Remixing the environment, sculpting with the landscape and drawing with mountains: the polyhedric work of Anastasia Savinova

TWS –Hello Anastasia, can you please tell us something you’d like us to know about yourself? 

AS –I was born near the Ural Mountains, and currently I’m living and working in the Swedish North. My background is in architecture, and one of my first art projects Genius Loci is largely informed by the architectural settings and the spirit of the place. In recent years my focus has shifted toward ecologies, explorations of the connection and boundaries between human and the environment. I investigate how everything is intertwined in co-living and in exchange of energy and physical matter with proximate and distant other; and how we are always emerging as a part of something greater. My practice is not specific to any discipline. I work with drawing, sculpture, photography, collage, text, video, found object, installation and performance. 

TWS –What is art for you? Why do you need to make art? 

AS –Art is the path, the way of living life. I often think of art practice as something shamanic. Artists travel between the different realities, often working with the unknown. There is something raw and primal in the energy of art making. This is an essential, life-sustaining energy. 

TWS –Many of your series are based on the images that you captured traveling to places. What’s the role of experience in your work? 

AS –The direct experience of the place is very important to my work. The presence and being with the place is a crucial part. I believe that this is the only possible way for me to be able to tell a true story about the place. The journey always shifts the perspective. In walking and being still, sitting on a bench or on a stone, in observing – I can get to know the world and more understanding about my presence in this world. 

TWS –Your work relies a great deal on materials and your interaction with them. Can you tell us about the importance of materiality in your work? 

AS –I’m curious about the environment and its components. Often the material can give some direction to the work. I’m always careful when I choose my material, I think of the material as of a partner in the work. I’ve also realized I’m rather cautious with it comes to altering the material surface or decoration of it. I prefer working with material’s intrinsic properties. 

Anastasia Savinova, We swim in One Water

TWS –Solid, water, mountains. grass inform your work. in many ways. What is in nature that attracts you so much? 

AS –Art-making and the wilderness have very similar energies to me. Ancient, elemental, and procreative. In the nature it’s easier to get closer to the authentic self, to feel empowered yet humble, connected to the world and the flow of life. The nature is vast. In this vastness and greatness the human feels tiny and big at the same time, belonging to this greatness, being a part of it. 

TWS –I sense an existential struggle in your work, as if in each new project you’re trying to connect with deeper forces that make you aware of your existence and your being human and alive. Does it makes any sense? What do you feel that pushes you to work on the issues you’ve been dealing with in your work? 

AS –I don’t start form what I know but rather from what I would like to know or at least come closer to knowing. I’m always trying to keep sensitive to the environment and the new work can often be ignited by the settings I am in. 

When I go to the mountains I have an urge to explore the landscape, and why it is important for people to go there. When I have water around me I naturally start thinking and observing that. I keep working on some themes for a long time, trying to approach them from different angles. 

Anastasia Savinova, Landface, Lanndamannalaugar, Iceland
Anastasia Savinova, Mountain soul is always blue so are their dreams (video still)

TWS –Your artistic practice integrates diverse elements such as performance, drawings, photography, collage, video. What do you feel is your preferred way to work on your projects? Is there any? or is the mix that interests you the most? 

AS –I love and embrace whatever suits the current work. I’m thrilled to learn new things, try new materials. It’s always exciting in the beginning and then at some point I always have to face the resistance of the material, that is present in all the media. Everything has its exciting properties, and its challenges. So it keeps me stimulated. Also, it frees from long-term commitments to a particular way of making things, and gives more space for going into the unknown. It also gives freedom to be imperfect. You might not be a great dancer but you can still be a dancer in a performance. I often approach one theme with different materials and media, I think they have the fantastic ability to enrich each other. 

TWS –I find your approach to manipulating images very interesting. You “sculpt images from numerous pictures”? Why you chose to describe your work as image sculpting? Can you expand on this? 

AS –I often refer to sculpting when I work with the landscape images. I approach them as sculpting material: I can mentally touch them, saw them, distort, knead, melt, and merge with other images, until the whole thing takes the desired shape and makes sense. It’s also about the properties of the material I photograph – the soil, the stone, the ice – all of that can be sculpted. 

Anastasia Savinova, The Call of The Mountain Star. Tarfala

TWS – Genius Loci is the project that got me to discover your work, but also I feel is the least representative of your work. Can you tell me about this project and how do you feel it fits in your work? 

AS –Genius Loci started long ago, when I was a student of the architectural school. It was a personal way of preserving memory of my journeys. After a while it has grown to a large collection of visual archives of the visited places. At some point I started to be more interested in walks in the mountains over the walks in the cities, and it influenced my work, of course. But I still have very warm feelings to the Genius loci project. I still feel moved by new cities and villages I visit. I don’t produce intensively for this project anymore, but I think it will keep growing little by little as long as I travel. I collect images during my journeys, and then when I feel like going back to the visited place or when I feel stuck with other projects, I open my images and start building. It’s the work I’m very confident in, and it feels like a safe place. Even while Genius Loci is somewhat different from the rest of my work, I think it is connected to them. It laid base for many of other works, which are often based on exploring, observing, noticing, gathering, connecting parts, imagining and dreaming. 

TWS – This project also is the one where you work with collage in a more traditional way. I love how you do it, but I do find that collage informs your work conceptually in a deeper level even in projects that do not include image manipulation. How do you feel collage operates in your work? What you think it has added to your way of approaching your art? 

AS –I am a sort of alien-gatherer: of images, of memories, of places, of objects, of plants. The alien is trying to experience the world as it sees it for the first time. The gatherer picks up images and artefacts on the way. The findings are articulated and put together to build a new reality, which is a way to think and talk about the real world. Many of my sculptural pieces are collages too. In a single piece or when I install the pieces together, I think of the parts and the whole, which is always bigger than a sum of the elements. 

Anastasia Savinova, Genius Loci. Sideways Encounters. Somewhere in IS, a constant need to see the Ocean

TWS –Finally the only question we ask all the interviewees: What’s your own and personal definition of collage? 

AS –It’s a creature. 

Find more about Anastasia’s work on her website or her Instagram account.

Anastasia Savinova, Genius Loci. I. Reykjavik
Anastasia Savinova, Genius Loci Norr. Somewhere in the Swedish Lapland, where the scientists are watching the glaciers melt
Anastasia Savinova, Genius Loci. Sideways Encounters. Somewhere in IS, a sheep inspecting their hay
Anastasia Savinova, Genius Loci Norr. Roadless Encounters. Somewhere in Italian Alps where wild ibex squat mountain refuges
Anastasia Savinova, High Land Touch Map
Anastasia Savinova, High Land Touch Map
Anastasia Savinova, Landface. Þorlákshöfn, Island
Anastasia Savinova, We Swim in One Water
Anastasia Savinova, We Swim in One Water
Anastasia Savinova, We Swim in One Water
Anastasia Savinova, We Swim in One Water
Anastasia Savinova, We Swim in One Water (Instalation)