Solo Show “Roots”, Kente Royal Gallery, November 2022

In November 2022, I presented my solo show “Roots” at Kente Royal Gallery. It was a very personal project – the one I contemplated on for years. Why? It’s about my childhood memories, adult reflections, and gratitude for what I am now.

I was born in the country (Kazakhstan) where my grandparents were forcefully displaced by the Soviet government. At 17, I moved to Russia – to study and work. Then I moved to the UK – to learn English and get acquainted with European culture. Then I happened to be in the U.S.

It seemed like I had no roots. And I started my search – what it means, to feel connected with your ancestors and places you grew up. Is it good or bad not to miss those places?

For years of moves and immigration, I was reflecting on that. I realized that my roots and connections include the people I know, remember, and love… They are all in my mind and memories – more than places where I was born or grew up. Through family photos, like creating mosaics, I try to reconstruct pieces of memories – or what it seems to be memories but are just fantasies. I’m collaging those memories and reflections. I am recalling my childhood stories. I’m writing them, as well as assembling my artworks from pieces.

At my solo show, I was able to use the gallery space to create installations and display my collages. Several collages were connected with printed essays to tell my childhood stories. Visitors were genuinely drawn to them – many people had funny stories from their past. My mixed media installations imitated real scenes from my Kazakhstan childhood such as laundry days or fragments from our apartment. Through my collages, I was able to recall and tell my childhood stories, as well as to realize that I did not lose my roots.

I hope to continue working on the themes involving memory, ancestors, and life paths. As a person, I’m concerned about the consequences of the pandemic and the impact of Russia’s war in Ukraine – many more people will be displaced and lose their loved ones. These catastrophic life events, of course, influence what I’m creating, what I’m thinking about, and what I want to present next.

Our life is like a collage – there are many layers, often hidden, not always perfect…