How do you make the portraits?
I talk to and record video of all the veterans. I make black and white paintings of their memories of the war, but I paint their portraits in color, focusing on their arms and eyes. During the meetings I take photos and make a few sketches, and then I paint in my studio. The veterans, of course, can’t sit for a painting for hours. I ask each of my subjects what their favorite pastime is, and that’s what I paint. My granddad loves desserts so I pictured him with his favorite cake and tea glass holder, which he has had since the 1950s when he studied at the Academy of Arts in St. Petersburg.
What was the most moving story you heard?
It was a story from Ivan Martynushkin, who was one of the first liberators of Auschwitz. In 1945 he commanded a company that fought for a village near Krakow. But he had no idea that there was a concentration camp nearby. In fact, he and his fellow soldiers didn’t even know such camps existed and happened upon it absolutely by accident. They saw a large fence with barbed wire in the field. Before Auschwitz, the soldiers saw enough death and hunger, but what they saw there shocked them. The prisoners did not speak any Russian, but Ivan saw gratitude and joy in their eyes.
Neo Geo Business Center.17 Ulitsa Butlerova. MetroKaluzhskaya. The exhibition runs until May 31 and is open Tuesdaythrough Sunday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Call +7 985 774 2936 for an appointment.