we have been big admirers of the work of Brooklyn based artist, Sofya Levina for some time now. her strong visual language takes form in many mediums. from animation, painting, embroidery and sculpture Sofya creates a world all her own. we had the pleasure of asking Sofya some questions and learning more about her journey as an artist. a fascinating lady indeed! follow Sofya's instagram to see more of her work and enjoy the interview below.
can you tell us where you are from and how you began your journey as an artist?
I was born and raised in a city called Yekaterinburg on the Asian side of Russia near Kazakhstan. When I was 6 I moved to Kiev in the Ukraine, and then moved to Vermont with my family when I was in middle school. I've always really admired artists, musicians, dancers etc. and drawn little doodles and stuff, but it wasn't until about 2 years ago that I actually had the confidence to start seriously working on my own things. I guess I always felt compelled to express myself in some artistic way, and once I really started focusing and challenging myself I couldn't stop.
we love the visual language that you have established can you speak about some of the mediums you use and your inspirations? i love you that you do collage, animation, painting and embroidery!
Thank you! It definitely did not all come to me at once. Each medium has brought me to the next. Originally, when I decided to started making things I would only draw in Photoshop with an animation pad because I thought I was only going to be animating, and didn't think I was good enough at drawing to actually go out and buy art materials. But I practiced a lot and eventually got over myself and started doodling every day, and then that brought me to painting. That really opened me up to use of color, brush stroke detail, layering. Basically all the things I was doing in Photoshop, just not on the computer. That made me realize that I actually really disliked making things digitally and from that point on I've just been exploring with physical mediums. After painting, animating, and collaging came sculpting, and it's only very recently I started working with fabric and embroidery. Not really sure what drove me to start doing that exactly, but after I started, I learned that my great grandmother was an amazing seamstress who survived alone with her children just sewing for people in a very harsh social climate. She taught my grandmother to sew, who taught my mom, who taught me. It just feels really good to channel my female ancestry like that. I was even fortunate enough to have my mom hand down some embroideries from my great grandmother to me, and I look at them every day and just try to get to her level of skill and precision. I love to imagine what she thought about while she was sewing because the process is a meditation. Russian art and culture are also a huge inspiration to me, especially now that I'm older and can appreciate my birthplace. Also I think that's the reason I use red a lot subconsciously. Other than that, I would say my greatest inspirations are music and nature and just all the things we've been given on this Earth. I'm trying to disconnect myself more and more from the synthetic loops I've been stuck in, and just trying to remember that nothing man made can ever match the beauty and the versatility of the gifts of the Earth, and as a natural part of this planet, I really don't need anything else to inspire me. Of course, I am also inspired by other artists, but at the end of the day I try not to pay too much attention to the work of others because for me successful art comes from the dissociation from the known, and I just try to work slowly towards that every day.
what has been your experience being an abstract woman artist? (if you consider yourself that) what does abstraction mean to you?
I don't know if I would call myself an abstract artist because I really don't think I've honed in on a stylistic idea yet. Like, recently I read this short book Dali made with his friend Philippe Halsman called "Dali's Mustache" and it made me realize that yes, these artist were "surreal" but they didn't become like that because of the way they painted or took photos, they made things that way because that's who they were. The person comes before the art and I don't think I've found myself so concretely yet to say what group I belong to. Abstraction doesn't really mean very much to me anymore just because it sometimes just feels like a synonym people use to say random, or open to interpretation. But you can literally say that about anything that's every been made by someone who considers him/herself an artist. Just the odds that you would be alive to make something in that moment are infinitely small, not to mention that you would make choices to create what it is that you are making. It's a culmination of mindset, time, place, choice, and aesthetic and I think those concepts I try to think about when creating are abstract but not the finished work itself.
you have collaborated with musicians such as pink siifu + yung morph what is your relationship with music and how does music influence your visual art?
Music is my very first love. Since I was born probably. My mom is a piano teacher and back in Russia my dad has a huge record collection so I probably got all of that from them. In my loneliest moments before I had art or anything like that to help me through, I would turn to music religiously and still do. I've been incredibly fortunate to meet people who share my musical tastes and then take it one step further and make the music I like to listen to. It's seriously a blessing and without that I really don't know where I would be today. Working with contemporary musicians who inspire me, I really couldn't ask for anything better. They set my mind right with their work. Music gave me the rhythm to make art and without that I know wouldn't be making anything today.
All images by Sofya Levina.
Interview by Tamara Renée Davidson