Urban places can be hotspots for inspiration, and local artist Boryana Rusenova Ina explores those concepts in every place that she has lived or visited. A native of Bulgaria and graduate of CCAD, Boryana produces composite mixed-media cityscapes that can feel both familiar and foreign. Empty streets contain a sense of movement, and layers of urban grit tell a story of historic wear and tear.
We recently spoke to Boryana about her work, and to find out more about what inspires her in Columbus. Read on for our full Q&A:
Q: First, can you tell us a bit about your background as it relates to being an artist?
A: I grew up in Bulgaria and did not get much fine art exposure or training as a child. Although, Bulgarian crafts and especially quilting is well known. I was surrounded by it because both my grandmothers were constantly working with fabric and knitting. I think that my love for pattern and ornate designs developed from them and has become an intrinsic part of my sensitivity to visual form.
My first formal education in the arts was at CCAD, where I did my BFA with a focus on painting and drawing. After graduating I headed over to Scotland to attend the Glasgow School of Art. While I lived there I was constantly surrounded by Mackintosh architecture and design, which is also very ornamented in a geometric kind of way. In the two years I lived there I completed an MA in Art, Design and Architecture Education and had a couple of exhibitions in Europe.
Q: Many of your paintings focus on urban spaces. What inspires you to focus your work on cities?
A: My current work has a lot to do with notions of ‘home’ and the relationships that we form with our environment. I’ve moved around a lot, not just from one neighborhood to another, but more like across cultural boundaries, which is probably what triggered these reflections on what home is. Regardless of the environment, Bulgaria, Scotland or Columbus, Ohio, I’ve always lived in the city. I first started drawing cityscapes while in Glasgow because it is such a dense and diverse architectural mix of old tenements and new buildings. After drawing urban places for a while I started thinking more about what it meant to live in one culture versus another. All the places I have encountered in my life have left permanent marks on me, whether as a native or a tourist just passing by. There is something really interesting in understanding when a place goes from ‘foreign’ to ‘familiar’ to ‘home’, I think a lot of my work is a result of this transition.
Q: Can you tell us a bit about the process you use to capture real-life places? Do you start with photos and paint from there, and how do you go about producing a composite look to your work?
A: The work is a combination of photography, painting, drawing and collage, which gives me opportunities to add meaning in layers. Every piece, although one singular image, contains fragments of ‘journeys through space and time’. Each work starts off as a series of photographs that I take while exploring a particular place. I do not work from life but rely on the camera’s way of seeing. What I am looking for when taking pictures is not the ‘perfect’ image of that place but a series of distorted, blurry photographs. Often times my references are out of focus, they have glare and a peculiar sense of perspective.
After gathering my references I start each piece as charcoal drawing. Paint and collage elements come later to build up a sense of texture in the city: paint chipping off, layered billboards, constructed and deconstructed streets and sidewalks. Despite the use of paint a lot of the initial drawing is preserved as a skeleton structure underneath it. This process of layering different media on top of one another also mimics the city’s own nature of persistent renewal.
Q: I noticed on your website that you teach classes at CCAD and the Cultural Arts Center. Can you tell us a bit about that and why it’s important to you?
A: Teaching art is my second most favorite thing next to being in the studio. Sharing what I know is a healthy way to release all the thoughts that build up in my head while in the studio. Also it is very inspiring to see what my students come up with on their own projects, in many ways they are my teachers too. It is very easy to get content with doing things one way, without allowing for change and experimentation to have a say. Working with others makes you constantly rethink not only how you explain things but also how you work as an artist. My students inspire me and I think that is why I try to keep busy in the studio.
Q: Are there any current or upcoming opportunities for our readers to see your work displayed?
A: I am part of “Ohiocentric” at City Center Gallery, which is part of the OSU Urban Arts Space. It was a great pleasure to win second place at that juried show, it really means a lot to see the work being appreciated.
I also work with Art Access Gallery in Bexley and will have my annual exhibition there in September, 2012. More information will be available soon on their website and mine.
Q: Any other big plans for 2012?
A: I am planning a trip to Bulgaria and Lebanon this summer, which will be the highlight of my year I think. Visiting the culture that I grew up in always inspires my work. This time I will also get to visit Beirut, which is where my husband’s family is from. Again, there will be lots of thinking on the meaning of ‘home’ as I head over to these places that influence my identity as an artist and a person.
More information can be found online at www.boryanarusenova.com.