Veronica Sheynina, a native of Saint Petersburg, Russia, moved to Rome six years ago to pursue her journalism career, covering stories on culture, fashion and contemporary art. Without any formal training or solid artistic background, she decided to venture into painting, and surprised the art world with her intricately detailed and mesmerizing works. Today, we meet with Veronica to find out a little more about her immersion into the world of art.
Already well established in your journalism career, you dropped everything to pursue a new passion for painting, what sparked this transformation?
I was always fascinated by contemporary art, I loved going to exhibits and discovering new artists, but I never actually thought about creating any art myself. Then, one day something kind of bizarre happened: I fainted in the shower. It was an incredibly scary and vulnerable moment, but when I regained consciousness my first thought was, “I have to be an artist, I have to paint.” I know it’s a strange and odd reaction to have, but I was never more sure of anything in my life. So the next day I went to an art store to buy supplies, I had no idea what I was doing, I had never studied or practiced art before, so I just kind of picked some random paint brushes and canvases, and then went home and painted. In my opinion, my first painting was really ugly, and yet there was still something to it, a sense behind it.
What does fainting in the shower have to do with starting an art career?!
I agree that it is really a bizarre connection to make, but that’s how it happened! It just kind of clicked as soon as I recovered consciousness. I think maybe it was a subconscious compulsion that I’ve always had, and that the slightly traumatic event unlocked it from my brain for some reason. I just know that right after it happened, I was sure that’s what I wanted and needed to do. With no hesitations.
What is the goal of your art? Is it for personal satisfaction or public recognition?
I started out just doing it for myself, as a personal experiment. Then I showed it to an art gallery curator, Umberto Scrocca, who was immediately interested in my work. He told me, “I absolutely must exhibit your art!” He organizes exhibitions for various artists, the event is called Electronic Art Café, they are these very bohemian, open-minded gatherings where artists can exhibit their work. In December of last year I participated in my first collective show. Last May I had my first solo exhibition, and I sold three paintings.
I don’t like to keep my paintings hidden inside my home, I like for them to be out in the world, to be shared with the public.
Describe your artistic process. Do you start painting with a subject in mind? What sparks these vivid and sometimes almost sexual images?
When I begin painting it’s all very surreal, it all begins with a vague emotion, not a specific idea. It’s all feelings: when I suffer, am sad, or going through a difficult period, that comes out on the canvas. I have a painting titled “Pain.” It looks like a bunch of penises covering the canvas, but that’s not what I meant for them to be, it simply came out that way. One night I was going through a tough time, because a person had made me feel truly terrible, so I opened a bottle of wine, started blasting some music (90’s rap, by the way, I don’t know why, but that evening it somehow fit my mood perfectly.) and I just started massacring my canvas with the paint. It was a almost a transgression, throwing colors around, attacking the canvas with my paint brush. I work from home, so the next day I had a lot of cleaning up to do, but it was an emotional release, I had spent the night venting my feelings onto this work of art.
So would you say that your positive or negative experiences have the strongest impact on your art?
Definitely my negative experiences. Any type of suffering has contributed greatly to my work. The important thing is to not hide your insecurities or your fears, to act like they don’t exist. I don’t like to use pretty little pastel colors and happy, smiley images, one must show the world your fragility, the effect your experiences have on you.
On one hand I can almost thank the people that have hurt me the most, because I managed to turn that pain into art, into self-discovery.
What’s the worse thing about being an artist, about working within the art community?
You have to have the courage to expose yourself, to be open to judgment from others. Lots of people don’t appreciate your art, they talk negatively about you and claim that you’re not a true, professional artist. But I don’t mind criticism, it helps you grow. You can’t stay remain hidden in your home, with your art, studying other people’s work in order to hopefully become better. You have to live your art, out in the world, sharing it with people, accepting both the good and the bad reactions.
Created from the nerves.
How is life in Rome? Do you feel the need to act serious in your profession, or do you like to have a good time in the Eternal City?
I love to have a good time. One thing I refuse to give up is a glamorous and fun lifestyle. I like to go out and go to parties and events. It’s kind of a cliché that I don’t agree with: the artist that is intelligent but unattractive and solitary. Just because someone goes out and parties doesn’t mean that they are stupid and lack depth. You can live a social and exciting life and still be introspective and curious about what surrounds you. Plus, Rome offers the best of both worlds. There are great places to go dancing and to live the nightlife, and there are also wonderful, quiet locations that stimulate one’s artistic side. If you explore the tiny streets and hidden piazzas, you find small museums and beautiful unknown churches that most of the public doesn’t know about. These secret places are often empty, I love to explore them, they spark my creativity in new and fantastic ways.