I recently attended the vernissage for the exhibition entitled Palette of My Impressions by Ukrainian artist Anna Verbenets. The exhibition has been set up at Palazzo de la Salle in Valletta, home to the Malta Society of Arts. The paintings are exhibited in three different rooms, and they immediately introduce the audience to an atmosphere of the past, bringing them back to the decade between the end of Romanticism and the beginnings of Impressionism. Landscapes, still lives and human figures are at the heart of Anna’s artistic work, showing a solid technical basis in every brush stroke. In the still life, and especially in Bowl with Apples, Anna demonstrates the security of an academic study. The light and the colours are well proportioned and offer to the apples solidity and vivid realism that extends in three dimensions. The use of space in the composition stands out and gives balance to all the details. The landscapes that recall memories of Mother Russia and villages in Malta, notably Għargħur where the artist currently resides, are also noteworthy. Here, the romantic mood of idyllic landscapes is mixed with Impressionist brush strokes which attempt to capture the experience of light and colour. Your reporter had the opportunity to go behind the scenes and have a chat with the artist herself.
When did you discover your talent for and attraction towards art?
Ever since I was a little girl, I liked to paint and draw. I’d paint everywhere – on paper, magazines, newspapers, and a few times, on the wallpapers and on the sofa, which didn’t make my parents very happy, to say the least. It did however get their attention, and my grandparents noticed a passion in me while painting everywhere and on anything. So, they talked to me about this and encouraged me to study painting. So, at 12 years old, I started attending an arts school to study for my first diploma. I’m now currently reading for a PhD degree in the Pedagogy in Fine Arts. Being an artist became my profession, and I’m very happy that I’ve had the opportunity to exhibit my paintings in so many countries.
How would you describe your life in Ukraine?
In Ukraine, I started studying at the Fine Arts School and I then graduated from the National University with a Bachelors degree in Fine Arts and Pedagogy, and later on, with a masters degree in Fine Arts. During my years there, I painted a lot and participated in some exhibitions. I sold some of my paintings to locals, foreigners living in my country and also foreigners who visited the exhibitions while on holiday in Ukraine. At a young age, I had to face new challenges solving logistics issues in order to transport my paintings to my foreign buyers in countries such as America, Russia and Europe.
How do you juggle with your artistic activity and your post at the Surikoff Fine Arts School?
I really love my job and my students. It inspires me. It provides me with the flexibility I need to paint in the mornings at my studio, as well as work on my own projects, and in the evenings to teach fine arts and history of art at school.
What’s the inspiration behind your art?
I find my inspiration in daily happenings and in every moment of my life. It is the beauty of nature and the people around me. If I travel and I really like the place, then you’ll find that place in my paintings. But in general, beauty, peace, tranquility and positivity inspire me and are reflected in my creations. I hope that such positive attributes are transmitted to the people who admire my work, to the buyers and the places where they hang my paintings.
There are 4 rooms in the exhibition. Are they interconnected?
Yes they are. Room 1 exhibits still life pieces which show the beauty of nature. Room 2 contains landscapes of Russia and Ukraine, which show the character of architecture and nature. Room 3 has portraits showing people transmitting positivity. Room 4 has landscapes of Malta which demonstrate the unique beauty of this lovely country which I fell in love with.
Do you have a favourite from your exhibition at Palazzo de la Salle?
Every painting which I exhibited for Palette of My Impressions is important and valuable to me. When creating every painting, I expressed my inner feelings and emotions, and I spent my time with each painting creating a spiritual relationship with it. So I can’t really name one favourite, as there is a part of me in each and every painting.
Who’s your favourite painter?
Another question which is difficult to answer because I have many favourite painters. Of course, I should admit that my favourite artists are almost all Russian from the 19th century, such as Vasilii Perov, Ivan Shushkin, Vasilii Surikoff and others. They’re good examples of classical academic art. I also love Michelangelo and Rafael from the Italian Renaissance. I love French impressionists such as Monet, Renoir and others. The list is endless.
Why should people come to view your work?
Art always makes people feel good. It can inspire, it can educate. It can serve as a good outing for all the family. I strongly believe that my paintings portray a strong message of peace, love and positivity to all visitors.