Prize Winning Eastern Europe Artist Grows And Paints With Rust To Express Socialism’s Urban Decay

Story By: Darko ManevskiSub-EditorJoana Mihajlovska, Agency: Real Press

A Slovak artist has been growing rust to create unique etchings, netting her the top prize at this years’ prestigious VUB Foundation Painting awards.

Natalia Simonova, 25, from Ziar nad Hronom, grows the rust herself using a special formula to get the right composition for her urban-inspired works.

Picture Credit: Natalia Simonova/RealPress

She told Real Press: “Before I started painting with real rust, I was trying to achieve a rust effect with paint – oils, acrylics and watercolors.

“I love the color shades of rust. I was always interested in its structure and color.

“In the past, when I first started, I made jewelry and managed to mix some chemicals and create rust for that purpose.”

After getting frustrated with trying to recreate the feel and textures of rust for her work she adapted her approach and started cultivating and using the real thing.

She said: “I developed an absolute fascination with rust and have been studying it ever since. I only paint with real rust now. It’s exciting.”

Picture Credit: Natalia Simonova/RealPress

Cultivating the rust to get the effects that she wants has been a challenge for the young artist, who is now in her fifth year at the Faculty of Fine Arts of the Academy of Arts in Banska Bystrica, Slovakia.

“Painting with rust is a long process. I can paint a large two-meter painting in three days, but I choose not to. I usually give it the time it needs. I always have the canvases ready in advance and that helps me.”

Ms Simonova said that working with fresh rust is the only way to get the results she needs, a process that takes years, but can often be sourced from the local dump.

“The quality of the rust depends on whether we give it suitable conditions for growth.

“When painting with rust, I use the power of ordinary water, gluing rust, etching techniques, but also the internal tangle of the chemicals, with which I have been working for years.”

Picture Credit: Natalia Simonova/RealPress

Her work leans strongly on playgrounds and the urban environment around her, which she used as her inspiration for her series’ titled Destruction, Post-structure and Vitiligo.

Her Post-Structure series explores the theme of a socialist era playground which she says was heavily affected by the mass-produced public urban architecture from the time that has since become ruined and decayed.

Post-Structure has now won Ms Simonova one of Slovakia’s top prizes for painting, but she isn’t done yet.

“I tend to aim high and I am constantly trying to improve and show something new and different,” she said.

Picture Credit: Natalia Simonova/RealPress

“I am currently working on a large series of paintings based on socialist playgrounds, mainly in Slovakia, which are marked by destruction.

“Playgrounds, that are decaying but are still around, especially in cities and housing estates. I am interested in their visual side, but also in the history of urban districts.”

Ms Simonova is currently exhibiting her work in Slovak and Czech galleries, among others in the Bratislava gallery of Nedbalka, where her ongoing solo exhibition will be open to the public until 22nd November.

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