Overcoming Resistance by Celebrating Carefreeness: Natalia Kalianova’s Take on Modern Art

Natalia Kalianova
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French Nobel Laureate André Gide famously wrote “Art begins with resistance—at the point where resistance is overcome. No human masterpiece has ever been created without great labor.” While there are many interpretations, many people choose to look at Gide’s words as a commentary on what it takes to create a true work of art. The story of Russian painter Natalia Kalianova, however, is an excellent example of how Gide’s view could very easily be all about the artist.

Better known by her moniker Kalina, Kalianova’s artistic journey didn’t start until she was in her late 20s, just like those of painters like Paul Cézanne, Vincent van Gogh, and many other “late-bloomers” who changed the world of art forever. To her, art manifested itself as a savior at a time when fatigue, tedium, and conformity were becoming an everyday part of her life as an IT professional.

Natalia Kalianova

Sourced Photo

Finding herself overwhelmed by these negative emotions and the need for freedom during the COVID quarantine, Kalina found herself experimenting with painting. Soon, art became the creative vehicle Kalina had been looking for, providing her with a way to escape the box society had confined her to. The struggle that Kalina would go through as she considered risking the safety of the career she had built over the past 15 years would eventually become one of the major topics reflected by her paintings.

“My works are all about celebrating life, creativity, and freedom, as I believe that this sort of ‘enchantment’ is something that we all long for in a world that is becoming increasingly complex,” says Kalina, whose work also explores various European painting styles with a focus on the realistic portrayal of the human figure and landscapes. “I want my paintings to encourage the viewer to combat the monotony of everyday life and enjoy the present.”

Kalina’s work is currently being exhibited in Cube.Moscow, one of Russia’s most notorious art spaces. Titled “Spying on Happiness”, the exhibition explores the joy that relationships, everyday activities, and hedonism can bring to those who are open to them. Along with reflecting on the role that art had in Kalina’s journey of self-growth, Kalina’s work is also representative of her relaxed attitude toward her craft.

“I’m aware that my approach to painting is unique because I don’t fear experimentation, which is why I always reject unconstructive criticism and make sure to remember that I, as the artist, should always be free to express myself however I like,” adds Kalina. “Art should be all about breaking barriers and overcoming resistance, not about creating them.”

The barriers and resistance that Kalina refers to include those that led her to emerge as an artist, of course, but also those emerging every day. Technologies such as NFTs, VR, and AI, combined with increasing political and social tensions around the world, are all seen by the artist as opportunities for new art paradigms to develop.

“History has shown us that as time passes, it becomes increasingly difficult to pinpoint a collective image of what being an artist means,” concludes Kalina, who grew up surrounded by a Russian art scene obsessed with addressing acute social and political issues. “The modern artist needs to become a multifaceted specialist and juggler who can understand and integrate new trends. Art as a whole can only truly move forward by leveraging conflict, tension, and progress in all of their forms.”

Natalia Kalianova

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