Veronica Ponomareva’s paintings to date haven’t set any sales records in the art world. Her exhibitions are where her inner circle gather. Outsiders occasionally pop in and some of them buy her work. She won’t do commissions, and never promises anything of particular current relevance.
In the hurly burly of the modern art market, she is an anomaly. Her world contrasts beauty with the ordinary, high-ideals with the lowest common denominator. Interesting that her mobile ring tone is from the Nikita Mihailkov film ‘At home amongst strangers; a stranger when at home’. As we could have expected, DE I found a lot in common with her.
DE I: Is there any one event that made you start taking painting seriously?
V.P.: It probably happened after a Rerikh exhibition I went to in our town, but it wasn’t any kind of grandiose event. I was living in the building where the exhibition took place so I couldn’t ignore it. Apart from Rerikh’s paintings, a lot of his books and diaries were on display. One of the exhibition employees explained Rerikh’s philosophy and showed me some of the books. I spent a long time there, and then more or less forgot about it, but when I moved to Moscow, everything came back to me. Now I go to the Rerikh Museum a lot. They recently had a remarkable exhibition of artefacts and items which were buried with the ashes of the (spiritual) teachers who had passed on to another life. That doesn’t imply that I’m a Buddhist. But Rerich wrote that the world lacks a unified temple which a person from any religion can visit. I thought about that a lot when I returned from Tibet.
DE I: What’s your reaction to the success of your work and the high prices it fetches?
V.P.: It scares me. It’s a well known fact that artistic recognition and commercial success rarely go hand in hand for a real artist. And if it happens too soon, it seems all the more sort of wrong, or as if there’s something not quite right in the path you’ve chosen. Obstacles are essential.
DE I: Are you capable of turning your back on material pleasures?
V.P.: I think so. Once, during my first year of living alone, I remember seeing my mother to the door of my apartment, and a very lively conversation started about what I should spend my time on. She has a very well-grounded view of the world, and I tried to explain how little I really need and I literally rejcted that I needed any of my things. She left, and the next day, the apartment was burgled. They took almost everything – my paints, books, films, equipment, and personal stuff. I turned my back on all of it, and so it was taken. The policeman who took my statement was very surprised why I was smiling all the time when I should have been crying. They caught the thieves, prosecuted them, and it was all like something from a movie, especially when they read out a long and – for me – very funny list of everything that had been stolen.
DE I: Nowadays are you more protective of your home?
V.P.: After that intrusion, naturally I tried to move immediately. I couldn’t live there. But I think it’s more important how you organize your living space, and I believe that where you sleep and work is very significant. I read somewhere that each angel has been delegated particular tasks and particular colours. My apartment is decorated entirely in violet, and there is a painting I did over the bed which stretches from the head of the bed to the ceiling with the entire colour spectrum shown in these vertical stripes. Oil paints take a long time to dry, and I couldn’t wait for that to happen so I hung the painting immediately after I finished it and went out. When I got back, the painting had fallen down, and everything on the bed ended up being coloured like the spectrum!
DE I: What has been the most unusual reaction to your paintings?
V.P.: Oh, that came from customs! They were so happy when they saw me arriving with my paintings. They were almost jumping with joy in expectation of how I would prove to them that the paintings were actually mine and not some kind of Chinese national treasures. Instead of the usual 10–15 minutes, they examined both me and my paintings for over 4 hours. But what can you do – at the end of the day, I managed to escape back home!
© DE I / DESILLUSIONIST ¹-1. "ANGELS BY YOUR BED"