Mud Season Review

The Intersections of Ecology, Mythology, and Fantastic Creatures

An Interview with Featured Artist Irina Tall

by Kristin LaFollette, Mud Season Review Art Editor

I draw sirens or self-portraits, although I think the siren herself is my self-portrait or who I want to be.”

– Irina Tall

Talk about the subjects in these drawings. Who are the people and creatures? What are their relationships?

I often paint mythological creatures: sirens and unicorns. These images arise from the books I read, and mythology is the basis from which I start. Once I create the work, I believe that, in some way, it is already separated from me and exists on its own. I believe that the characters depicted by me are already independent and already live their own lives. 

I like it when the viewer sees the work and thinks it through himself. Due to the specifics of my first education, I always write some literary material for each of my works, but I do not always show it because everyone should see something different in the work.

There are several topics and themes that influence your work, including ecology, endangered animals, and fantastic creatures. How did these topics find their way into your work and/or this series?

Ecology is the first topic that worried me at the age of 13. My first stories are about environmental pollution and the death of life on earth if a person does not stop the barbaric exploitation of natural resources.

My works are my own myths and I process mythological plots and write my own. Now I have an idea to place Judith in a society of the future, where a girl who has committed a certain offense turns into an outcast. This classic story is heavily reworked in my version; I already have several sketches of the work, and most likely I will make a painting series.

How does the black and red color theme contribute to the meaning of the images?

I guess I write intuitively. I like the aesthetics of black and white cinema, and it seems to me that color is sometimes superfluous, and the eye pays a lot of attention to color. However, color is secondary; the main thing is the feeling of form, the internal state of the viewer’s proximity, where nothing distracts from the main thing (be it a character or an object). The scarlet color sometimes serves as a semantic addition, as, for example, in the Chess Game series. The cells are white and red, and this is a kind of tension in the game where the pieces temporarily die, but their rebirth comes very soon in the new game. In the Fish of the Rebirth series, red is a gap in space, rebirth into another entity, the transition of people into the stages of fish, where the ocean turns into a world community after death. It is filled with those who once were someone.

Red is a pure symbol, and in my new series I drew red wings. On one hand it is a symbol of victory, and on the other it is a symbol of death.

What materials went into creating these images? Do you create other types of art?

I create most often with ink. I like the printing effect and I do monotypes, as well. Sometimes I don’t know what will happen, but I call it “mind training.” First, I imagine the topic with which I will work, and then I print from a small sheet of paper. I made a series called Ghosts and decided not to introduce color at first, but then it was needed for the stripes.

Most often, I look for topics in the reality around me, describe what I see and process it, and add mythological episodes (for example, a dragon that no one sees, or mermaids playing in a pond). Sometimes I rearrange the words and show a reality that expresses the inner meaning: “Sometimes you need to see the hidden in order to express what happened.” If you write about a vase as it is, then it loses its meaning. You need to describe not an ideal vase, but the one you want to show.

In addition to creating art, you write poetry and short stories. Where can we find some of your written work? Also, you mention you work as a mail artist and draw postcards. Talk more about this.

In November of this year, a collection of stories of fifty words will be published, and my small literary sketch will be printed in this volume. Also, my poem was published in the journal Gipsopfila.

Since November 2020, I started making small postcards, and this was due to not being able to write large works. I got sick a lot and I probably got depressed, and I decided to find like-minded people (like those selling art and writing commissioned works). Now I have a small collection of mail art and I receive letters from Japan, Italy, Spain, Argentina, and the United States in response to my postcards.

For the postcards, I use cardboard (from medicine or toothpaste packages, for example), glue it together with small pieces of tinted paper, draw with a gel pen and gouache (or sometimes acrylic), and add a collage. I made postcards dedicated to the war in gouache. On one, I depicted a woman and a child under falling bombs and, on another, bombs falling on a young girl’s neck. The bend of the girl’s neck is such that it seems she will break. Underneath her are the bones of a burnt house.

Most often on the postcards, I draw sirens or self-portraits, although I think the siren herself is my self-portrait or who I want to be. 

How do you see your work as an artist, graphic artist, and illustrator intersecting with your educational background in design?

Education in the field of design gave me knowledge of perspective and anatomy. We also had several classes with artists who studied painting. Before receiving a degree in design, I studied art history. This helped me with writing articles, poems, and some short literary sketches.

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