I recently had a fan contact me to ask me an array of questions about myself and my work. After a long back-and-forth email thread, I realized I should publish my answers as a blog post. Continue reading about my background, family, favorite music, podcasts, and life mantras...
Did you move to Canada when you were 11? I am trying to fill in the gap from you visit before you created the Home series and the last time you were in Israel.
I did come to Canada when I was 11. I went back to visit only 12.5 years later, an emotional experience that inspirited the series Home. I find that many people, especially in Canada (a country full of diversity), have found a piece of themselves in Home. When presenting the works in an The Artist Project Art Fair in February, I had a guy break into tears after reading the statement.
It's weird that you're asking me about my childhood today, because my parents sold their house recently and I was forced to take home all my old art and boxes and boxes of sketchbooks. I went through it all today and it's insane how much stuff there is.
Were your parents into art? Is that how you started drawing and painting as a child?
Yes and no. My mom took a couple painting classes here and there but it was the Soviet Union so pursuing art was unheard of. My grandfather who I never knew loved photography. My grandma’s house is still full of old cameras. Nonetheless, my mom put me in art classes and even piano lessons when she saw I was interested in it. I’m very thankful for that now.
Are both your parents from Estonia? How old were you when they moved to Israel? What do they think about you being an artist?
They were both born in Tallinn, Estonia (they're Russian, not Estonian). I was 2 years old when we moved to Israel. So I only remember growing up in Israel of course. I therefore speak Russian, Hebrew, and English. Even though we left when I was a baby, I’m very familiar with Tallinn, since my grandmas stayed there the whole time, and I’ve visited them many times.
I think my mom is very proud of me. I find that many immigrant parents just want to know they’re kids to have money. My family in general is very business oriented. At 43, my mom started a yoga business from scratch. My brother who's two years older than me is a serial entrepreneur, working on his second company right now after selling the first.
Favourite music? Movies? Book? I read that you real a lot of non-fiction.
My music taste changes every couple of years. I've been steady with deep house and lots of pop remixes for a long time. I’m kind of on a Rihanna kick right now.
For fiction I'm currently reading a lot of books in Hebrew. Whatever I can find in Toronto. Learning the language better and not forgetting it has become something that's really important to me around the time I made Home in 2014.
For non-fiction, I'm all into everything by writers like Tim Ferris and James Altucher. I listen to their podcasts, and a lot of similar podcasts while I edit photos. Books like How to Win friends and influence People are interesting to me. Anything in the subject of self-improvement and business is up my alley.
What was the longest it took you to finish a project and the shortest time? What camera do you work with?
It generally takes me about a year to develop a body of work. From concept development, to shooting, editing, and printing. However, some projects you could say took a few years. Something that I shot 2 or 3 years ago could become a base for a new idea I have today.
Lately I’ve experimented with working more freely, without developing a concept for a body of work but rather, concepts for individual images. I have a lot of these on my Instagram. Those could take a week or a few days.
I recently upgraded to Nikon D810. I am very happy with this choice. I shot with a Canon 5D mark II for many years before then. I believe that at the end of the day, it's not the camera, it's how you use it.
With all the craziness going on here in the U.S. and other countries, artists are having a lot of material to work with. Have you thought about doing any political pieces?
I haven’t explored any Trump-themed concepts in my work yet. One of my life mantras is actually to avoid the news as much as possible. I believe it is for the most part, I completely depressing waste of time. I believe it clouds our judgment. This ties into my next mantra. I strongly believe that you are the 5 people you spend the most time with, and if you spend a lot of time being worried about the news, then what kind of person are you becoming? I believe in affecting those around us positively. I like to explore themes in my work that touch others in a personal way, and a positive way. I make art as a means to self-express.
Do you have any of your pieces in your home? From a certain collection or pieces you made for yourself?
I have a constantly rotating inventory of pieces in my home. Pieces for upcoming shows or from previous shows. Sometimes I invite collectors to my house to see pieces they’re interested in. I have 2 pieces from artists I’ve traded work with as well.
Have you been to Russia?
I’ve never actually been to Russia. I’d like to go somewhere, but living in Canada I actually like to travel to warmer places instead of other cold ones. Iceland might be an exception to that rule.
Thanks a ton to Nadia Pontif for the questions and I hope you enjoyed the blog post.
Thoughts? questions? what are your favorite books and podcasts that inspire you?