Author: Freya Payne
Tanya Kuznetsova, a Russian artist based in Stirling, is known for her illustrated books, her printed textiles and her drawings of Scottish landscapes. This year I have been living with one of her calendars, which I want to celebrate here. It has 12 tender drawings of hills, villages or sea views. Whilst a calendar may be a hum drum object, having a month with each image has gifted the slow time needed to fall under the magic of her story telling.
Her drawings have simple if eccentric compositions, the blocks of colour pull you in, her brush or pencil marks capture the direct gesture of ‘this is what I see’. You can tell she draws outside, witnessing what unfolds in front of her.
Let me show you ‘May’, where a man feeds seagulls from his hand. The drawing wonders, is the man a lonely man? Does he come to sit on this bench at the edge of the village every day? Do the birds gather for him? Can they hear the sea just out of sight? What awareness do the hills and the harbouring tree have of these events? If we allow it, some connection is forged between us and these elements. The artist brings us to consider where we sit within this world. Where is our nature in this nature?
In another illustration, a cyclist has stopped on an empty road; tiny in the foreground she gazes out at the huge hills. This switching between scales arrests us, as it seems to have arrested the cyclist. It questions us. Who are we to this? Who are we in time to this geological sweep of time? Maybe she is lost in a poem or a song to the rhythm of the mountains, maybe she is wondering where she will live when she can finally choose.
I feel like I would recognise Tanya’s drawings wherever I found them. There is a consistency of style, and a consistency of atmosphere. Landscape is present and powerful; the humans and other animals are resident, in passage, interdependent. In the last image here, the Wallace monument splits the skyline, cottages plume woodsmoke and a white bird smudges against the black hillside. The artist welcomes us with her humour, intimacy and warmth. Somehow it feels as familiar as the view from your own room, and in this ordinariness, it gives us space to layer in our own memories and work out where we belong.