Art & Literature

WS Artist Spotlight: Daria Smirnova, Collage Artist

By July 9, 2018 No Comments

“We are mosaics – pieces of light, love, history, stars – glued together with magic and music and words.”

– Anita Krishan

collage, art, mosaic, daria smirnova, aesthetic

We meet in the velvet and oak interior of the Bar Vendôme. Of course we do; this is Daria. I spot her instantly, perfectly at home at the renovated Ritz. Red lipstick, red nails, fine nude heels, quintessential black dress and white martini. She waves at me. Her blond hair catches the light from the crystal chandeliers overhead.

She is more Parisian than most Parisiennes, but my friend’s story actually begins in a small town in Russia, where her mother signed her up for daily art and French classes as a child.

She shared her love for beauty, languages, and cultures with her daughter, who grew up and inevitably too big for a life in her hometown. There was too much world out there to see, too many experiences to be had, too many facets of herself to discover, Too much beauty to seek.

She first moved to Moscow, and then lived in the United Kingdom, Belgium, Italy, and France. She studied diplomacy, international business management, the history of art and collecting. She spent days on end in art museums, learned languages, made friends from all over the world, discovering and collecting pieces of herself here and there. The latest addition was Paris and the art of collage.

Daria has a PhD in international relations and is an expert on the geopolitics of cultural heritage. She is a business woman by day, an artist whenever inspired, a poet in mind, and a traveller every chance she gets. “It feels like I have several lives in one.” She does not feel she has to choose; she lives her life, her way. A woman every bit a collage in herself.

I order a glass of Prosecco. We toast. First sip and the conversation flows, naturally, to music, love, prose, poetry, travel, and, inevitably, art.

What is art to you?

A way of life. A prism through which I see and sense the world. To the art lover in me, it is about resonance and feelings. To the artist in me, it is chemistry, inspiration and imagination. Linda Naiman describes it perfectly: “Art-making has an alchemical effect on the imagination. It awakens the senses and sharpens insights, teaching us to think in symbols, metaphors, and to de-code complexity, so we can perceive the world in new ways.”

You do that with your art. Your collages are snapshots of colours and patterns that somehow come together perfectly. How did you choose that medium?

I was taught the technique of collage in 1996 at the fine arts school I attended. At the time, I was creating art using different painting methods. Collage was different though; it was a very challenging and labour-intensive process. I also found it very inspirational; the end result is unknown, even to the artist, during the creation itself.

In a way, it resembled poetry; I have always loved poetry. I used to write poems as a teenager.When a poet writes verse, he or she looks for a rhyme for each line, not knowing which will come to mind. Sometimes the rhyme is perfect and exact. At other times, though it may be beautiful, it might not fit the story. The poet adjusts, and so just as the rhyme at the end of every verse is unpredictable, so is the end of the poem.

It is the same with collage.

You describe collage as an art form that guides you, rather than you directing it.

Exactly. At the beginning, I never know if the girl I am drawing will be a princess, a gypsy, a geisha, or a shadow. It all depends on chance; a little detail that catches my eye in a magazine or an unusual colour combination.Such open-ended possibilities keep inspiration intense and the creation process very pleasurable. It makes me dream and imagine… Once the collage is complete, I look at it and trace the details of the paper cuts. They all merge together to create an illusion of a painting I could never have imagined at the start.

Do you follow any process with regard to your technique?

I intentionally follow a loose structure. First, I create a sketch with a pencil, not knowing what colours I will use or the identity of the characters in my work.I then begin piecing the background and ideas together as I search for inspiration all around me.

The beauty of the technique of collage is that I use images, patterns, and colour that have never met and were never supposed to meet. I introduce them to each other and pair their realities. Sometimes I do not touch a piece for months until I spot the perfect shade of colour or detail.

That does not bother you?

No, on the contrary! My love for art is in the process of its creation far more than in the final result. That feeling, like some powerful energy that fills me when my Muse visits. I never know when it will happen, how, why, or how long it will last. I live it as it comes, like a love affair.

What are you in love with?

collage, art, mosaic, daria smirnova, aestheticAll beauty, but specifically, the human body. I love this line from a Depeche Mode song:

“What the spirit seeks
The mind will follow,
When the body speaks
All else is hollow.”

Through the body we experience the bliss of a touch; hear music; swim in the sea; taste food and kisses; see the beauty and colours of the world; smell flowers, perfumes, people; dance, sing…Therefore the human body is central to my art as I capture the moments when it “speaks,” –It seems to me that in such moments we are closer to the universe, stars, nature and animals.

Have you experienced such moments while looking at other works of art?

Of course! I feel it when I marvel at Michelangelo’s mastery of anatomy; the way he shapes his sculptures and captures their gazes. Bouguereau’s rendition of the female body too and the way he paints skin.

The curls in the hair of Titian’s women, Jean-Léon Gérôme’s photographically perfect antique worlds, David Hockney’s colour combinations and pencil drawings, Klimt’s compositions and patterns, Chagall’s paintings that channel mysterious romance in every brush stroke, antique art… and so much more.

You describe these works like poetry. I know that is another facet of you. Could you give us a glimpse of it?

Indeed, I sometimes hide short poems or quotes inside my collages. It is always a spontaneous act, inspired by that specific period of my life; whatever reading, music, news, turns and twists of my own life that I am exposed to during the creation process.

For instance, when I was working on the collage representing Gustav Klimt’s “Kiss,” I found out that Leonard Cohen had died. Like everybody else, I felt the urge to listen to his songs again. The first lyrics I read were so perfect for my collage that I had to put them into the work.

I also tend to match my works with specific pieces of music or soundtracks. With the quotes and the collages themselves, it makes the art three dimensional and, in that way, more like life.

collage, art, mosaic, daria smirnova, aesthetic

It was a perfect evening. It went on for hours more. When we parted the world looked so beautiful to me. Daria had completed her mission.

Explore Daria’s work on her Facebook Page, DS- Collages, and on her brand new website.

Yara Zgheib

Yara Zgheib

Yara is a writer, policy researcher and analyst, and lover of culture, travel, nature, art. She is the author of The Girls at 17 Swann Street and blogger behind Aristotle at Afternoon Tea. She has written for The Huffington Post, The Four Seasons Magazine, The Idea List, A Woman’s Paris, and Holiday Magazine. Wearing her other hat, she consults with governments and the nonprofit sector on peace and security strategies, with an emphasis on conflict resolution, counter terrorism, and countering violent extremism. She is a Fulbright scholar with a PhD in international affairs, who has given courses on human security, but also art history, ballet and etiquette. Yara was born in Lebanon and has since lived in Glasgow, Washington, Paris, Saint Louis, and now Boston. She likes books and smart conversations, early morning yoga, evening walks.

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