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Through the eyes of an artist

Rizal Faisal

For Lyubov Shibanova, painting is a passion, and her composition is centred on people in their environment. An artist of Russian-Austrian descent based in Brunei Darussalam, Shibanova was among a group of artists whose creative works were showcased at a recent art exhibition.

Speaking with the Bulletin, Shibanova, whose name means “love” in Russian, shared insights on her paintings and her personal journey.

“I graduated from an art academy in Russia and had my first solo exhibition exactly 20 years ago,” she said.

“Since then, my unique trademark were large wall paintings, but over the years I have been drawn to exploring a variety of new media and art forms. I have collaborated with architects, designed living spaces and interiors, and even corporate brands.”

On her passion for painting, she said, “Through my works, I explore how the environment determines the personality and shapes experiences. The same person in my paintings can be different depending on the surroundings.Environment also changes me as an artist.”

Shibanova and her family moved to Brunei about a year ago and her first interaction with the vivid nature impressed her deeply, luring her to capture it on canvas.

Paintings based on the family of Russian-Austrian artist Lyubov Shibanova. PHOTOS: LYUBOV SHIBANOVA

Lyubov Shibanova poses in front of her paintings

“My children are at the centre of this journey, as they explore and discover Borneo’s treasures alongside me,” she said.

People, nature and discovery were the three elements that formed the core theme of her works during the recent exhibition organised by Alliance Francaise.

At the exhibition, she gave a tour of her paintings and explained the motives behind them.

“I used two different painting styles and techniques to capture the still and colour-rich nature, and rapid and dynamic discovery,” she said.

Describing one painting, which she called Abode of Peace, she said, “You can see my youngest child embedded in the vivid nature of Brunei. As every young child, he meets the world with open eyes, full of trust and curiosity.

“To depict the colour-rich nature I used glazing – a technique in painting, whereby a thin layer of paint is applied on top of the main colour, resulting in rich, iridescent colours.”

Speaking on her painting of an unknown woman which Shibanova named Floral Symphony, she said it is a homage to Brunei’s vivid nature and its open, friendly, and always-smiling people.

“Nature is changing very slowly as if it stands still. On the contrary, people are fast-moving, exploring and discovering. Capturing movement is challenging for artists and requires a different technique,” she explained.

Shibanova also spoke about a set of paintings she did of people swimming, which she titled Aquatic Journey. The set was created after observing her family at a day out for fun times.

“These paintings are a study of motion and discovery process. Instead of putting all characters in a single canvas, I decided to dedicate to each one own space, to underline the stark differences.

“All together they form a cycle of nature. Father gives a push to the child, growing confidence leads to independence.

“On the contrary, the youngest child is just making first contact with water and is not ready to set off,” she said.

She added, “I painted in the impressionist style, to capture the fleeting effects of light and colour in nature, rather than create a precise copy.

“Impressionists use visible dabs of paint to capture the overall impression of their subject, choosing not to pay particular attention to the fine details. Instead of using black and grey paint to depict shadows, the painters pair complementary colours to show their subjective experience of a moment in time, rather than an objective reality.”

She often draws inpiration from 19th Century Dutch post-impressionist painter Vincent Van Gogh who often used a technique called Alla Prima.

“This method of painting involves quickly and confidently laying down layers of paint to capture the subject in the present without any preparatory sketches or the need to work into it at a later stage.

“Its name, Alla Pima describes the technique beautifully for ‘at the first attempt’ in Italian,” she added. Shibanova said her paintings at the exhibition present two different stories. One is of slow, almost still-standing nature.

“The technique behind it is also a ‘slow’ one – glazing takes more time to finish.

“On the contrary, to capture fast dynamics of a water play, a ‘rapid’ technique was used in combination with impressionist style of capturing the right moment,” she added.

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