Zorikto Dorzhiev: Painter-Philosopher

Daria Alyukova's picture
Zorikto Dorzhiev: Painter-Philosopher

The exhibition “Steppe Story” which starts with the Grand opening at the V&A Museum, features over 50 paintings, graphics and sculptural works created by Zorikto Dorzhiev, one of the most famous and internationally acclaimed artists. His art is associated with the folk and Buddhist traditions of the nomadic Buryat people. Life in motion, as a symbol of human existence, the transition from birth to death, is the key philosophy that helps to decode the language of the ever-changing universe. Before the exhibition RussianMind had a philosophical conversation with Zorikto:

RM:Your exhibition in London is dedicated to the Great Steppe that has inspired many writers and film directors, but has rarely been depicted by Russian painters. Is this theme close to your heart?

ZD:It is indeed very close to my heart and very interesting for me. Yet during my studies I got fascinated by nomadic history. This is a significant part of the history of my people. I discovered so much. The London exhibition is entitled “The Steppe Story” and this is a major topic that is not attached to any particular time period. I tell a story of love and solitude; joy and sadness; war and peace; beauty of a woman and the innocence of a child. Steppe is merely a background. This is the easiest way for me to reproduce the worlds I imagine. Although many pieces are filled with traditional Steppe attributes – this is nowhere near ethnography.

RM:Your paintings often involve the image of a nomad. Why is this?

ZD:This image of a medieval nomad is so much in tune with the present-day person. A nomad goes where he thinks he can have a better life; so we are in a permanent search of finding something better.

RM:What artistic school do you think you belong to?

ZD:I don’t really think that artists ever classify themselves. Our place is to create art. There’s just no time to think about the artistic classifications that you journalists choose. I only think about this when asked; as one famous quote has it, ‘it is hard to speak about the time you are in’.

RM:Do you at least try to see how your works correlate with the context and trends, or is this merely the critics’ business?

ZD:Exactly, it’s the critics who classify the artists.

RM:Having had numerous exhibitions around the world – in London, New York, Los Angeles – what do you think attracts foreigners to your works?

ZD:All the topics I mentioned are comprehensible in any part of the world. You don’t even have to know other languages or cultures to appreciate art. I think that in any country seeing a naked female back evokes thoughts about the beauty of a woman.

RM:Is there any difference in the perception and reaction of viewers and critics around the world?

ZD:Frankly speaking, any particular differences never worry me. Well, maybe the Steppe theme resonates better with Russian viewers, as Russian history is bound up with nomadic tribes.

RM:Do you ever think of leaving Buryatia for another country?

ZD:Actually, I never have. I work where I feel comfortable. But if my life changes and that situation ever arises, the new place will not be a metropolis.

RM:Your father Balzhinima Dorzhiev is a painter. Didhe influence your art? Did he teach you how to paint?

ZD:He certainly has had a great impact on me. He never taught me to paint in the literal sense, nor did he give me the technical skills. But his emotional presence is a powerful source of inspiration for me.

RM:What about interaction with other artists – does that inspire you? Or are you a loner?

ZD:I like to have a look at the work of other artists every now and again and I also try to visit various exhibitions and art events. But I do not need regular interaction with other artists for my work. I prefer to live a more sequestered life.

RM:Do you need any special conditions for inspiration and concentration – like music, or the weather, or environment? Or do ideas come spontaneously?

ZD:Itdepends. However, music is playing almost all the time when I work – different kinds of music. The weather doesn’t matter – all I need is a clear mind, no distracting thoughts.

As for ideas – it also differs, sometimes it takes a long period of sketching, but sometimes it’s a spontaneous insight.

RM:Do viewers or colleagues often see things that you didn’t initially intend in a particular painting? Or is it a matter of personal interpretation anyway?

ZD:I think it’s always personal. You cannot make a viewer think exactly as you do. Thanks to that, paintings gain new meanings and context all the time.

RM:What are you currently working on?

ZD:As a rule, I have a couple of paintings in progress at the same time. A lot of them have been started and not finished for numerous reasons. I try to finish them, but at the same time I do not put aside new ideas.

RM:Where else would you like to have an exhibition?

ZD:At Tate Modern and Art Basel Miami Beach.

RM:What are your plans for the next year? Would you rather concentrate on painting or continue with your world tour?

ZD:I think that “Steppe Story” will be updated with more works.

Exhibition “Steppy Story” runs from 23 November to 23 December 2011 at Hay Hill Gallery.

Address:5a Cork Street, Mayfair, London, W1S 3NY

Contacts: +44 (0) 207 4391001, info@hayhill.com