City guide

Russian artist explores Budapest and shares her expertise

Photo : Masa Tóth / Kunstfu*k Art Residency

The first studio space that Russian painter Oksana Devochkina rented in Budapest was bartered for: use of the studio, in return for paintings. Now she gives classes, and gets ready this November to stage an exhibitions.

“They wanted something dedicated to the roofs of Budapest,” says the artist, a young mother whose fingers are still covered in paint from the day’s class. She teaches modernist painting techniques in the city. “And that theme is so common in Russia [painting rooftops] that at first I didn’t like it. But as I started making sketches, I enjoyed the process.”

Oksana shares her Budapest rooftop sketches.Photo: Gretchen Kessler / We Love Budapest

On her daily walks around town, from her daughter’s kindergarten to Aldi grocery shopping, Oksana would sketch the shapes of roofs, buildings and balconies, drawing inspiration from abstractionist and suprematist artists such as Kazimir Malevich and the oft-overlooked architectural abstractions of Georgia O’Keeffe. “Everyone knows her flowers,” says Oksana, “but look at the paintings she made of her house”. She flips through examples online.

As the sun sets, the view outside Oksana's studio turns rosy pink. Paintings dry on the balcony.Photo: Gretchen Kessler / We Love Budapest

Oksana came to Budapest in 2014, wanting a break from long, bleak winters, and relishing the architecture of the Hungarian capital.

 

Architectural abstractions are the theme of her upcoming exhibition beginning 8 November, which will feature Oksana’s work alongside those of her students. She calls the movement ‘Archi-Tectonics’, and it focuses on the “pure forms” of architecture, boiling down what we see to simple shapes, rather than depicting objects in their entirety.

 

“Art shouldn’t work in the real world anymore,” Oksana says, with a smile.

The studio features many of the pure forms which Oksana enjoys, such as the box television set, square door and bulbous lampshade. Photo: Gretchen Kessler / We Love Budapest

Oksana is deeply inspired by Malevich, a contemporary of Mayakovsky, and she believes her Russian background allows her to bring her students closer to understanding postmoderism. “The tradition of Russian orthodox icons, for example, influences his [Malevich’s] pieces,” says Oksana. “He was painting at the cusp of modernism, and he brought it into the scene with his funeral, and that was in 1935.”

 

Malevich’s famous piece, Black Square, as per the deceased artist’s wishes, was carried at the front of his funeral procession. It was highly out of the ordinary, and significant.

Photo: Masa Tóth / Kunstfu*k Art Residency

Oksana brings some of these suprematistic techniques to her painting classes, which have a new theme each month. “I invented the ‘topic of the month’ to entertain myself at first,” she says, but the changing themes started attracting budding artists from diverse walks of life. “One month the theme was ‘Piano,’” explains Oksana, “and the first student to enrol was a violinist. Each subject appeals to different pupils”.

Photo: Masa Tóth / Kunstfu*k Art Residency

Interested participants need not be classically trained painters, as she highlights in an earlier article.

 

“Some of my students already know how to paint,” acknowledges Oksana. Others come to learn. “We start with sketches, and then I let the students set the pace. I get a lot of pupils from communities of other young mothers, because they want to socialise and learn art. Also from Facebook, Instagram and posters that I hang around town. Everyone leaves the course with two completed paintings.”

One of the pieces completed by a student of Oksana's painting courses.Photo: Gretchen Kessler / We Love Budapest

Next month’s theme will be Hungarian architecture and, like her Budapest roof series, the course will focus on “pure forms”. The courses run Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Oksana shows one of her Budapest roof sketches, and demonstrates the enlargement process.Photo: Gretchen Kessler / We Love Budapest

There will be an exhibition on 8 November at 7pm, which will run until the 15th. The exhibition will feature Oksana’s work, alongside those of some of her students. More information can be found on the event’s Facebook page.