread Uzbek culture through my works in exhibitions abroad.

You say “the trade routes of the Silk Road are not lost” in your work. Can you explain how this concept plays out in your art?

While traveling, you realize that life resembles a flickering mosaic of patterns, forming a beautiful picture. Life is merely a collection of experiences. You meet new interesting and creative people and it feels like you have grown crystal wings. You might come across an idea of ​​how you can mix Eastern meditation and Western coolness. For me, the concept of the “Silk Road” is not only a trade route, but above all, a symbol of the exchange found in works of art. My art is a reflection of what this Silk Road embodied. That road, or path, rather, is like a common cosmic sky in which two different cultures become one decorative melody.

How does Islamic faith play into your identity as an artist?

For me, Islamic art can be both a strict logical world, adhering to geometric attributes, but also provide insight into the sensual world of the heart, in the same way, contemporary illustrations and modern Muslim art convey the feeling. These two directions are the magic code I’m trying to decipher in my art. 

I think asking about my faith in the traditional sense is the wrong approach. Islamic faith is part of the culture of Uzbekistan. It is ingrained in the country. Islamic art has always provided a palette for my work and provided a type of guide, that’s why I work with those elements and they’ve always welcomed me. Through Islam, I can search deep within myself to reveal the secrets and wisdom of my art. I try to convey the feelings and signs that come to me through my paintings.

What are some of your favorite folk tales that you’ve illustrated in your work? 

There is an old philosophy that the past, present, and future are at one point and are different facets of the same object. Therefore, memories and prophecies are intertwined. Looking into them can provide limitless possibilities.

When I sit at the dentist’s office or at my studio, play the guitar, or practice kung fu – images of the past appear to me, at least metaphysically. 

When this happens, it’s like I’m surrounded by the moon and stars, walking along the streets of Eastern cities, and emerald gardens of the Timurid era. I can see pictures of the past in my mind. I’ve been revealed to such beauty which makes me both moan in excitement and lose consciousness.

I try to convey these themes in my art. To me, giving life to such narratives is much more powerful than simply illustrating classic fairy tales. 

What else would you like to share with international audiences about contemporary art in Uzbekistan?

It’s really fortunate that the recurring themes in paintings by Uzbek artists don’t reference pop culture comics, computer games, or action films. Modern Uzbek art is not artificial in that way. Overall, the work of our artists typically does not interpret modern-day topics, but instead, acts as an original artistic sublimation of the heritage of past eras. This means that Uzbek art is highly self-sufficient. I’d say that Uzbek art typically does not obey the rules of the traditional definition of contemporary art.

You can follow Marie Korovina’s latest updates on her website.

The interview with Marie Korovina is part of Lossi 36’s new exhibition: Fables, Fairytales and Feminism – contemporary women artists making magic in Central Asia. Click on this link to visit the exhibition.

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