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interview / Liza Fetissova

Liza Fetissova about Russiantearoom project

July 2011, interview by FIona Carpentier (Communicart)

You created the RussianTeaRoom gallery 4 years ago, in 2007, on avenue Trudaine in the 9th arrondissement of Paris. How did this adventure start?

I’ve been living in Paris for the past 10 years, I arrived in 2001 to follow a Master in Cultural Management that I obtained in 2002, in addition to my lingual teacher training. Paris came into my life by chance, it wasn’t considered as a choice for me, it happened like that. A gallery is always a very personal story, almost intimate. I believe I started becoming interested in art when I was 7. After some deviations, I focused on photography, I realised that I appreciate this form of art and that I had acquired a good « nose » for photography.

The gallery has existed officially for 4 years. My first idea was to show Russian contemporary photography in this space that I managed myself and where I have the freedom to make my own artistic choices. I only present artists that I consider to be good and deserve to be known to the large public. I search for new talents and try to show works that have not been exhibited before in the commercial context of art galleries. The mission I set for myself is to maintain a certain level of quality and coherence in the artists that I choose, and to provide all the necessary efforts needed for spreading their creation around me, hoping that this in turn will touch the public and the collectors. It’s a daily struggle. I do not choose my artists according to financial criteria, this comes later. I’m absolutely convinced that when the work of an artist is powerful, the market will respond with enthusiasm.

As of September the gallery will settle in a new space in the heart of the Marais, at 42 rue Volta. New space, new identity?

This move is an important step in the life of the gallery. The new space will enable us to open up to a larger content – photography as an art, without geographic borders – and to shape an interesting dialogue. The space, allocated on 2 levels, gives us the possibility to offer, beside the « standard » activity of exhibitions, a real place for meeting and exchanging. I would like the space to become a quiet little islet, where the visitor could come, hang around, glance at a book or watch a projection, study rare documents that are untraceable through the Internet.

We’ll try to keep our warm welcoming manners, because we wish for our space to have a soul – an essential quality for a Russian! This will be harder in a five folds bigger space, where energy tends to break up. I hope not to fall into the trap that consists of selling photographs « by the meter ». Of course, many things will change, but my ambition remains unchanged: showing and promoting quality.

RussianTeaRoom became known thanks to your work of importing young Russian artists such as Oleg Dou, whom you allowed the French public to discover. How does this involvement with Russian artists articulates with the program of the gallery?

The choice of showing Russian art was voluntary: this art is quite unknown and not really appreciated in a serious way in Europe, accustomed to mediocre works dating back to the early stages of the Perestroïka. We worked hard in order to earn our currentstatus of the only European gallery specialized in Russian contemporary photography. I’m recognized for this discipline so I will keep an attentive eye on what is being done in my country. But the work I accomplished with unknown artists, coming from little-known countries, can be done in a more or less similar manner in countries other than Russia which are equally unknown. We could even talk of entire continents: Europe, which is too introspective, is little interested in certain regions, which however, have sheltered for a long time artists with a deep and convinced expression, and above all artists who are different! That is the reason why the gallery has widened its field of vision as of November 2010, working with international artists. Latin America, Africa, Australia, Japan and Central Europe, are countries that I wish to give priority to, linking them to the European tradition. We also plan to, step by step gather specialists coming from these regions, to organize events and debates – for example, inviting a Czech curator with the support of a projection, to talk about the mutating expression of this photographically rich country.

How do you analyse the place of photography on today’s art market and what are your ambitions as a gallerist specialised in photography, concerning this market?

I think that we live in a time of great changes for photography, which breaks away from painting as a model, but still searches for itself under the tension of progress. This is an art in mutation, which demands content from new artists. Furthermore, with the coming of a new generation of artists
and public, the historical economic model of galleries will encounter difficulties in the next years. All has to be redefined, shape as well as content, it’s exciting!

Photography is neither a canvas nor a file, and we should make efforts to stand up for its position. We also think that with the proliferation of images, the photographic print has to strive for the system of a unique piece, in order to protect its nature of « oeuvre », and to make it more attractive to collectors. Photography has to be considered as an object – to be touched, to be weighed, to be positioned – an alternative to our virtual world. Notions of time and space, fundamental in the photographic construction, are disappearing from our world of permanent virtuality. Perhaps photography will be able to bring us back to these essentials, or to reinvent them. I conceive my role as a gallerist similar to that of an experimenting scientist: extracting new tendencies and studying them, describing the mutation of photography and redefining its position in the art sphere. Without forgetting to make the link with the photography which nurtured us: that of the 20th century.

You will inaugurate your new space on Thursday the 8th of September with the exhibition « FRACTAL », which will present works of the Japanese Shunsuke Ohno and the Russian Dmitry Sokolenko. Why have you made the choice of uniting these two artists?

In the gallery programme, we wish to put forward some characteristics of photography, through dual exhibitions or solo shows. The idea is to propose a coherent, and if possible exhaustive research, in this art in mutation.

In the inaugural exhibition « FRACTAL », we have united two artists around a fundamental principle of photography - Fractality - but the approaches and especially the results of researches by Shunsuke Ohno and Dmitry Sokolenko are different: frontal and figurative for the former, semantic and abstract for the latter. Fractality is the ability of photography to generalise the spacetime relation on the one hand, and to invite the viewer to position himself in relation to the image and the given scale on the other. This principle can be observed in every image, but it appears in a more obvious way in Shunsuke Ohno and Dmitry Sokolenko’s works.

By offering a dialogue between the works of these two artists, we make an attempt to treat the subject in greater depth. The statements complete each other but do not engage in rivalry, each one possesses its own artistic point.

Liza Fetissova (photo: Michel Gaillard)
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Liza Fetissova (photo: Michel Gaillard)
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