Mixed Media Artist Viktoryia Shydlouskaya Masters Her Instincts

Viktoryia Shydlouskaya was born in 1992 in Minsk, Belarus, and currently lives in Rotterdam, Netherlands. Shydlouskaya is a contemporary artist whose practice depicts themes of non-verbal communication and desire conveyed by one’s body language. Her gestural figurations represent the sensual information one expresses when aroused by a particular feeling or movement, a core and primal element to the human condition.

Photo courtesy of Albert Dijk.

Q&A with
Viktoryia
Shydlouskaya

A Women’s Thing and AucArt’s exhibition is titled “Stretching Arms,” which asks the viewer, how do we transcend solitude? In the midst of this global pandemic, many of us are immobilized by our emotions and isolation. This exhibition highlights artists that structure their work with self-compassion and reflection, which provides empathy for others and establishes a community that endures any separation. How does your art practice transcend solitude, especially during this time?

Viktoryia Shydlouskaya: It is a unique time indeed that we will be all reflecting on for a long time. I have to admit, for me not much changed during this period. Art always has been a combination of isolation and conversation-hunting for me. In the actual process in the studio, there isn’t space for a viewer, isn’t space for advice even, to be honest. Solitude and separation always have been a source of energy for me. But I have to come back to “people.” Conversation and socializing give me a chance to understand my subject and my role in it. Since the lockdown started, I’ve been in full-time process mode. Fully concentrated, I experienced quiet, comfortable times. Maybe because I have an idea in the back of my mind that this pandemic is a temporary matter. The world has stopped, and I don’t have to follow it, so I finally have time to catch up with myself. I see this as a renaissance for my creative energy.

I have to admit, for me not much changed during this period. Art always has been a combination of isolation and conversation-hunting for me. In the actual process in the studio, there isn’t space for a viewer, isn’t space for advice even, to be honest. Solitude and separation always have been a source of energy for me. But I have to come back to “people.” Conversation and socializing give me a chance to understand my subject and my role in it.

Scale seems to be a driving force in the size and composition of your works. Why do you make works that are lifesize or sometimes even monumental in scale?

VS: Scale and size of my canvases are the result of searching for the right visual resonance with my subject matter for the viewer. Visual information about the human body is very recognizable and acute to us. There is a thin line between identification with it or illustrative recognition. Lifesize or monumental scales of human forms build my subject matter’s identity for the viewer. 

Very early in my practice I have learned that the image of a human is unique to a viewer’s relation to art. And as I aim to construct experience over the illustration or depiction, I use the scale of my artwork in the close range of its real proportion of humans. Or I exaggerate it for a dominant impact.  

What is your relationship to Francis Bacon’s work and how he depicts space and figures?

VS: My depiction of space and figures reasonably refer to Bacon and many other artists that I feel connected to. But what I specifically can relate to – is the approach Francis Bacon had toward his progress. For me, he is an example of an artist who developed his instincts to the maximum. An artist, who investigates himself through people, and translates this knowledge into art. Of course my first attention towards Bacon comes through the subject matter of the human body and its manifestation. His work, for me, is an embodied solution of human investigation in unique visual form. Extremely appealing to be a part of and I don’t deny it. However, once I learned more about his life and his way of working, I figured out that the process of his development is what I can mostly relate to.

What is your advice to other artists that want to work on large scale projects? Do you consider your artworks drawings or paintings?

VS: If we talk about large scale paintings or series of them and if one got to the thought of bringing the format to a larger scale, one probably has a reason or necessity for it. Then it is just a question of organizing yourself and making it happen.

I would consider my work mixed media. It has both graphic quality and painting nature. With my current, more recent work it gets even more ambiguous. I believe it has something to do with my urge to control the image and ambition to master my instincts.

You have a separate Instagram account, @internaltraitor, for your portraits. How are they a separate practice from your larger artworks depicting several bodies?

VS: There is indeed two more pages of mine: @internaltraitor and @viktoryia_lab

It is what I have to do – separate my creative subjects, so I can see the state of it in an honest way. I am a cross-media person, and I had a long term struggle to get to the understanding that one thing does not have to exclude another. Everyone tells you this, but it is not clear before you really make peace with it yourself. I noticed how much more efficient I am in my development since I give each side of my practice a different priority and expectation.

Portraiture (@internaltraitor) is an independent study throughout all my art education and practice. It is a very goal-oriented practice. I continue with it, in a less frequent way and see it as a depiction and visualization of personality. This is strongly the opposite of what I am developing in the body of work in my monumental canvases.

Lab (@viktoryia_lab)  is a page of my graphic design practice. I have two bachelor’s degrees in Graphic Design. I attended the College of Art in Minsk, which is my homeland, and another college at the KABK in The Hague, in the Netherlands where I am based now.  

Could you share more about the process and references in making Figure Study N4?

VS: Figure Study N4 is a result of layering and overlapping figure shapes and building a body of work that can project the comfortless feeling of exposure and lack of confidence.  Figure Study N4 was a part of a series of studies where I was not afraid to be illustrative in the choice of body gestures and its figurative nature.

The reference for this work has become a collected series of imagery. I never work initially from a model and do not artificially dictate a human volume. My references are always collected in a series of observations, collected images, and my sketches, that eventually build up into a specific subject. 

How were you introduced to the AucArt platform? What are your positive experiences from working with AucArt?

VS: I was invited to take part in the auction theme-exhibition “Embodied” in February 2020. I believe the team found my work via Instagram. It was my first experience with an online platform for exhibiting and selling art, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Once one of my works was sold, the communication about shipping and delivery was very professional and well organized. The team of AucArt is always in contact and reachable 24/7, very understanding, and hard working.

Figure study N1 Viktoryia Shydlouskaya
Figure study N1
Viktoryia Shydlouskaya
Dry pigment & binder on canvas,
200 × 120 cm (79 × 47 in), 2019.

£6,800
Heavy spot Viktoryia Shydlouskaya
Heavy spot
Viktoryia Shydlouskaya
Soft pastel, dry pigment & binder on paper,
21 × 30 cm (8 × 12 in), 2019.

£800

Figure Stydy N2
Viktoryia Shydlouskaya
Softpastel, dry pigment and binder on canvas, 200 × 160 × 2 cm (79 × 63 × 0.8 in), 2019.

Sold
Figure study N4
Viktoryia Shydlouskaya
Dry pigment & binder on canvas, 160 × 120 cm (63 × 47 in), 2019.

£5,000