Alena Mikhalkina

I first picked up a brush at an arts school in Moscow when I was 10 and in a few months I won some competition. 17 years passed until the day I felt I must paint again. In the meantime I started working in the arts and moved from Russia to the UK to do my Masters. London filled my lungs with the air of opportunity, I felt elevated with the variety of cultures, its mind-blowing arts scene and possibilities. For over three years I organised cultural exchange projects, worked with leading writers, artists and amazing professionals. I was doing something I truly loved until one day the reality hit me.

My post-study work visa was about to expire and I had to switch to commercial industries for proper visa sponsorship. What followed was a tough period of adaptation to the world where I was no longer working for myself, where money came first, where art was considered a time-consuming luxury. After a year I was suffocated enough to think if I made the right life decision.

One day I felt a strong need for a creative escape. I bought brushes, paints, a canvas and just kept painting straight into the middle of the night. That evening my partner was quietly passing by me, sipping his tea with a highly concerned and intrigued look. I finished my first portrait late at night, it was imperfect, bright, but energetic and alive. After the first insecure brush stroke I was swept off my feet and could’t stop until someone I had in mind looked back at me from the canvas. It was the purest joy. Since then painting became part of my life.

Painting is the medium that resonates with me a lot. It is a dialogue, someone is trying to tell you something. When you listen to it, it can affect you in so many different ways. I’m just fascinated by the conversation. It does not have to be loud speeches all the time. I am drawn to mid tones. A smile, a motion, sunshine on eyelashes, an iridescent nose of a dog, interlocked hands, my mum cutting apples… it is these seemingly small but profound moments in our day to day life that currently move and inspire me to paint the most.

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