You might know Russian photographer Ilya Shtutsa for his playful street photographs mostly from Saint Petersburg, with layered compositions and humour. A while ago he started to post paintings on Facebook and they immediately intrigued me. The photographic elements in the paintings are very interesting and it makes me look at Ilya’s photography in a different way. I’ve asked him to write some words about this new work.
As long as I remember, I always wanted to draw. However, I never took it seriously. There were always reasons for not doing it like “you are not talented enough”, “you don’t have an education”, “it’s too complicated”, “it’s too long to learn”.
At the same time, the more I immersed myself in street photography, the more I learned about visual culture, the more I started to love colour and structure and the more I got inspired not only by other photographers, but also by painters like Matisse, Bonnard, Diebenkorn and David Park.
Two years ago I bought a book at Tate Modern in London, called A Bigger Message: Conversations with David Hockney. It was the first time I saw Hockney’s drawings made with a finger on an iPhone. I fell in love immediately. Not just with the pictures, but also with the idea of drawing on the phone. After seeing this I had no choice, I had to try it myself. It was definitely easier than drawing on paper, because there is no such thing as fear of an iPhone screen, in contradiction to the fear of the white sheet. But of course to work with the materials, first paper and then canvas, was the next logical step.
In street photography, for me – as for many others – the most important thing is to find something completely unexpected. As Henri Cartier Bresson has put it: “You don’t have to take pictures, it’s pictures that take you”. Of course it’s possible to say the same thing about paintings; an image takes you and commands you to paint it. Although, it seems to be less unpredictable than photography. At the end it’s you who makes the decision what to paint exactly and in what way. But once you’ve started, you find out that the raw material changes in the process, so you never know to what you’ll come at in the end. There is just another kind of unpredictability.
It was also interesting to find out that some kind of images prefer to be photographs while others yearn to become paintings. It works in this strange way with all kinds of pictures, like my Paris Google Street View series. The idea was born quite naturally. In the middle of the pandemic my girlfriend went to Paris to study at Sorbonne. Of course I would have like to visit her and walk the streets of this beautiful city together. It wasn’t possible to travel so the only option for me was to walk in Paris with Google Street View. I didn’t find it interesting to photograph the screen, that was made countless times. To make the series of drawings was the most obvious decision. In that way we could walk in Paris together in my paintings.
Thank you Ilya! I love these works. It’s fascinating to look at the photographic elements in the paintings and the other way around. It inspires me to try phone painting as well. Here are a few more.
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