Sonia Grineva was born in Moscow, trained extensively in both Russia and the U.S., and travelled widely perfecting her craft. We talked to Grineva recently about life and art.
What was your inspiration for this piece?
I often drive from the City to the Hamptons and find inspiration in the beautiful landscapes along the roads and byways of the East End. This particular piece represents a quintessential East End village scene: a rolling road, and a windmill evoking earlier times. The day was awash with sunlight, and accented the pink shades in the rhododendron bushes.
You’ve traveled and painted all over the world. Is there one place you were the most inspired in?
Each location is its own universe and contains its own unique elements of color, light and form. I’ve become enchanted and inspired by many places, such as the Russian countryside, the New England coast, the Georgia marshes, the streets of Manhattan and the Dolomite landscapes of northern Italy.
In the last few years I’ve found deep inspiration on Capri. It’s full of ever-changing flowers all year long, and every day you notice new colors. This has inspired me to create new compositions that explore the intense chromatic dynamism of the island’s landscapes.
How has travel influenced your work?
Travel nourishes the mind and spirit and expands the imagination. All the different things you see, hear, touch, smell and taste leave an impression, and these impressions play off of one another, in multiple and often unexpected ways, and constantly renew the process of creative development.
Do you find it more difficult or challenging to create an abstract work as opposed to more traditional portrait or city/landscape works?
Both abstract and more representational works present their own unique challenges and rewards. I had many years of formal training and much of my early work drew on this to create more representationally oriented paintings. In more recent years, I’ve been intrigued by the exploration of the unconscious that abstract work invites. Of course, the line between abstract and representational isn’t always clear. I recently painted an abstract portrait of my uncle that was based on my memories and thoughts about him.
What are the challenges and/or rewards of working en plain air?
There’s nothing quite like painting outdoors and watching the light change, hearing the wind rustle the leaves and smelling the fresh and aromatic air. The constantly changing elements are always stimulating and inspiring. At the same time, this very changeability can also present challenges; such as when the light you’re trying to capture disappears as the day goes on, or the cold you’re trying to convey in a winter scene gets down into your bones and you have to call it a day and find someplace warm.
Do you visit the East End to paint?
I come out year-round. There are so many scenes I love to paint: village streets, long stretches of the beach, vineyards, horse farms. The sunsets are spectacular.
Who are some artists who have influenced your work the most?
I feel I’ve been influenced by so many artists, certainly the French impressionists. The same is true for Russian artists such as Kandinsky, Chagall and Larionov.
Is there one piece of advice you’ve received from another artist that you’ve always remembered?
Paint every day, and let every day be an opportunity for discovery.
Do you have any of your own advice for aspiring painters?
Believe in yourself, push yourself to your limits and always be ready to show your work.
Where can we see your work?
I regularly have exhibitions in the U.S. and Italy. Right now it’s at the Ernesto Mayans Gallery in Santa Fe and at the Excelsior Park Hotel in Capri. People are always welcome to visit my studio, by appointment, at 41 Union Square in New York. [Or online at soniagrineva.com]