February 12, 2018

In the studio with Vera Kochubey

Article submitted to the Polaroid Originals Magazine by Jane Fayle. Featured Photo by Jessica Polar. 

Vera Kochubey is a Russian artist living in Berlin. Her otherworldly graphic artworks seek to combine her backgrounds in art and psychology to create an original vision imbued with a new kind of spirituality. Surrounded by endless canvases of her monochromatic creations we discussed how the energy of the city continues to inspire her work, and how she believes there’s still more wisdom to be found in books than even the most carefully curated of Instagram feeds.

Photo: Jessica Polar

You were born in Moscow and moved to Berlin in 2011, what brought you to Berlin?

I am a free spirit. Identities like that are not welcome in the Russian political and social environment. I would never be able to express myself and evolve as an artist in Russia – so I moved to Berlin because it is a perfect playground for an artist.

Bringing it back to the beginning, how did you get started and what drew you to the world of art?

I spent a lot of time in my childhood hanging out at my grandfather’s atelier, he was a self-taught painter and I loved to play with all his tools. He introduced me to painting when I was very little, around 2 or 3 years old and I’ve loved the magic behind brushes and colors ever since.

Your works involve painting as well as performance and there is a strong spirituality that comes through in your performances. Can you tell us a little more about the creative process involved in both aspects?

In my performances, I combine different mediums to create something like a glimpse into another world, into a futuristic spiritual cult, or temple: live electronic or techno music, candles, incense, costumes, paint. I believe by my performative shamanic rituals I transform the physical space, the energy in it and the people’s perspective. It’s a purifying and mystical experience. Spirituality is one of the main subjects of my artistic practice as I believe that I am a spiritual being, who is going through a human experience on this planet. One that lives independently from religious and cultural perceptions, and instead takes cues from a hidden inner-self. I am an alien coming to save the earth from ignorance through my art!

Photo: Jessica Polar
Photo: Jessica Polar

A monochrome color palette sets the tone for your bold works, but there’s often splashes of bright colors thrown into the mix, does this add a particular meaning/message to the work?

Following the Russian avant-garde movement – and in particular, the ideas of Suprematism – I believe that the idea is superior to form. The essence of my painting is to bring out the message without too much destruction. I only use color to intensify the idea, for example when the painting is about ecstasy, madness or joy. My work talks about a self that becomes an element of connection through art with the universe, through self-knowledge.

You’ve also studied psychoanalysis and cultural studies, how do you feel this plays a role in your art?

My canvases are invaded by interrogative texts or statements about the concepts of transgender, feminism, gay and lesbian orientation or asexual or sexually ambiguous stylized characters. I believe that academic research gives a solid background for my creative vision and concepts, it’s a fundamental layer in all of my works, an internal well of inspiration. I have spent around 16 years of my life reading books and it makes me really sad how my own generation and those who are younger are misled and educated by Tumblr blogs or Instagram posts these days.

Photo: Jessica Polar

What is it about Berlin that inspires you and what is it about the city that influences your work?

Berlin is very brutal, very industrial and very minimalist – it’s a very hard city I think. It’s very mysterious and heavy in terms of dark energies, but I feel really comfortable here and I feel that my art has been incubated and nurtured in the city’s hardcore womb. And especially in Berghain club. It’s all born there.

Your work is unique and fearless, how do you keep up your originality?

Thank you! My work comes directly from my free spirit and my heart, but primarily it is a direct manifestation of my inner world. I am channeling something from the universe inside of myself. It has always been more interesting for me to hang out in my own head rather than hang out with other people. You might think that my art is a form of escape or coping mechanism, but actually, it’s more real for me than the 3D world around me that I seem to “escape”. And, I really believe that my paintings are like messages from above, from another realm. It’s a never-ending mystical experience.

What do you like to get up to when you’re not making art?

When I am not making art I am mostly looking for inspiration everywhere around me and I feel so blessed when I meet extraordinary individuals that give my heart a sparkle.

Can you tell us about what you’ve got planned so far for this year?

There will be my immersive solo show, where I will be showing all the paintings that I worked on during last year, as well as an art film, sound installations and of course more performances and public art!

Photo: Jessica Polar

Follow Vera’s creative process and find out about her upcoming shows on www.verakochubey.com.