Olga Koudi is an artist working with digital paintings. She lives and creates in Saint Petersburg, Russia.
In her artworks, she talks about the body and nudity, introversion, and the Comfort Zone (both in society and in our own homes or minds). Despite the seriousness of these topics, there is always a drop of irony.
The stories in her paintings are based on her dreams and childhood memories, so the spaces and figures that inhabit this world can seem bizarre and surreal.
Interview with Olga Koudi
How do you introduce yourself?
I usually say “Hi, my name is Olga Koudi.” And people ask, is this a real surname? (After all, it is very atypical for Russia, and I am Russian.) And I answer, yes, of course.
What do you tell people when they ask about the ideas in your work?
I like it when the picture gives room for the imagination of the viewer. What ideas come to his mind when he sees these images, these women that I create. In fact, the most frequently asked questions are related to the shape of their bodies, nudity, and the most popular question is: “Why are their legs in basins?”. I don’t really like to analyze every detail of a picture, every idea, because as an author I put them together from memories, dreams, and a whole bunch of different thoughts that can even be opposite to each other. Ideas come from the unconscious, which is why it’s so hard to discuss them.
Can you tell me about how the body plays into your work?
I like the nudity of these particular characters because they look the way they are. They don’t need fancy clothes, or even green leaves to cover up parts of their bodies. Because there is nothing to hide – in the absence of sexuality there is no shame. These women always appear naked, but at the same time asexual. Their chest is the same open part of the body as, for example, the elbows, or the top of the head (which, by the way, is also bald and triangular in shape). Are they people? Are they still women in the absence of hair, nipples, and everything else?
Can you tell us more about the themes of introversion/comfort zone in your work?
A space that makes you feel comfortable. Only here you can dress up in any clothes (or lack thereof), take a basin of water, slowly lower your legs into it, and put a can of your favorite corn on the table. The worlds in which my women live seem deserted, large and intimate at the same time, but since this is their natural environment in which they exist, this is their comfort zone.
Can you tell us about this latest series?
My work is one big project, which I called “Spiky Heads”. These are digital paintings in which I portray the same characters, as well as a small animated series called “No David Show” (these are short series in the format of a talk show where my characters philosophize on various everyday topics).
How does music play into your work?
I listen to a lot of music of various genres. From electronic music, sleepy ambient to avant-garde works. Most of all I like music that consists of repeating loops that slowly change from one sound to another and flow back again. For example, William Basinski, that’s where the real comfort is!
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
I don’t think I ever had a specific goal. As a child, I did not even think that it was necessary to become someone. And even now I don’t think about it – the flow itself brings you to some activities, and you think – okay, if it fascinates and brings joy, why not try it.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
Immediately wash a plate after eating buckwheat.
What is the best advice you don’t follow (for good reason)?
Immediately wash a plate after eating buckwheat.
What is one thing they tried to teach you in school that you knew immediately was wrong?
“Girls should cook deliciously, and boys should make stools.” – Olga Petrovna, Home economics teacher.
Where is your favorite place?
My favorite place is a tiny village in the mountains in the Eastern Sayans (Buryatia). It’s called Arshan. There is a park there, and if you climb a little higher, you have an incredible view of the mountains. You can admire them all day there.
Who are your biggest influences?
Nature and the people I meet daily. A cashier in a store, a disgruntled grandmother yelling at her dog, a woman with dementia who cannot find the bag she is holding in her hand. All passers-by on the street, “acting out” tiny scenes, snippets of phrases. I think it inevitably has an impact, and that’s great.
What is currently on your playlist?
Chris & Cosey, Gudrun Gut, Ryoji Ikeda, Swans, William Basinski
What are your last three Google searches?
- PLN 2.59 in rubles
- What is the name of the thing on the tap
- Is it possible to get fat from beer
What is your superpower?
I can go to bed and start plotting the dream and then dive into it. And also, if the dream is very interesting, but it has to be interrupted, I can “pause it” and return to it later. This is my personal cinema.
What was the last thing you bought?
Disco kettle. If you turn on the music, it boils water to the beat, flashing in different colors. Definitely the best buy.
Olga Koudi’s prints are available for purchase now on Surrealism Today.