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The Artist's Eye: Annya Sand Explores Her Practice

British Contemporary artist Annya Sand was born in Central Asia, and currently lives and works in London. A self-taught artist, Sand started painting at a very young age. Her artistic talents were nurtured by her father, a jeweller, and her grandfather, an architect.

Specialising mainly in oil painting, Annya’s art is deeply influenced by her childhood memories, growing up in Kazakhstan and being exposed to the rich variety of Central Asian and Russian cultures. Her artworks are predominantly abstract in style and characterised by earthy tones and harmonious colours, which can be seen in her Abstract Thinking collection. Her later works have moved into the figurative, as in Study of Russia collection and the installation, Artistic Block/Reflection of Our Generation. Annya’s figurative art incorporates more colour, which gives works a sharper concept. Her latest collection, The World of Obsessions, is created in acrylic, the new medium.

Annya received international recognition after having exhibited her first collection, Abstract Thinking, at the age of 20. This inspired her to pursue art as her main career. Here she writes her practice exclusively for After Nyne.

Many artists are challenged by the question, ``Why do you paint? Why do you create?’’ Indeed, it’s not an easy one to answer. Much of the artistic process is subconscious, and can pour forth in a creative torrent. Or, on the other hand, it can be bottled up behind a barrier of doubt and uncertainty.

I think abstractly. With abstract art you don't have to follow rules and it's possible to be open-minded. Does this mean it’s easier to put your thoughts on canvas than with the realism of figurative art. Yes, often this is the case. In some ways it is easier. But does this make abstraction any less valuable than classical painting? No, it does not.

When the artist is free of the rigidity of realistic painting, which truly requires extraordinary skill and training, you pay more attention to meaning, to expression, to building up colors, layers, and texture. For example, after discarding the rules of the classical canon you can play with shades.

People often look at abstract art, whether mine or someone else’s, and they ask, ``Well, what does it mean?’’ I will tell you a little secret of the profession. Many artists really don’t know the meaning of their art, but few want to admit this. We usually leave it to the curators to make up stories about our art, and to interpret it.

This past summer I spent two weeks at an art camp in Andorra that was organized by UNESCO. When I arrived, I didn’t have any plan, and made no advanced preparation.

The first few days were a struggle to create, but then the inspiration came, and I created based on what I felt deep within my soul. I tried to express my concerns about the nature of conflict, which was the camp’s central theme.

People look at my paintings from the UNESCO summer camp, and some think that they look like maps, or possibly the surface of the Earth. I’m not sure. Let it be whatever they see.

An artist, however, should be versatile, and defy categorization. And while my exhibition last month at the United Nations headquarters in New York City featured those abstract UNESCO works, my current exhibition in London showcases more realistic works of art.

Titled, ``Under Construction,’’ this exhibition at the Ratiu Foundation on Manchester Square reveals my love and fascination with architecture. I believe that every building has a story. Architecture shapes our world, our society and our lives. Inside the soul of a building the past and present meet in one place and in one moment --- with someone’s creative ideas, the abstract energy that went into the building's construction, and also our perception of it.

Is there a contradiction in the fact that one month I can exhibit abstract works, and then the next month features more realistic paintings? No, I don’t think so.

Magnificent buildings such as the 18th and 19th century Baroque and Neo-classical buildings of Russia’s former Imperial capital, Saint Petersburg, were built with powerful abstract ideas in mind. Take for example, the Smolny Cathedral and St Isaac’s Cathedral. They are the culmination of the architect’s abstract vision and creative energy, and this is why they are some of my most favorite structures ever built.

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