Canadian Artist Anna Razumovskaya’s Journey from Russia to Knoxville

Anna Razumovskaya (Photo Courtesy of Anna Razumovskaya)
Anna Razumovskaya (Photo Courtesy of Anna Razumovskaya)

Pivot Point Gallery opened at 15 Emory Place in March 2022. As crowds gathered for the grand opening, volumes of engaging art awaited. More than one might appreciably absorb in one evening, the wide range of artists and mediums presented there found their fans at the opening. One artist, however, set an absolute buzz to the event. Urban Woman and I had already tagged three of her paintings for ourselves and we weren’t alone. Several friends (in good humor) accosted us that night because they loved the paintings we’d grabbed and wanted them for themselves.

Anna Razumovskaya, the artist in question, developed an instant fanbase in Knoxville that night and the popularity of her art here has persisted. I would come to understand that her art has elicited similar reactions in exhibitions all over the world. At long last, Anna herself will make an appearance at the gallery tonight at a showing to include numerous new works. You’ll be able to meet her tonight from 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm and enjoy her solo exhibition of new original works. She will also be at the gallery from 3:00 pm to 6:00 pm tomorrow.

Don Stoner, co-0wner of the gallery with Faith Ferguson, told me that Anna has representation in a small, select number of galleries in the country, but Pivot Point is the only place to find her work in Tennessee. He and Faith first encountered her work as one of the resident artists in the Bohemian group of hotels and fell in love with what they saw. He told me “The red flamenco dancer you bought was one of the first pieces we saw! The reason we were so excited to bring Anna’s work to Knoxville is that even if her art isn’t to someone’s taste or décor, there is no denying their beauty and their ability to evoke emotion. The best words are stunning, breathtaking, and mesmerizing!”

Anna Razumovskaya (Photo Courtesy of Anna Razumovskaya)
Anna Razumovskaya (Photo Courtesy of Anna Razumovskaya)
Art by Anna Razumovskaya (Photo Courtesy of Anna Razumovskaya)

It’s hard to say what the best words might be. Clearly impressionism provides the architecture to her approach, but other elements enter the mix, even in the same painting. Anna subtly mixes other materials, like small pieces of lace into the works and often layers paint to give the works dimension and texture. Filled motion, they incorporate vibrant colors, evoke powerful emotion. The women in her portraits own their world and, emersed in their own emotions, offer a private window of their bliss or pensiveness to viewers.

Anna was born and grew up in Rostov on Don in Russia, a complicated place known for both crime and art. She attended and graduated from the Russian Academy of Fine Arts with her MFA. A brief foray into Western Germany, a trip to Holland, and exposure to the west prompted her to leave everything for Canada in the late 1990s. It was there she met and, only one month later, married Eugene. They have been romantic and business partners since, as Anna’s career has grown internationally.

I recently had the privilege to speak with Anna and Eugene by phone from Toronto to learn more about her art and the artist behind the work. I found them both to be as lovely and gracious as the work that connected us.

Anna said she doesn’t want to be categorized by country or style, not having much use for labels. She said she considers her work contemporary and herself to be an American artist in the continental sense. She said her major success has been here and, in the UK, and those are important connections for her.

Pivot Point Gallery, 15 Emory Place, Knoxville, March 2022 (Anna’s work to the left)
First Friday at Pivot Point Gallery, 15 Emory Place, Knoxville, June 2022 (Anna’s work center)
Pivot Point Gallery, 15 Emory Place, Knoxville, March 2022 (Anna’s work to the right)
Art by Anna Razumovskaya (background and foreground) in a Nearby Urban Condo

She holds as central to her life and art the “balance of life.” While her life could have gone in a very different direction, “destiny pulled me to Canada,” adding that immigrating changed her life completely. “You change your state of mind, your perception of life . . . culture,” and more. She said, “You have to change completely in order to start over.” While her first nights in Canada included sleeping on the street, she said, her background at the university taught her the rules and her life in Canada has allowed her to break them “and to prosper.”

“Honestly, when you begin to analyze it, you have no idea how it’s been done. It just happens. In my case, I’ve been blessed . . . It’s a combination of many things. I didn’t even dream of this . . . I dreamed of being an artist, but I never imagined I would be at this level. For me, I’m just living my dream life.”

She didn’t dream of being an artist as a small child, but arrived at the conclusion as she grew through high school and into college. “I don’t do it from talent. I do it from hard work and consistency and that’s what brought me to this level. I’m a hard-worker and I do it every day. I’m in my studio eight hours a day . . . that has become my life obsession. You must work hard and be consistent. That’s what shapes you as a successful artist.”

Art by Anna Razumovskaya (Photo Courtesy of Anna Razumovskaya)
Anna Razumovskaya (Photo Courtesy of Anna Razumovskaya)
Art by Anna Razumovskaya (Photo Courtesy of Anna Razumovskaya)

Before I could object and point out that no number of hours per day would allow myself — or most people in the world — to produce art of that caliber, Eugene interjected, “If I might say, Alan, I disagree a little bit. It does require the talent, but it didn’t come overnight. She’s working hard. She told me once that when she got accepted to the fine arts university, at first, she was the worst student ever, but then her ambitions took over . . . By the time she finished the university she was one of the best, so it’s a combination of hard work and talent that was probably inside of her.”

Asked if she feels a woman painting women brings a different perspective than men painting women, Anna said painters paint:

perception of life through the form they know. Since I know female form, it is easy to express myself through this subject. Of course, I would see women completely different, so the masculine way is different. It is a different brush stroke, it is a different perception of women’s perception, it is a different perception of the detailing. So, it is completely different . . . my vision, I would say it is more truthful. It’s not the sexual part I want to portray, it is more the sensual part. It is more about inner being, the beauty inside. It’s all about women being beautiful and strong at the same time. It’s not just physical, it is emotional. It’s about passion for life.

Anna’s experiences sometimes lead her art in new directions. A dinner with a neighbor, Olga, turned into a violin concert whereupon Anna and Eugene learned their neighbor was a concert violinist and conductor. A collection of portraits of women with violins followed. An invitation to paint a ballet group in Calgary led to a series of paintings of dance. “I find it fascinating how your perception can be changed in a minute by a person you know so well, a good mother of three, then she takes a violin and becomes a diva. That’s how art can change a person.”

Anna Razumovskaya (Photo Courtesy of Anna Razumovskaya)

She also sculpts but considers the two completely different and thinks of the sculpting as masculine. She sculpted in Michelangelo’s studio for a month which she said was a powerful experience. She finds it more challenging. She said she must separate her time devoted to each in order to be able to focus properly.

She said most of the works you’ll see starting tonight are new, adding, “It’s always different. You are always experimenting. It’s a conversation with yourself, challenging yourself.” She doesn’t know where the journey will take her next and that’s what she finds exciting.

We do know her next step will bring her to Pivot Point Gallery tonight and you are invited to meet her there and experience both the art and the artist.