Gulf News - Mozhaeva

Irina Mozhaeva on the silk route to adventure

Russian artist Irina Mozhaeva loves painting on this fabric because the end result is always unpredictable

By Jyoti Kalsi, Special to Weekend Review November 14, 2013 Image Credit:


Russian artist Irina Mozhaeva fell in love with silk painting while she was still a student at the Moscow Textile University.


During a study trip to a museum she was so fascinated by an ancient Chinese silk painting that she chose to make this form of art her main medium of expression.


Besides working with traditional techniques of hot and cold batik, Mozhaeva has pushed the boundaries of this medium by developing innovative techniques and she has created varying effects by using different types of silk and dyes of various densities.


Thanks to these innovations she is able to imitate the soft, flowing watercolour effect as well as the look of classical oil paintings in her work. The artist is also the founder of an art school where she has been sharing her knowledge of silk painting and her innovations with her students for the past 25 years.


Mozhaeva’s versatility and mastery over her medium can be seen in her first solo exhibition in Dubai, “Symphony of Colour and Light”, which features a retrospective of her work over the past three decades.


The artworks on display include paintings done with traditional and original “Mozhaeva” techniques as well as combinations of various techniques. Also on display are scarves painted by the artist, representing her many different techniques and styles.


“Painting on silk is always an adventure because the end result is so unpredictable. Even though I plan each composition and colour scheme carefully, the interaction between the paints, the light and the fabric always springs some surprises, which is what I love about this form of art. I also paint with watercolours, oil paints and pastels, but nothing allows me to express my feelings as well as painting on silk,” Mozhaeva says.


The exhibition includes paintings in different styles ranging from figurative and abstract works to compositions inspired by impressionism, surrealism, realism, constructivism and cubism.


Mozhaeva’s themes are extremely varied. In a painting called “Dreams”, the artist has used flowing liquid acrylics to create a dreamy effect and draw viewers into a romantic fantasy world of ancient Russian palaces.


Whereas, in “Silence”, she conveys the peaceful atmosphere of a park set around a lake that she visits often in Moscow, and “A Town in the Evening” depicts her memories of her birthplace in Siberia.


In some works, such as “Cosmic Extravaganza” and “Hope”, she has used graphic-design elements to express her ideas and emotions. A triptych titled “Illusion of Reality” is a good example of the layering in her work.


“This is a view I saw from the window of an aircraft and it looked like a mysterious, unreal Martian landscape. The delicate, transparent bubble I have painted in the centre represents a window into this world as well as the fragility of our reality,” the artist says.


Mozhaeva’s paintings of flowers showcase different techniques such as the mosaics and cracks created by the hot batik technique, the marbling effect she creates with a hot iron, her control on the flow of colours in the cold batik technique, and the special textured and patterned backgrounds she creates by using ten different types of silk, including fabrics with patterns.


Another recurring theme in her work is dancers. “As a child I wanted to be a ballet dancer, and the ballet dancers in my paintings reflect my love for all forms of dancing. I try to depict the grace, beauty, fragility and purity of the dancers and the precision in every move they make. But above all, my paintings of classical and folk dancers are about expressing strong emotions,” she says.


Mozhaeva’s palette reflects her deep interest and training in colour therapy. For many years her art school has been collaborating with the Moscow Philharmonia on a project titled “We paint Music”, which involves creating visual interpretations of the orchestra’s repertoire every season. This engagement with music is also visible in her harmonious compositions. She adds depth to her paintings by extending her brushstrokes on to the silk or velvet covering the surrounding cardboard, and often on to the frame.


The artist’s use of gold in her paintings is inspired by ancient Russian icons and her desire to create a spiritual feel in her work.


“Through my colours and their interaction with light and the silk fabric, I try to create paintings that are optimistic and make viewers feel happy and peaceful. My favourite paintings are the ones that marry the unique texture of the background with imagination and deep philosophical meaning. This meaning is not easily understood. It is hidden in the abstract composition and can only be perceived on an intuitive level,” the artist says.




Jyoti Kalsi is an arts enthusiast based in Dubai.




“Symphony of Colour and Light” will run at Baginskaya Gallery and Studio, JLT, until December 10.