Conversation with Victoria Parvanova by Hans Theys
- Before we start, I would like to…
Victoria Parvanova: My current artistic practice and parallel intellectual interests stem from an old fascination with the concept of Beauty. Confronted by dismissive attitudes towards my attempts to create ‘beautiful’ objects, I read ‘Beauty Restored’ by Mary Mothersill, which led me to Paul Guyer’s ‘A History of Modern Aesthetics’ and to rereading Kant’s ‘Critique of Judgment’. According to Kant, the faculty responsible for the appreciation of Beauty forms a kind of bridge between pure and practical reason. He believed that the pleasure of beauty derives from the interaction between those two faculties. Beauty isn’t monistic. It always manifests itself as a balance between two extremes, for instance organic and geometric shapes.
- This reminds me of…
Parvanova: Alongside my study of aesthetics, I have always been interested in humour, which seems to be part of or at least related to the aesthetic experience. Bergson regarded humour as the disruption of a mechanical or predictable process. I believe Beauty does something similar. It seems to broaden or disturb our automatic vision of things, showing them in a freshly radiating way. Following this lead, I started studying the work of numerous stand-up comedians, which I consider to be the purest form of comedy.
- I don’t believe, as Freud does, that jokes express suppressed libidinal energy - at least, no more than any other human activity. I believe jokes spring from our constant search for coherence and ‘truth’. Absurd situations and stories are comical because they tempt us to look for coherence or logic where there is none.
Parvanova: In his book ‘True Story’ the stand-up comedian Bill Maher describes a joke as a dialogue between two different things. Maher and Louis C.K. believe that humour links two areas in such a way that a deeper meaning is suggested. This is akin to Kant’s dualistic theory of Beauty.
- It also…
Parvanova: In my work, I try to bring together different realms of so-called high and low culture dedicated to different kinds of Beauty, such as colouring books, French classicist gardens and poodles (the art of topiary as balancing out organic and geometric shapes), Versailles, Las Vegas, Palm Springs, the pursuit of beauty in the world of fashion and consumption, the fascination with capitalist culture in Eastern Europe, photomodels like Bella Hadid en Kendall Jenner, the Barbie phenomenon and a related, naïve exploration of a perfect, utopian world, pop art, Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons and Alex Israel, whose deadpan talk shows are an extension of his artwork (and who recently developed a new fragrance with Louis Vuitton).
- In 1989 Koons said he wanted to…
Parvanova: In the world of a YouTube influencer like Jeffree Star, the quest for beauty and meaning seem to intertwine in a very superficial, but also poignantly revealing way. In my opinion, seemingly superficial quests for beauty and meaning speak to us about basic spiritual needs. I toy with these elements in my paintings to create a pluriform approach to beauty, humour, poetry and politics.
- With regard to the texture of the paintings…
Parvanova: I believe paintings can be well made, beautiful and funny all at the same time. I believe that because of their plural nature and ambiguous state as hand-made objects containing or evoking images, they can also be pleasurable weapons.
Parvanova: All around me I see women and men who claim the right to be feminine and masculine, beautiful and witty all at the same time. I don’t believe political commitment can be dissociated from personal style. I believe women can claim the right to dress and make themselves up like Barbie and at the same time be committed to feminism and equal rights. As Taylor Swift says in the Netflix documentary ‘Miss Americana’: ‘I want to love glitter and also stand up for the double standards that exist in our society. I want to wear pink and tell you how I feel about politics. And I don’t think those things have to cancel each other out.’
- I think I understand.
Montagne de Miel, 30 March 2021