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Matryoshka dolls in Australian style shall be ornamented in kangaroo-like manner

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Matryoshka dolls in Australian style shall be ornamented in kangaroo-like manner


Sergey Vinogradov

Tatiana Kazzi, a Russian artist, works on a project to combine paintings of Australian Aborigines with Gzhel and Khokhloma. A native of Kaliningrad has lived on the green continent for almost a quarter of a century; and she is one of a few foreign women who were granted the right to study art of the indigenous people of Australia by their descendants. Tatiana Kazzi plans to ornament Russian Matryoshka dolls with kangaroos, snakes, birds and other symbols of Australian aborigines.

The artist told the Russkiy Mir that active work of the Russian community in recent years has facilitated popularity and awareness of Russian art in Australia.

Gzhel for Australian

Our conversation with Tatiana Kazzi has taken place in the midst of preparations for the Slavic Culture Festival, which will open in Brisbane on the Sunshine Coast in August. The event will bring together participants from thirteen Slavic communities and thousands of guests. The organizers emphasize that the festival is open to all, but it is closed for politics. Art of immigrants from Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Serbia and other countries will be presented within the same concerts and in neighbouring pavilions.

The event traditionally sparks huge interest, especially in August, which is considered to be a multicultural month in Queensland. The festival will open with a large international exhibition of Slavic art, and Tatiana Kazzi will manage the art section there. In addition, at the festival, the artist plans to present a matryoshka (Australians call the traditional Russian doll - “babushka”) ornamented in Aboriginal style or mixed technique (we will give more details on that below).

Preparations for the festival has not been a reason to put aside the artist’s regular activities. She still paints, supervises exhibitions, as well as gives lessons at the Romashka, a local Russian school, and master classes on Russian and Aboriginal painting for compatriots and Australians.

Recently, I conducted similar classes, and more visitors, including Australians, came to master classes on Gzhel, than to a lesson about Aboriginal art, shared Tatyana. People saw Gzhel on a poster, and they wanted to know more about it.

The artist points out that Australians are very much open to art in general and to traditions of various nations. Australia is a multinational country; it is built on variety and diversity of languages, beliefs and customs of dozens of nations of the world.

In 1995, when my sister and I came to Australia, the local population did not know much about Russia and Russian art, the artist says. It was clearly noticeable during communication. We told Australians about our native Kaliningrad and about Kiev, where we used to live, and they opened eyes wide and just nodded out of politeness. It was obvious that they did not understand very well where we had come from. Now the situation is different. They know about Russia, recognize and love Russian art. It has mainly been achieved through efforts of the Russian community.

At the ends of the earth

Tatiana and her twin sister Natalia, also an artist, were born and raised in Kaliningrad. According to Tatiana, sisters inherited interest in the fine arts and creative skills from their father. In his youth, he wanted to become an artist and demonstrated good skills, but the Great Patriotic War forced him to change plans, so he became a naval officer, We lived in Kaliningrad until school finishing; then our father was transferred to Riga, and a few years later we moved to Kiev, says Tatyana. Those were still Soviet times. In Kiev, I graduated from the University of Culture and Arts, obtained a profession of a librarian and in-depth knowledge in history of arts. After graduating from university, I got a job in one of Kiev libraries and read many rare books on history of arts, as well as various painting techniques. At the same time, I did not stop my creative activities and took private lessons in drawing.

Tatiana started with a pencil and pastel drawing; then she proceeded to oil and acrylic painting, trying to find her own style. Australian ocean views made her fall in love with the landscape. However, as Tatiana admitted, during her first 2 to 3 years at the green continent creativity was out of question - there were more important things to think about. It was necessary to learn the language, solve legal issues, look for work and adjust to local conditions. Only after she was able to assist her sister Natalia, her niece and mother to move to Brisbane (her father had died by that time), Tatiana began to feel Australia a little more home-like place, and creativity captured her mind again.

When I left, there were very difficult times both in Russia and in Ukraine, Tatyana recalls. I liked Australia right away, but it was very difficult here in the early years. I began to study again and I learned a lot; and it really helped me in my profession and in life in general. I am still learning from teachers and online courses. It is an essential part of my life. Australia is a unique country for a creative person; it gives truly unlimited possibilities for self-expression. And Australia allowed me to devote my life to creativity, for which I feel deep gratitude to this country.

Light rain

Tatiana has two names in Australia – Aborigines call her Gumbal, which means light rain. It is surely a compliment, because any rain is an unquestionable blessing for sunny Australia. Descendants of the natives gave her such name probably to reflect natural cheerfulness and positive attitude of the Russian artist.

Tatiana was able to get access to Australian Aborigines art, which is closed for foreigners, by a happy coincidence. Her sister married an Australian artist, who was born in a family of an Aboriginal woman and a Scottish man. His mother was an elder in her community, says Tatiana. At the same time, she is a very educated woman who lectured at the university. I would like to say a few words about the aborigines. In everyday life, they live like ordinary contemporary people, but preserve and protect their traditions and language in a very delicate way.

Tatiana and Natalia obtained the elders permission to study and use their ornamental techniques. Aboriginal techniques are protected by the letter of the law, says Tatyana. Very few artists are granted permissions. My sister and I were very fascinated by such ornament technics and began to advance in this direction. Id like to mention that promotion of Aboriginal technics has been active in Australia only in recent years - it is taught in schools; exhibitions are organized.

While perceiving art of Australian aborigines, Tatiana Kazzi had strong feeling of being Russian, like never before. The artist has realized that promotion of Russian art in Australia is her mission. Especially after her sister Natasha passed away. Simultaneous interests in Australian and Russian ornaments, as well as interest in her exhibitions and master classes from multi-ethnic population of Brisbane, suggested Tatiana the idea to combine these two folk techniques.

I have already begun intertwining Khokhloma or Gzhel with the aborigines technique, says the artist. I feel that the combination of images and symbolism will bring a very unusual and interesting result. Aboriginal ornaments include kangaroos, snakes, ostriches, fish, birds, and other symbols. And Id like to say that ornament is not a decoration or an art for Aborigines, it is their script; and they pass on knowledge to future generations using symbols. Speaking of Russian tradition, there are also many birds, fish and other animals. Taking into account all the variety of techniques, they have a lot in common, or at least they are very close. Points, corners, wavy lines can be found both in Aboriginal and in Russians ornaments.

Tatyana plans to present Russian dolls ornamented in Aboriginal or mixed technique at the Slavic culture Festival and the Igrai Harmony Festival (Play, Harmonica). For example, I can paint a kangaroo and a Khokhloma pattern around it, Tatyana shares her creative intentions. I guess it will be interesting. I think my dolls can also attract attention in Russia. I would like to present them at my homeland too.

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