In the Studio with Al Petelin

In the studio with Al Petelin, whose works whose works surround themes of grandeur, paradox, beauty and balance. We met with Al to tell us more about his practice, his greatest influences, and growing up in Southern Russia.

When did you first begin to see yourself as an artist?

I never intended and planned, or wanted to become an artist. It happened naturally. I don’t even remember at what point it happened so that I could call myself an artist. It seems to have always been so.

Where are you from, and what was your upbringing like?

I am from Southern Russia. I am happy with the upbringing I received. My parents did a good job of giving me awareness and freedom. As my parents are directly connected to the cultures of different countries, somehow I have always been surrounded and influenced by rich cultural knowledge.

Paint us a picture of your artistic journey.

My path has been much like an improvised butterfly dance in a drunken flight of all sorts of feelings, sensations and events in the beautiful haze of jazz sound. I am self-taught but took several classes in academic drawing. I left sooner rather than later because of differences in views, which led to a lack of understanding in me. But this is even better! I often like misunderstandings about me.

What’s the message of your work? How would you describe your aesthetic?

You know, I don’t like to talk about my work, all these deep thoughts with long words about meanings and ideas, tasks and messages are not for me. Or rather, I mean, translation into words is not for me. Each work, of course, has its own ideas that come from nowhere … I don’t know…This is all improvisation about beauty and many other things that have all the meanings and depths. My painting has everything you need, this is the main thing, without words and explanations that drive your understanding and view of it into its framework. Often many people are waiting for this and can’t look and see without it, and to explain it is torturing. All this is limiting. It only hurts. Sorry, but that’s my opinion and maybe the idea.

Where do they come from? How would you describe your aesthetic?

Oh! I don’t know! This happens by itself… it’s like a part of my being.

Who and what are your greatest influences?

I am not inspired by anything in the understanding of inspiration and greatest influences. I might like something or not… which can give me feelings but not influence.

Are your works planned? What do you want people to take from your work when they view it?

I don’t plan my work at all. I may not paint for several weeks, or I may paint every day for the entire week. What I want from the people… I really don’t know… Maybe just take a look at my art in real life, a few times or more, so that people take what they need! But I’m definitely not keeping people’s preferences in mind or focusing on them… I definitely don’t think about people when I paint, but rather my thoughts are about everything and nothing at the same time.

What events in your life have mobilised change in your practise/aesthetic?

Initially I was interested in something subconscious and I worked with it. Free associations, surrealism, abstraction are all the things that I started with, the inner understanding that this is not quite my own but then my preferences gradually changed in their variety and at some point I became interested in some other form of the language of painting and style that gradually developed into what I do now. I keep on experimenting with forms variations, and improvisations of the subconscious. …

What are your ideal conditions or catalyst for creating a “good” piece of work?

I like coffee and listening to jazz and smoking hand-rolled cigarettes.

What are your goals for the future? 

I keep it on the down-low.

How have you been staying creative during the pandemic ?

Without any problems.


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