Tanya Martusheff

Tanya Martusheff - Fine Arts Year Four

A child of second-generation Russian Orthodox immigrants, Year Four Fine Arts student Tanya Martusheff grew up and attended school in Plamandon, Alberta, Canada. After high school, Tanya moved to Alaska for five years before relocating with her family to Auckland seven years ago. She began her studies at Whitecliffe in 2011 and won ‘Highly Commended’ at the 2015 Eden Arts Art Schools Award in July 2015. We interviewed Tanya about her life and experience while studying at Whitecliffe:

Reason for selecting Whitecliffe:

“I chose Whitecliffe because it was less intimidating than the other art schools in Auckland. I knew I could develop as an artist in the relaxed environment they provided.”

Life before Whitecliffe:

“I’m from Canada. I grew up in a very small, landlocked prairie town called Plamondon. The area is a multicultural settlement of Native Americans, French Canadians, English Canadians, and Russian immigrants. I spent most of my time outdoors wandering the forests and fields or working on the family farm. When I wasn’t doing that I spent a lot of time watching television or reading. I moved to Alaska after High School where I studied and lived for five years before moving with my partner and our daughter to Auckland. We’ve been here for over seven years now.”

On studying Fine Arts at Whitecliffe:

“I always wanted to be an artist growing up, but after high school I thought I’d do the “sensible” thing and study Applied Science, majoring in Accounting. After working for a few years, I realized I hated it. I decided it’s never too late to change my mind so I quit my job and enrolled in the Foundation (Certificate of Arts & Design) programme at Whitecliffe.

Whitecliffe opened a whole new world for me. I really enjoyed the range of electives they provided; it helped me decide what I would major in. The smaller class sizes allowed for individual attention from tutors, which helped build my confidence from early on. But mostly, it was the freedom to study any topic, the honest critiques, the encouragement and support from my tutors and fellow students that made my experience here positive. I started art school with a limited vision of what I would be doing when I finished, but now I feel like the possibilities are endless.”

Integrating her own culture into her artistic practice:

“I’m a third generation Russian immigrant. I was raised in a religious community of Russian Orthodox refugees who fled communist USSR. Because I grew up in a western country, I’m a hybrid of Old Russia hand-me-down culture and modern American culture. It was a really interesting upbringing and it has influenced my way of thinking in that I constantly look at things from obscure angles. I like to find odd pairings, the weirder the mix, the more interesting it becomes.”

Advice to someone considering studying Fine Arts:

“My advice is to make sure you will fully commit to your decision, but allow yourself to travel any route within the industry. If you’re just starting off and you know what your end result will be already, you’re in the wrong mind set. When studying art you need mental plasticity, you need to take on criticism and use it to improve, and you need to be aware of what’s happening in the art world to find your place in it.”

Inspiration and motivation:

“Everything I read or watch or do inspires my work. I like to research philosophy, science, history, religion, economics, politics, psychology, literature… anything really, as long as it challenges my logical thinking. It’s interesting what kind of connections you can make across different topics. My motivation comes from reusing things. I hate waste, I’m a hoarder, so I like to see the things I’ve saved being used for a new purpose.”

Current studio practice:

“I’m working with a lot of different objects and materials. There are some consistencies in materials, like natural elements and man-made products. Most of my works are temporary installations that eventually degrade. My ideas come from Object-oriented ontology, which is growing in popularity in contemporary philosophy. I like to work with the objects that cross my path and relate it to what is on my mind at the moment. Most of the time, that object becomes part of the artwork, a collaborative work. It’s important that the materials I use engage in a sort of dialogue with each other so my presentation strategy revolves around staging a scene. I think of the art objects as actors and the installation as performance. Although it’s a challenge to make it come off that way in an art context.”

Future aspirations:

“My future plans are still developing, but I know I want to travel. My goal, like many other artists, is to work on big projects and exhibit internationally. I would also like to write about art. In art school, I found that written expression can be just as rewarding as visual expression.”

Tanya Martusheff