Annya Sand (born 1983) is a British artist, currently completing an MA at Central Saint Martins, London. Annya has embarked on a new project entitled ‘Renaissance- Lockdown‘ where she takes a blank canvas and meditates on the process of creating something to revive the internal spirit.
Annya says: ‘If you can’t go outside, go inside’
Annya explores abstract painting using her own original lexicon. She has taken Coronavirus-induced, global isolation seriously and uses her blank canvases as a vehicle for her creativity and mental health. Annya has always believed in her art as a meditative process, but now it has become more important than ever to learn how to express ourselves without going outside. Follow her week by week on her Renaissance -Lockdown canvas to explore the therapy and the creation that isolation provides.
1. How do you describe your practice?
Annya Sand: I mainly use oil and acrylic, but I prefer to use oil paint because of its profound texture. I love to observe life and use my observations in my artwork; I mainly enjoy nature and people.
Although my craft allows me to work from anywhere, I need the right settings for my creativity to come alive and I usually work during the night when the world is asleep and there is calm and tranquil energy which I adore.
When I start a project, I tend to get a particular image or idea in my head that screams a need to express itself on my canvas – and I cannot rest until I do!
My work tends to develop around that image through lines and colours, but when it comes to my work, the process of creation itself is what excites me the most. I enjoy the transformative development; making shapes come together before me and watching them evolve. My technique is element based, and I tend to use my bare hands when working with oils and acrylics, as I need to feel the painting to truly adjust its texture. I tend to coat thin layers atop one another which allows for the original underlayer to seep through and show itself. I also use tapping techniques with flat brushes to generate realistic landscapes. When creating, especially when dealing with the abstract, I remain obsessed with the outcome. I’m a perfectionist and I feel compelled to guarantee a flawless composition. This involves revisiting a completed work months later to ensure its proper and final manifestation.
2. Who do you include as your creative influences, and why were you drawn to these artists?
Although I focus on Abstraction in my craft, there are, without question a few artists that have influenced me creatively. They are Anselm Kiefer, Valery Koshlyakov and Henri Matisse and Philipp Malyavin.
There is no question that although my life is hugely cosmopolitan and international, the work of Malyavin speaks to my ‘Russian’ side. His distinct realism is so striking, and although my work doesn’t have a clear visual connection, his figurative work evokes a world with its cultural spirit. It’s his use of brushstrokes that inspired me to explore the nature of brushstrokes within my work.
Henri Matisse, a classic icon for any expressionist, widened my eyes to greater use of colour, process and paint-expression. It is his use of colour and figurative gestural form that heavily influenced my early figurative work. Moreover, it has formed a distinct part of my more recent abstract work that came out of my exhibitions in 2015 both in Paris and Gallery Elena Shchukina in London.
I absolutely love Anselm Kiefer. Not only does he wholeheartedly explore collective memory and identity – which have been key themes in my own early work – but his varied use of mediums and profound expressionism through the limited use of colour is amazing, which I believe demonstrates such unique talent!
3. How are you managing to keep focused on your work during the London lockdown?
I think, as with everything, any situation can inspire negativity or positivity. Although the world is paralysed at the moment, I believe we have a chance to view it differently.
As an abstract artist, my work concerns itself with process and meditation, and the lockdown forces my craft to find focus, bereft of superfluous distractions.
My motto is ‘If you can’t go outside, go inside’ – I have used this time as a form of therapy which has allowed me to use my artistic craft as therapy and use it for what I believe Abstraction is meant to be – an exploration of the self!
4. How has the current crisis affected your mental health?
At first, it was very hard to digest, as I love to walk outside and have the honour and privilege of living in central London where I can regularly take advantage of its beautiful parks and architecture. It has been somewhat chilling to see a normally-buzzing London-town transform into a ‘no-mans land’.
However, I decided to turn this into something positive for my craft and work, and as time as gone on. The situation has somewhat ‘normalised’, I have been embracing the quiet, meditation and creativity that it has inspired.
5. What survival advice do you have for other artists?
I love fresh air; it energises me, so I would always recommend some form of movement outside (if possible) to anybody, not just artists!
