I grew up in the Soviet Union, and was educated in classical painting. During art school, I studied all old masters, and when I later had the opportunity to travel, I visited numerous museums around the world. I cannot remember the names of all the artists, but their works are protected in my visual memory.
When I moved to Sweden I abandoned painting and turned my interest to photography. However, I have stuck to the concept of creating the objects in my images with real material, I do not just “find” the motive. All my photographs are meticulously staged, and I frequently use materials from nature, like flowers and insects. But my classical education does not leave me. Instinctively, my works refer back to art history.
Collage, the disconnecting of objects and putting them together in a new order to create a different meaning, is a technique that has fascinated me for a long time. During the 20th century, numerous artists have experimented with it and have opened up for new ways of looking at the world. In a way, all my works are collages. They all consist of things that are removed from their original context to create a new reality; they are cut out to gain visibility. My butterfly collages are part of my research on these ideas.
Working with butterflies is my own reinterpretation of expressionistic painting, using the cut out ideas of the collage. The butterfly wings are the brushstrokes I use; they provide both color and structure. They dictate what the image should look like.
It is a troublesome process to get these works done. I first have to find the butterflies that I would like to use; I buy them and need prepare them before I can start. That means that I need to cut the wings of the body to be able to create flat structures and to have the possibility to combine all different kinds of wings. The dissection is not only a practical but also a conceptual issue. Putting together a collage takes me then up to 500 hours. Every single wing needs to be placed correctly and then glued on the cardboard with caution. I photograph the finished collage with an analogue large format camera (8x10 inches) that allows enlarging the negative up to 10 feet. I consider both the collages and the photographs of them independent works of art.