Masha Krasnova-Shabaeva is a Rotterdam artist and illustrator. She lives in the Netherlands since 2009 and made our October 2017 artwork. Reason enough for us to have some coffee with her and ask her about making art and Rotterdam in general.
She invited us to her cozy house, where she lives with her husband and two children. Masha is modest and the first thing she says is ‘sorry for the mess.’ It isn’t a mess, it’s just a regular house where children live. She starts talking about Russia and her home city Ufa.
Wait. You´re from Russia, how did you end up here in Rotterdam?
The short story is that my husband started studying at The Berlage Institute in Rotterdam. We visited the city only once before we came here and we liked it. Before moving to the Netherlands we didn’t really explore other Dutch towns, except for Amsterdam.
And the long story?
My father was also an artist and I grew up with painting. We lived in Ufa. Ufa is a very big, but for Europeans unknown city near the Ural Mountains. Ufa was a centre of Soviet science, with a large chemical plant. It’s a bit of an industrial city. There are artists in Ufa, but the cultural life is very provincial. There’s an enormous cultural gap between Ufa and Moscow. There are minimal opportunities for artists. So for me as an artist, or my husband as architect, there wasn’t much work.
We moved to Moscow in 2004 mainly because of my husband’s studies. He likes studying architecture. We stayed in Moscow after his studies because of the opportunities. When we lived in Moscow, there were a lot of paper magazines at the time. I started sending my illustrations to different magazines and they were enthusiastic.
Back then, there was only one agency for illustrators. I didn’t like their offer, because they demanded too much from me. Specifically working with them would take away my independence as an artist and entrepreneur. So, I had to do it all on my own. Moscow is an extremely big city, everyone wants to live there. The people who go to Moscow are always determined to live there, it seems that everyone can find themselves there.
There’s a saying: ‘Moscow isn’t made of rubber.’ It means that everyone goes there, but Muscovites doubt if there’s enough space. Moscow is different than the rest of Russia, the city is just like Saint Petersburg a bubble – inner emigration – if you go out of that bubble, things a really different.
Now that I live in the Netherlands, getting paid via Russia is more difficult, because of a new anti-terrorism law that demands extra information and bureaucracy. After the Western sanctions, Russia checks that the money doesn’t fund terrorism in Europe, so there are some new restrictions.
So you came to the Netherlands?
Not because of politics, although the political climate is different nowadays, but because my husband went studying here at The Berlage Institute. This used to be an independent institute in Rotterdam before they fused with the TU Delft in 2012. I had to start again in the Netherlands, that was difficult. Our two children are born here in the Netherlands, that was maybe even more difficult. I didn’t have a stable income. It was by accident that we ended up in the Netherlands and stayed here.
My husband has now his own company and we have children, so we’re probably going to stay here. I like Rotterdam, for the architecture obviously. It is close to the sea and there are a lot of sculptures in the public space – most Rotterdam people forget this isn’t normal.
What kind of work do you like most making?
I’d like to work on art-projects because I like that the most. I see myself as an artist. More than I’m an illustrator. As an illustrator, I can change my style. But as an artist, my work comes from myself, so I can’t change the way it has to look. Art is about exploration of myself, and for me that’s very interesting. My art is in a way selfish; most of the time it’s been about my experiences, dreams, etc. In such moments, I feel the art.
Illustration is more commercial in the Netherlands, then for example in Russia or in the US. Here I’m more perceived as an artist, not an illustrator. I wouldn’t say that illustration for me is just the money. It really depends on a client and assignment. For example, I feel very inspired and free when I draw illustrations for children, but I didn’t have many chances to do it.
As an artist, I like to work on animation and books, those are for experimentation. The artwork I made for you is somewhere in between illustration and art. There isn’t much time to work on art last couple of years because of the children. I’ve graduated as a painter, but my current interests are book, self-published zines, printing and animation. Those are the fields I’d like to explore. I work mostly in the evening because of the children. Drawing on a tablet is easier when it’s dark than painting. My interests have also changed from painting to books, prints and animation. That’s why most of my current work is made on a computer.
You’re still into print?
Yes, definitely. I really like the different printing techniques that exist. I’m working on a book that’s almost ready. Also, at the next Zine Fest at WORM I’m selling my prints and old zines.
What do you think of the cultural climate in Rotterdam?
If you don’t support art as a society, you lack culture as a country. Still, in the Netherlands is some money for artists and there are a lot of changes, I like that. Rotterdam is getting more fun every year. When we came here in 2009, everything closed. Now new things open every month. I’m still surprised that there’s so much to do in Rotterdam, when it is a small city. I’m also surprised that there are so many children at museums.
I liked the Vagabond, it doesn’t exist anymore, but I came there a lot. Nowadays I like MONO for the vibe. The Vroesenpark pavilion is also a good place, not far from where I live. They have the best croissants! And I like all the museums here, there are a lot and they’re good. Also Printroom at the Schietbaanstraat (worst name to pronounce) is a good place. They make flipbooks and they publish little books for the IFFR. Printroom is about books and printing. They now have a risograph printer.
One last question, frikadel or kroket?
I like the kroket more.
Visit https://mashushka.com/ for more Masha.
24-10-2017 pictures by Arno Hartensveld and text by Wouter Kloot