Anastasia Vârlan has grown up in Chișinău, the capital of Moldova. The 25-year old has been creating art since her childhood days. E&M talked to the visual artist about the art scene in Moldova and how growing up there has influenced her own art. We also feature some of her work below. If you want to see more of her pictures (only after reading this interview, of course), head over to Tom Barret’s article about the Moldovan political crisis and have a look at the accompanying photos.
E&M: Thank you for talking to us! First, can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Anastasia: My name is Anastasia and I was born in the capital of the Republic of Moldova, Chisinau, where I have lived and studied all my life. I am currently graduating from the Faculty of Design and Visual Arts in Chișinău. But at the moment, I am in Zagreb, Croatia. It’s a lot like Chișinău and both cities are my passion projects.
E&M: Your art pieces are very diverse. Among abstract forms, we often see female bodies and faces. What inspires you to focus on this?
Anastasia: I am interested in arts and crafts, so my interest in photography was only a logical outcome from my point of view. I am an art enthusiast, and soon one with a diploma! My dreams and visions are all related to post-Soviet nostalgia and the ambition to outgrow my surroundings. I have not yet had the chance to explore all the subjects that interest me and cannot wait to graduate and forget everything they tried to teach me in university. I like to see art that analyses femininity, individuality, and human nature. The environment, people around me, they inspire me to grab a pen and start a sketch. It’s very simple and natural for me to do so.
E&M: Does your art follow a certain technique?
Anastasia: Right now, I am not very proud of my artworks. My interests and taste have outgrown my skills. They represent my attempts to be productive.
I don’t mind having less art supplies or switching mediums. At university, for example, I came to study graphic design and ended up painting. So I studied printmaking, painting in watercolour, and graphic design. At first, I did not understand printmaking at all and felt inferior to my colleagues. It did not make any sense to me to try to etch metals and carve wood to get a print. I also did not like watercolour. I suppose I was revolting against everything that was challenging for me and, so, years later, I could actually see myself as an illustrator, not as a graphic designer.
Most probably, in the future, I will become a children’s books illustrator. I have already worked on one and now I’m making my second book.
I think I want to become a decent illustrator or at least a decent human being.
E&M: You are both a gifted photographer and painter. How do you combine both artforms? Do you prefer one of them?
Anastasia: I started painting at a young age, like many children. It was not the most exciting activity for me, but I liked it, because I could see that I was better at it than other children. I attended specialized art classes in high school that taught me the basics of drawing. When it was time for me to choose to stay in the school or go to art college, I chose to stay in the school and erased all the ideas that I had about pursuing an art education.
This is when I started to be curious about photography, asked to borrow cameras from people I knew and, eventually, got one for myself. Through photography, I discovered my creativity, my taste, my colours, my interests in architecture, in nature, in people. And often it also has been the only thing close to art I had strength for. It connected me to so many people and places and allowed me to be myself even through the posing and consistent search for perfection.
E&M: Do you think there is something special about doing art in Moldova? Is it more difficult, more inspirational?
Anastasia: Doing art at home is challenging. If you weren’t raised in an artsy home where your parents can guide and support your creative growth, it’s not easy. They may end up accepting your path, but not necessarily liking it. There is this strong misconception about art in Eastern Europe that all artists end up starving themselves. My parents are a bit more educated on the topic, but not far from Moldovan mentality. They are happy to see that my art evolved around a computer and for them, sitting in front of a screen all day seems kind of productive.
The same applies to my friends, my relatives, my acquaintances – they may like a drawing or two but will never accept its value or contribute financially to an art piece. For them, art is the least necessary item in a household, so why pay money for something you cannot eat?
E&M: What is the art scene in Moldova like?
Anastasia: I noticed that with the rise of social media, the interest in art and artists in Moldova has increased. In the past, you could see the contemporary artworks in museums and books. Now you can also see them as everyday posts on social media. Besides local events, art schools and museums, social media has given me the opportunity to engage with and support local artists.
This is how I found out that there is an actual active art scene in Moldova and that it’s blossoming day by day. I am very proud to say that our artists are trying to combine the post-Soviet curriculum with touches of contemporaneity. It does not always look good and needs more time and hope to stand up to the international standards, but it exists and breathes as freely as art everywhere should. We have theatre, we have exhibitions, we have local cultural events, concerts, contests and projects. We have young talents; we have pioneers and a demand for art studies.
Where there are people, there is also talent. I’m sure that many young artists from Moldova want to be seen and heard and it’s a matter of time and consistency for them to be present in the international art scene. Already, many of them leave the country and become famous abroad. One day you will hear from us on a daily basis. My hopes for Moldova are very high.
Artworks by the Moldovan Artists Anastasia Vârlan
We thank Anastasia for her time. Answers may have been edited for brevity or clarity. For more art work by Anastasia, visit her Instagram account Graphicbugs.
Cover photo by Anastasia Vârlan, courtesy of the artist