Meet the artist: Svetlana Tartakovska

In the section “Meet the artist” we portrait a talented artist who uses Old Holland colours.

Svetlana Tartakovska was born in Ukraine. She lives and works in The Netherlands and she graduated at the Klassieke Academie voor Beeldende Kunst (Classical Academy for Visual Arts) in Groningen. She also studied at The Art Academy in Florence and attented workshops at Sam Drukker. Svetlana is a painter of people ‘pur sang’ with a psychological depth. Her paintings are society-inspired and are about the fragileness of the human being.

When did you first start painting? Were you born with a paint palette in hand, or did your interest in art develop over time?

I was born in the small town of Berditchev, in Ukraine.  Painting and drawing have always been a passion of mine and my parents decided to send me to art school. I started there when I was 10 and it was quite tough, because we had to learn some very disciplined drawing techniques.  At the time, I just wanted to play and decide for myself what to paint, but afterwards I was grateful for it because everything I had learned at that school formed a basis that I would not find anywhere else.

Svetlana Tartakovska

Was there a moment when you decided to follow your path as an artist?

Unfortunately, I was unable to finish at the art school in what was then the Soviet Union, because my parents made the difficult decision to immigrate to Germany. Life in Ukraine became increasingly difficult and unpredictable and my parents wanted to give their daughters a better future and so they seized this opportunity. This is how I came to Frankfurt am Main at the age of 13, into a terrifying, big and strange world! We had to learn the language, culture and mentality all from scratch. At that moment, I realised how important art is to me. It became a safe haven where I could flee and unwind. I always had my drawing pad with me and painted as soon as I found something inside me to work on again. Besides my own drawings, I also made many copies of artists I admired at the time such as Klimt, Rembrandt and Boris Vallejo. I was very grateful for the strict training I received at the art school, because now I had the tools to hand to express my feelings. Art became my medicine, my therapy and refuge!

How can you describe your own style?

I would say that I paint figuratively. I was taught that art must be recognisable and everything must be worked out down to the last detail. This mentality is ingrained in me, but I want to be able to let it go. I love the power of suggestion and admire good Alla Prima artists. Over the course of time, I have noticed that my style has become less stiff and I opt to use a clear hierarchy in my work, letting go of unnecessary elements. I am, and remain, a Contemporary realist in search of the abstract.

Justice by Svetlana Tartakovska

Do you have a personal favourite piece? Can you think of a piece that was particularly fun to work on?

I enjoy every painting I do.  Every time it’s a challenge and the excitement of „can I grab that feeling and that emotion or not?!” Afterwards, of course, you end up with stronger or less strong works being created.  What I am proud of is „Melancholia”. Here, a woman is depicted with a glass of wine in her hand, looking at the light with an empty, numb look on her face.  Melancholy and doubt are well known subjects to an artist, they’re almost a safe haven, so I felt at home with this subject and I wanted to use everything I had to make this feeling as powerful as possible.  I love this model; her face and hands and the colour of her skin is enchanting! That meant that I had to paint everything else almost monochrome to emphasise the warmth of her skin.  A still being who, in our busy time, is trying to forget her worries.

Melancholia by Svetlana Tartakovska

Where do you derive your inspiration from?  Do you have a painting which inspires you?

I walk through the world with my eyes wide open. Inspiration is around every corner. Beautiful light, my growing children, feelings that I process – all of that inspires me. Of course, I also have a lot of books and I go to museums. Wanting to tell something and knowing how to tell it are two different things. I look a lot at Rembrandt, Velasquez and Repin and I try to understand how they expressed their feelings. Books that inspire me, such as Russian literature and fairy tales, are fascinating. Characters from our history are also inspirational! In short, there is no end to inspiration, as long as you keep observing.

Which artist of the past would you most like to meet?

Haha! No, I wouldn’t want to meet them, because their person, character and small talk with them doesn’t interest me.  I want to SEE how they painted! What I would really like is to be a little mouse and sit in a quiet dark corner near Rembrandt or Goya and see HOW they look at their masterpieces; I would like to understand and learn from every action.

The girl with braids by Svetlana Tartakovska

What is your favourite art gallery/museum and why?

I love the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam because Rembrandt is always waiting for me there. It also depends on the exhibition that is being held at the time. I loved the „Peredvizniki“ exhibition in the Drents museum, or the Waterhouse in the Groninger museum! I do not necessarily visit museums as I choose exhibitions that appeal to me.

What was the last exhibition you went to?

The Frisian museum in Leeuwarden, Saskia and Rembrandt.