Q: Your latest creation is called “The Scream.” Tell us about it.
A: The death of Boris Nemtsov was a great loss for all who hoped to see Russia as a free and democratic country. He was a person who could lead the country into a democratic future, but he was demonstratively killed near Red Square. My work is based on one of Edvard Munch’s works called “The Scream.” I visited the Munch Museum in Oslo, where I was really struck by the artist’s ability to reflect a variety of emotions, whether it was horror, fear, pain, or numbness in people’s faces. Like I do often in my works, I took a well-known character from mass culture, changed the context and meaning of the work, and welded the screaming face behind a steel grid. I then installed the work on the Bolshoi Moskvoretsky Bridge next to the memorial dedicated to Boris Nemtsov.
Q: You decided to display your artwork in a public place without authorization. Aren’t you afraid of consequences?
A: Street art is the most democratic form of art. I rarely display my works on the street, but if I decide to, it’s carefully chosen and meaningful. No, I was not at all afraid of the consequences. I did not destroy anything or offend anyone’s feelings, but I realize that the reason for the persecution may be completely different — maybe political.
Q: How do you see yourself as an artist?
A: I am an artist who follows his instincts. Things that deeply touch me turn into inspiration. I am very sensitive to injustice and the pain of others. At the same time, my language consists of the symbols of pop culture. I change the context and sometimes even completely change the meaning of images I borrow from other artists. Putin-supporters dislike and criticize my work. But I don’t care. I will always be on the side of the weak and never on the side of the ruling elite.
Q: Who inspires you in your work?
A: Jasper Johns inspires me. He’s an American painter, sculptor and printmaker whose work is associated with abstract expressionism, Neo-Dadaism, and pop art. Johns is famous for his depictions of the American flag. One work I did in 2015 is in homage to Jasper Johns. I drew a Russian flag and thought that if I weld it onto metal gridwork, it would perfectly describe the situation in the country. After that I decided to go through all symbols of the Russian state — stars, eagles and various other attributes of power. I was especially inspired by the Russian coat of arms. Eagles, including two-headed ones, are present in the coats of arms of many countries, and two-headed eagles are always in the countries that somehow lay claim to being successors of the first Rome, the one on the Tiber. For example: Austria (a fragment of the Holy Roman Empire); tiny Montenegro; and huge Russia. So I decided to create a huge double-headed eagle. The work was part of the “Uniform” exhibition displayed in the Dukley European Art Community in Montenegro in 2016. Another contemporary artist and activist who inspires me is Ai Weiwei. All his works are socially astute and uncompromising. My dream is to collaborate with him.