This July’s Artist Spotlight features Elena Kourenkova, a recurring favourite in McTear’s Scottish Contemporary Art Auctions. Known for working in a variety of distinct styles, with captivating artworks and charming titles, Kourenkova’s paintings tend to bring joy and glee to any wall they are hung upon. Pictures Specialist Makenzie Cool sat down with Elena to interview her about her inspirations and life beyond her art.
Q: When did you start painting? Or did you start with another artform first?
Kourenkova: I’ve been drawing since I learnt to hold a pencil, painting wasn’t my thing until university where I studied architecture
Q: When did you start to develop your distinct style?
Kourenkova : It was quite simplistic it the beginning, accent was always on subjects and faces- expressions, and not so much surrounding, gradually the details became part of the concept, and now its not just the face that tells a story, but the whole setting including the title.
Q: Who were or are your artistic influences?
Kourenkova: I consciously avoid having any influences. Nothing can be authentic and original if it is ,in essence, a digested version of someone else’s self-expression. It only of any worth when it comes from within, and this can not be borrowed from someone else.
Q: What is your favourite dessert?
Kourenkova: Caviar (sight)
Q: What is your favourite beverage?
Kourenkova: Red wine
Q: Where is your favourite place in Scotland?
KourenkovaL Kyle of Lochalsh
Q: Is there a medium that you have not yet worked with, but would like to try?
Kourenkova: I’ve tried sculpture as part of architecture studies, watercolours, calligraphy, ink, murals, mosaics. But happy with oils. Definitely no plans to embark into digital.
Q:What are other interests you hold outside of painting?
Kourenkova: Some 7 years ago (as part of my growing up process) I’ve discovered rock-n-roll. Yep. Natural progression took me further and further back into bygone days and culture of the 30s and 40s, the styles, fashions, music. Now it is 40s rhythm and blues, 30s early swing,balboa,and rockabilly.
Q: Are you into fashion? If not, what is your favourite item of clothing?
Kourenkova: I don’t follow trends. 80s was the last one, back in the 80s. And now its the opposite of current fashion- my everyday style is either 40s Rosie the riveter- dungarees and headscarf, or super high waist wide leg trousers with braces and a hat. Always a hat. De rigueur.
Q: What is one painting by someone else (well known or not) that you wish you had done?
Kourenkova: Any by Lempicka
Q: What is your favourite painting you have done yourself? Did you keep it for yourself, sell it, was it a commission etc?
Kourenkova: It was the most unusual commission, an artdeco scene on a blind that was to be a screen for a TV within an artdeco frame. When TV is not in use, the blind would cover it and become an artobject itself. I think it was my best work, the most out of character for me . But nothing I love more than getting out of my comfort zone.
Another was used in BBC drama Guilt, it is of a saxman, it is on my wall and it ain’t going nowhere from there.
Q: What is your favourite holiday
Kourenkova: It is on the beach. Quiet, isolated even. I don’t like crowds and noisy places.
Q: If you could choose someone to play you in a film, who would you choose?
Kourenkova: Ingrid Bergman
Q: What are you the proudest of in life/what is your biggest accomplishment?
Kourenkova: Whatever it was, important might be at the time, but time passes and all becomes just stepping stones. Big or small, depends on a standpoint, but I did it my way and without anybody’s help. I’m proud of that.
Q: Who is your favourite artist?
Kourenkova: Tamara Lempicka
Q: If you didn’t paint, what would you want your career to be?
Q: How much did you sell your first picture for?
Kourenkova: £180, in 1999
Q: Are your figures based on/inspired by someone specific, or are they made up?
Kourenkova: They are all based on own experiences and sometimes observations. Someone said that you can tell what’s going on in my life at any moment just by looking at my work. I didn’t even realise that myself. But it is all there, I can’t help it. They are all me and people I hold dear.
Q: Tea or coffee?
Kourenkova: Coffee. Or tea. I used to be indecisive but now I’m not sure.
Q: If you could choose to meet any artist or person from history, who would you choose?
Kourenkova: There is only one .Tamara Lempicka
Q: What is your favourite book?
Kourenkova: Eric Maria Remarque- All Quiet on the Western Front, Three Comrades, Arch of Triumph.
Q: Do you have any pets?
Kourenkova: No, but I’ve been adopted by a neighbour’s cat about a year ago. It is here now, sleeping.. The cat, not the neighbour.
Q: What is your favourite time of the day?
Kourenkova: First thing in the morning, quet, with coffee in the garden. I dont turn phone on until after, and it’s prob the only time in the day when I’m doing nothing but listening to birds.
Q: What are three things you cannot live without?
Kourenkova: Cheese, grapes and broccoli. And dancing.
Q: What are you currently reading?
Kourenkova: Harper Lee, Go set a watchman
Q: Do you speak any languages besides English?
Q: Favourite sports team?
Q: If you could only paint one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Kourenkova: I couldn’t. I would get bored I’d give up. I do different styles-figurative, architecturals, art deco, mid-century, even florals for the first time, and they are all different, to keep it fresh and not same old same old.. each one is a new beginning, and I don’t even know what it is going to be. That’s part of the creative process when you don’t know where the road will take you . Even grass doesn’t grow on a pass well travelled.
Q: Do you collect anything?
Kourenkova: Not specifically in a traditional sense, I hate clutter and stuff that has no purpose. Cluttered space = Cluttered mind. But anything art deco and mid-century that has functionality-I’m in.
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