Eastern Stories: An interview with Ildar Iksanov (series in association with PEN ETC)

Art — 22.04.20

Words: Desislava Todorova
Event Images: Kerr McIlwraith / PEN ETC
Photography: Ildar Iksanov

Days before the world had to slow down because of the global pandemic, PEN ETC introduced Ildar Iksanov’s photographic work to the London art scene with an interactive drinks reception and exhibition opening in his Kensington flat.

Iksanov’s work is an inquisitive exploration of his journey in Eastern Europe, documenting the details he has seen and reflecting the characters he has met and influenced his creative vision. Teeth Editor Desislava Todorova spoke with the young Russian photographer about his aesthetics, current work and future plans.

Tell us a little bit about yourself – where are you from, what do you do?

I was born in Astrakhan (a small town near the Caspian Sea) and have been living in Moscow for the past 10 years. I’m a menswear stylist, but at the moment I am more focused on my photography and art career. Also, I’m involved in the Russian music scene, I play drums in a new wave band called Trud.

Yerevan, 2019. Giclée print. 30 x 45 cm. Edition 1 of 1. Signed by the artist.

What are you up to at the moment – any current projects?

No current projects at the moment. All the projects I’ve ever done usually come naturally and most of the time overnight. Surely, I do have some ideas on my mind, for example at the moment I am very much into dry flowers and would like to use them in my photography. 

Event photo by Kerr McIlwraith

What made you go into photography?

I’ve been taking pictures for 7 years. I never studied photography, I still do not get some stuff technically, everything I do is mostly based on my intuition. It’s always been my hobby and basically still is. Because if you really enjoy doing something you primarily do it for yourself. The same thing with my musical performance, technically one could say that I am not that good at playing the drums, but I do it with all my heart.

During all this time my main inspiration has been architecture, mostly the Soviet Modernism which you can find a lot in Russia and not only here. But the last 2 or 3 years I started to notice alluring details not only in architecture. For me, it is essential to show something I see and remain these things unspoken. For anyone to be able to complete this puzzle the way he embraces it.

Armenia, 2019. Giclée print. 60 x 40 cm. Edition 1 of 1. Signed by the artist.

What has been your favourite location to shoot and why?

Armenia and Georgia are my favourite places! The weather there is always sunny, people are super friendly and those places have great architecture. I also like Kiev a lot. It impresses me how much freedom people have there, that’s a huge inspiration for me. I enjoy taking pictures of Europe as well because there are a lot of details you can’t find in Russia. I like to watch the way people dress, how they feel and how their lifestyle differs from Russian. 

Kiev, 2019. Giclée print. 30 x 45 cm + white border. Edition 1 of 1. Signed by the artist.

What is coming up for you? What is your next big project?

My goal is to make each one of my current prints unique despite its edition. That’s what I am concentrating on at the moment. 

Tbilisi, 2018. Giclée print. 30 x 45 cm. Edition 1 of 1. Signed by the artist.

How are you coping with the international crisis?

Today everything is uncertain and frightening. In Moscow, the quarantine isn’t as strict as in Europe at the moment. People still go to work. Small businesses suffer the most right now. All my good pals who have cafes and bars are facing a tough situation which can lead them to close down. They are trying to come up with new ways to communicate with their clients, such as deposits for future purchases, online activities, free delivery. 

Sevan, 2019. Giclée print. 60 x 40 cm. Edition 1 of 1. Signed by the artist.

Concerning the art people, the virus hasn’t affected them a lot yet. Unfortunately, we had to close my exhibition in London hosted by PEN ETC earlier then it’s been planned to. A lot of people who have intended to visit it could not because of the quarantine. However, besides the COVID-19 there is also the fact that Russian ruble has fallen and all the budgets are cut. There is a huge possibility of mass job cuts. I believe the best way to cope with the panic in these strange times is to stay positive. For me as a photographer, I try to find beauty in things that surround me every day, people I live with, try to reopen certain things I’ve been used to and stopped noticing at some point. Let’s stay at home and hope it will all soon be okay.

Event photo by Kerr McIlwraith

You can purchase Ildar Iksanov’s prints on PEN ETC’s website: https://www.penetc.co.uk