What constitutes contemporary art for you personally? 

Contemporary art provides you with an opportunity to look into the future. Art helps me realize my fantasies and offers insight into the future.

What is your role in today’s art scene? 

Role? I have some gender political thoughts about that. Since I started creating sculptures ten years ago, I am always thinking about the message that I am sending to the future. Through graphics and painting, I mostly address today’s issues. By making a sculpture, that will last very long, I always think about how my idea will be perceived in a hundred years. I am forwarding such “messages” to the future. Probably, this is what my role is.

What connects new and old art? 

Good contemporary art is connected to old art by professionalism: knowledge about the golden ratio, proportions, laws of composition.

What was the turning point in your career? 

The very moment when I saw Carrara marble I decided that I would make sculptures. Since then I am very enthusiastic about sculpture, and I even forget about painting. When I come to Moscow, I try to work with a brush, and not with a saw or a drill. Combining the two jobs is impossible.

Who influenced your art at different points in your life? 

Naturally, my dad influenced my creative work, since I was his pupil, his student (from 3rd through 6th year), (father – Tahir Teymurovich Salakhov, artist, one of the founders of the so-called austere style, former professor at the Surikov Institute – editor’s note.). The atmosphere at our home that consisted of his paintings, and the education that I received at the Institute, had a significant impact on me. I am grateful to my dad for passing on to me the “Salakhov style” that helped me to easily switch to sculpture since I knew what one can do away with in artworks. Louise Bourgeois and Mathew Barney whom I dearly love also influenced me a lot.

What subject matter in the outer world inspires you, fascinates you and unleashes your creativity? 

I am not that interested in real-life stories. I am mesmerized, though, by the inner world of women. As of today, I try to understand why there is such a mess in women’s heads. I try to express my thoughts in my artworks. I want to make women change their attitude to the world so that they can face themselves and begin developing in a different direction.

How would you describe the contemporary art of Russia within the wider context of international art? 

I perceive art as an area free of borders and nationalities. For me, it is always a zone of total freedom. For some reason, and artists would agree to that, all curators and institutions categorize art by national and territorial attributes, though that is not that important. Art is a single space. There are Russian artists, Azerbaijan artists, German artists… This categorization is a continuation of a wrong concept of the national state system. The important thing here is art. People often invite me to women’s exhibitions. I do not understand how a piece of art can be attributed to gender. I was born in the USSR, in Moscow. There is a mishmash of different nationalities in my blood. So, who am I all in all? A Russian artist, an artist from Russia, an artist from Moscow, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan…? I live in Italy now, so I am an Italian artist? How does that work? I consider all of these subdivisions by gender and nationalities as a fundamental mistake. Russian art is inseparable from the art market as a whole. I always view it that way. It does not matter to me where the artist comes from if I like her work.

Tell us a few words about the piece on the cover of Boscomagazine. 

It was tough for me since I was working on it in Italy, and I make graphics in Italy very rarely, and only on weekends. After you use a sledgehammer for six hours in a row while working on a sculpture, it is complicated to switch to such subtle things, as graphics. You hand trembles or hurts, or you can have cramps. It is excruciating. I was happy to draw my painting, but it was physically more challenging than to create a sculpture. The story behind the cover is quite simple: the elements of man and woman that constitute our world.

What does the word “family” mean to you? 

How did your family impact your life? 

I was born into a family of artists, so at home, there was always a creative atmosphere. Thank to my mom, dad, their vision of life, I was raised as a free-minded person. The context was right. My dad is a well-known artist, Tahir Salakhov. My mom was a fantastic artist as well (Vanzetta Khanum – editor’s note). There was always a smell of paint in the air; there were paintings all over the place, artists would visit our home. I was also painting all the time. Before I turned twelve, I thought that there were painters in all of the families. I believed that it was an activity for all people living on Earth. “So, you are not painting in the evenings and mornings, is that right?”

Why do people create communities? 

I do not like to be a part of communities. I prefer to be more of an outsider. All artists think differently, so even if they create a community of some sort, it is going to be pretense.

How should a neophyte approach contemporary art? 

Easy-peasy: you like it or not. If you look at a certain object or a contemporary artwork, you should tell yourself if you like it or not. And understand, why you like it or don’t like it. When you start to answer these questions, in half a year or so you will begin to understand contemporary art.

Why and how should one buy contemporary artworks? 

Any artwork – old or new – should resound with your inner world. If something grabs your attention and makes some of your brain cells light up, then without a doubt, you should buy that piece and hang it on your wall. There are collectors whose principle is “if I like it, I buy it.” There are also collectors for whom a collection is a creative expression of their understanding of life. So, they creatively express themselves through the things they acquire. An unrealized inner artist is sitting inside each collector. He expresses himself through the artworks of others. There are also collectors who gather artworks, and I am one of them. Whatever I like, I bring to my house. I do not have a conception of a collection; I am a mere gatherer.