However, if an artist doesn’t already explore their inner world, now is the time. Use the quiet to learn mindfulness, use meditation to inspire new thoughts and ideas that can powerfully impact your work!
6. Do you think the pre lockdown London art scene will survive this crisis?
There will be some short-term challenges, especially to smaller galleries, dealers and artists under challenging circumstances. Still, the crisis could have been the catalyst for these damages, rather than the primary cause.
I think that the art market transcends normal market functions. Art is not always a prominent commodity for those involved in the markets, but it has still since time has begun, had an essential place within the global market.
Ultimately, all experiences of life will always inspire mediation and creativity, and artists will still create where the world will want to absorb. So, I guess in economic jargon that means, if there are supply and demand, there will always be a market.
The Art market is resilient and will come back in full swing – you wait!
7. Can you tell me about your Coronavirus ‘Lockdown’ project?
My ‘Renaissance – Lockdown’ project was a project that I took on, in light of the global situation. I have always believed in my art acting as a meditative process, but now it has become even more critical than ever to learn how to express ourselves without going outside!
The project is a mindful exploration of my process, where I have taken a blank canvas and meditate on the process of creating something to revive the inner spirit.
Week by week, I catalogue my ‘Canvas’ and notice how the process progresses and the creations that are inspired by it – hence why each image is named ‘Week One’ etc
Artists, curators and critics are always so concerned with analysing the final piece. Still, this project shifts the attention away from the last and focusses on the process, exploring how things unfold!
About Annya Sand
Born in Almaty, Kazakhstan, Central Asia, into an artistic family, following in the footsteps of her jeweller-father and architect-grandfather, Annya embraced creativity from a young age. As a girl, Annya spent her days painting and learning about crafts in her father’s art studio. At the age of 12, due to the fall of Soviet rule in Kazakhstan, Annya was sent to the UK to study.
Annya has furthered her career through both her Asian ties and London presence. In 2010, she helped to cultivate collaboration between Christie’s in London and the National Museum of Kazakhstan to organise the ‘Treasure of Kazakhstan’. The exhibition revealed, for the first time to a London audience, 75 masterpieces of Kazak and Russian art. To inaugurate the Year of Russia in the UK, Annya exhibited a collection of figurative oil-paintings that were inspired by the urban landscapes of Russia in the Houses of Parliament, London, UK.
It was the year 2015 that acted as a turning point for Annya Sand, where her work moved from figurative realism to conceptualism, allowing her abstract tendencies to come alive. It was at her exhibition ‘The World of Obsessions’ held in at the Galerie Onerio, Paris where she showcases her ‘dreamlike canvases’ to express both memory and subconscious. It becomes apparent, that within this display, Annya explores the tension between figuration and Abstraction, recording her movement away from straight figuration, where forms and shapes are implied rather than defined.
It was from here that led Annya Sand to exhibit at ‘Art 15’ with the International Art Development Association (IADA) where she explored installation pieces which furthered her flair for the abstract.
Mayfair Gallery, Elena Schukina, took Annya’s collection ‘The Essence of Colour’ to the next level, where not only is her work solely abstract in personality, but the use of colour moves to the very heart of Annya’s work. It is through the experience of colours and tones that the viewer explores the mysterious nature of her work on a deeper level. It was her development as an artist in 2015, that reveals her capacity for the abstract, despite her figurative beginnings.
Annya Sand has exhibited her collections globally, including at the Saatchi Gallery (London) the United Nations (New York, Geneva), UNESCO (Paris, Andorra, Venice) and the Zilliard Art Foundation, supported by the Pictet Private Bank (London).
Over her 20-year career, Annya Sand has been represented by various London-based galleries and is now self-represented. Annya lives and works predominantly in London but exhibits all over the globe.
Recent Exhibitions include:
The CSW (United Nations Commission on the Status of Women), United Nations HQ, New York, U.S.A.(2018)
Zilliard Art Foundation with support of Pictet Private Bank, at Herrick Gallery, London, U.K.(2019)