Illustration by Gherardo Ulivi

Masha Rudenko is a ‘model-chameleon turned artist’. Curious, talented and always on the move. Strong, independent and courageous. She possesses a decisive and non-conformist character with an irrepressible love for art.

Born and raised in Taganrog, a small port city on the northern Sea of Azov, Russia, Masha is a multidisciplinary artist working across all disciplines – performance, photography, oil paintings and mixed media. The reason she started making art was because she wanted to run away from a world she no longer enjoyed. Her newest series are based on paper-cuts. The art world helps her to stay mentally healthy and to learn how to hear her own personal voice. Today Masha cannot imagine not doing art. 

On VOOM, she discusses her professional experiences and the power of expressing her feelings through multidisciplinary art projects.

(The interview was done while she still lived in the USA)

Ph. David Marconi

How would you describe your passion for art?
Why do you have this passion for it? 

I always felt like an artist but I couldn’t find my way there initially.  When I was a young model, I didn’t know where to start. But modeling soon became like a performance for me. I tried to be as creative as I could on my photoshoots and really enjoyed working in High Fashion as it was usually more artistic in vision and execution. My first solo art project was a body-art series called; “Mash-pit”. I was the artistic director, producer and artist all rolled into one. To do it, I created sets, hired a team and used my body as a canvas to perform and express my concept behind it. My end goal was to have a limited series of high end photographs that I could market as my own. That’s when my transition from model to artist really began. It was the green light I was on my own path when I was selected to be part of a group show at one of the best contemporary galleries in NYC. And shortly thereafter, I obtained my first solo show in Moscow. I understood that this is what I’m good at and I can do it by myself and for myself. In short, I had control.

And how did you decide to become an artist?

When I realized I’m an artist at heart, I asked myself; “what would I do if money wasn’t as issue?” Being an artist is not just about how to make a beautiful object to fasten to a wall. Art is like a philosophy and it influences the way I look at the world around me. It is important to me what I read, watch and absorb. I research a lot and try to understand people and problems affecting them. Sometimes it really bothers me and I can’t sleep at night. It is an obsession of mine to figure life out and find some hidden secrets most are unaware of. I can then code it into  my paintings.  My work then becomes my visual voice with layers. It’s important to find a balance as to how not to be too egoistical and to try and reflect on the world in a positive way. 

What is your starting point behind your work?
Where do you source your inspiration from?

I find my inspiration everywhere. I can get an idea from a movie, book, a conversation with someone, old artworks by the masters. I love watching interviews with artists, going to exhibitions, openings and museums, meeting artists and talking with them about art. Sometimes I just want to draw something or paint it and I don’t know why. This is a reason why I’ve started to use my old drawings and paintings in my mixed-media art works. Something about that old image and where it came from. A  small thought from nowhere sometimes leads me to a bigger picture and concept. I love that today’s artist has such freedom to play and experiment.

Ph. David Marconi

What about the Russian creative scene?

I go mostly to Moscow, Taganrog and Tuapse to visit my family and friends.  Moscow has it all; a vibrant scene of creative  people, incredible museums, theater, ballet, opera, exhibitions, film, music, restaurants and clubs. The normal people on the streets in Moscow dress with taste. Forget about early 2000 when we had a culture shock and people had absolutely no idea how to dress and put things together. Now there’s amazing interior design, architecture, clothes, international food, world food courts, cutting edge music and super-cool bars. It is a young, vibrant city. You can see it everywhere you go. Russia is a massive country and there are many cities to visit. And in fairness, I’ve only time for those related to work when I visit.  However, I have plans with my boyfriend to explore more of the “off the map” places as soon as we can.

Who is your favorite contemporary artist and why?

There are so many wonderful artists who are working in different styles, it’s hard to pick. I m a big fan of Anselm Kiefer. His work it’s so  monumental. I love that he uses different materials and his subject is Earth which in itself is so simple and strong at the same time. I love Tschabalala Self, her work it’s so different and refreshing. She creates such a beautiful shapes and forms, using materials to express bodies, I really admire what she does. I also love Lee Bontecou and find her work phenomenal. She works at such another level, that it just sucks me in and I wonder; ‘what’s going on in her head?’ Others on my list are Jenny Saville, Joan Semmel, Lucian Freud, Diego Rivera, Rothko. God, there are so many, it’s hard to limit myself with a list.

What advice would you give someone
who wants to pursue your career?

For me it is important to have a good amount of work to show. That means a lot of hours of work. Discipline is a hard one but if you decide you’re an artist, you need to know a lot about art world. You need to take yourself serious then others will take you serious. Go to art school, take classes, try different styles, meet artists and hang out with them, go to opening, get on mailing lists of galleries you like, make people see you and become familiar with you as a part of the art scene. If you can, travel to larger art fairs, its  great way to meet people from the industry and get to know what’s going on in art world. Read art magazines and blogs, you need to think about art all the time. But foremost is to create art, that’s the most important because it’s what you do. And if you do happen to meet the right person, and have nothing to show them regarding your work, it’s a lost opportunity. So focus on your art. Make sure you have a good amount to show and that its organized: your bio with CV and artist statements, and good quality pictures of your work. Also post your art on social medias. 70% of your time create art, 30% be socially productive. And most important; don’t be annoying and force people to see your work. No one likes that. Your time will come and you need to make sure you have work to show when it does. So many artists make just one art project in many years, don’t create new work and call themselves “artists”. Those are not the ones achieving things in an art world. You need to constantly evolve and grow as an artist.

Ph. David Marconi

As a professional, your network is a much a part of your professional value as are your skills and talents so, do you think social media can help you to market your business and connect with your customers? And why did you take a social media ‘detox’?

Instagram has clearly created some breakthroughs for myself and others but its not for everyone. Also imagine how hard some need to work to make so many  beautiful pictures and continue posting so that some of clients can give them a freebees like face cream or shoes to promote their products. They become living commercials for other people’s products and their personal lives are no longer their own. I’d rather go and buy the product I need than to stress out, worry about my follower-numbers while I struggle for the occasional freebee.  I have social media business account that I take breaks from, I also set a timer on my phone in “settings” to limit my social media apps, so that I have control of my life again.Technology in our lives can be good or bad depending on how it’s being used. I feel the internet sucks my energy and I lose my sense of self and my true voice. This is why I limit my time now.  The social medias are like a Playstation for adults; you try to win and collect money and likes, but in the end you’ve waisted much of your personal time that would be better spent on hikes and real visits with real friends and family members.

So, tell me what you are working on right now
and what are your future projects?

These past few months I was sucked into researching history, Joseph Campbell, the origin of our myths and the great conspiracies. I’m now working on a project I’m very passionate about.  But it takes a lot of research, thought and notes to realize how to properly express it. It’s going to be on a very big scale and it’ll take time to create it. I’m also planning a cool collaboration with video artist which I’m excited about but like a lot of projects right now, it could be moved or canceled due to the current Corona epidemic. So for now, I will bunker in and use it as an opportunity to make my art.

Ph. David Marconi

Article by Sofia Malatesta| @sofia_malatesta