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Alumna Artist Creates Installation for Catz Ball

Svetlana Grishina (2008, Fine Art) is a contemporary artist whose work has been exhibited all over Europe and explores themes such as eternity and temporality. She returned to St Catz in February to display her piece Beyond the Stage at Catz Ball, held in celebration of our 150th anniversary. We caught up with Svetlana to hear about her career and the work that has brought her back to the College.

What was it about displaying your work at Catz Ball that appealed to you?

There were several factors that coincided and drew me to the idea. The theme of the ball really resonated with me; 150 years is quite a jubilee and I wouldn’t want to miss that. I am also on a personal journey trying to trace the origins of my life in art. Before making the installation for Catz Ball, I went back to my sixth-form college and did a guest lecture there. It is a part of the process of trying to reflect on my practice and make sense of it. What are the origins of my practice? How did I end up where I am now?

For the ball, I made an installation of 150 stone roses. Their poetic name, which I stole from some alchemical text or other, is Ineffable Flowers of Diverse Effect. They don’t wither of course, because they are beyond temporality. They are immortal flowers so I think it fitted the ball perfectly.

Do you have any highlights of your time in the art world?

The art world is my everyday life and it’s a rather strange space to be in. All the boundaries are much more blurred in the art world – there is no boundary between work and life and there aren’t any specific regulations that all of the institutions or all of the curators follow. I suppose it is always a highlight when I get an idea that’s different from anything I have done before. I really enjoyed making cubes out of soil and cement for a show at the State Darwin Museum in Moscow and growing a real apple tree from a ladder. These were very experimental projects and I really enjoyed working on them.

Reflecting on your time at Catz, how do you think it prepared you for your career?

Catz is a bit of a modernist island in the strange Harry Potter Disneyland that is Oxford. I think that is interesting in itself and I always liked that. I’m in a similar position as an artist – the art bubble is this strange hyperreal Disneyland but luckily my actual bedroom isn’t positioned right in the middle of it.

I don’t think I made the most of my time at Catz and I do regret that. It was a great experience and I met some wonderful people here, but I wasn’t as involved as I could have been. I would advise the current students to be more proactive while here at Catz and to start as many initiatives as they can –it doesn’t even matter that much whether they are short-lived or not. I think it is a great place to build things together.

What are your plans for the future?

My next project is taking me to Paris – more specifically, to the Parisian Catacombs. I want to make a site-specific work in response to the 2014 film As Above, So Below (which is about the search for the philosopher’s stone). For me it will be a definitive statement on the unconscious and the dead. It is as grim as it sounds and to be honest I can’t wait to move on to something more assuring.

I feel like 2019 will be a year of solo shows for me. I’ve spent the last three years doing mainly group shows, but I now feel ready to ‘utter complete sentences’ with my art. I have already started negotiating with several spaces, both in London and in Moscow. No details have been finalised yet, but I am very excited to move on to actual wholesome exhibitions. And I am very happy to come back to Catz before I do move on!

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