Dubai: Artist Alena Lavdovskaya hopes her art 'makes people happy'

Having worked with esteemed maisons such as Christian Dior, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Guerlain, Lancome, Tiffany, and Roger Vivier, the Russian artist always tries to capture the moment on paper


Husain Rizvi

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Published: Wed 24 May 2023, 5:56 PM

Alena Lavdovskaya has been in the fashion and art business for around 20 years. It has been, as she says, a long and beautiful journey full of vibrance, fashion, glamour, and beautiful people around her.

All her creations, including her work with live models and celebrities, and making high fashion looks of the 20th century, are brimming with energy. Having worked with esteemed maisons such as Christian Dior, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Guerlain, Lancome, Tiffany, and Roger Vivier, Alena always tries to capture the moment on paper. But at the same time, viewers are taken along on a journey with her to explore behind the scenes, because, she says, that is where real life is.

Art and fashion enthusiasts in Dubai have the chance for the same; to go on a journey to explore the world where fashion meets art through an exhibition which is being held at ME Dubai, the magnificent hotel designed by Zaha Hadid. The immersive exhibition, running through June 10, showcases Alena’s iconic work throughout her 20 years in the industry, which details her illustrious career in fashion, advertising, and editorial magazines.

"I’m very happy with my residency at ME Dubai, a modern marvel of artistic ingenuity and contemporary design," she says in a conversation with City Times. "Here I am able to share my passion for art with immersive live drawing performances, fashion illustration workshops, and intimate lectures, offering guests to join me in my open studio, which is the vast and beautiful atrium of the hotel featuring its precise lines and beautiful curves."

We caught up with Alena and discussed her journey as an artist and fashion illustrator and what role art plays in society today.

Excerpts from the interview:

ME Dubai's architecture in itself is iconic. What were your initial thoughts when you got the go-ahead for an exhibition at Zaha Hadid's magnificent creation?

I am a huge fan of Zaha Hadid and studied every building she created and designed, which naturally meant ME Dubai was at the top of my list for the exhibition. When I realised that my first solo exhibition would be surrounded by these futuristic walls, of course, I was beyond ecstatic, just as you would be if one of your dreams came true. The smooth lines that run through the space, the ambient lighting that changes colour every hour - it all brings so much energy to the artist in me. The space inspired me tremendously to create more beautiful art, so at some point during the set-up for the exhibition, I went to my studio in the ME suite and just drew a whole new series of artworks overnight, fresh from the easel right to the 3rd floor atrium.

Tell us more about your journey as an artist and fashion illustrator. How did it all start?

I studied in San Francisco, Milan, and Moscow, then joined Gucci when Tom Ford was the creative director, designing window displays and opening new stores. I then began my career in fashion retail and worked with the likes of Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Eva Herzigova, Lara Stone and Małgosia Bela. But I always had a passion for drawing, and I sketched away during runway shows and thrived on the exhilarating energy and thrill backstage. After that, I had the great opportunity to work with leading fashion magazines like Vogue, Elle, Harper's Bazaar, Esquire, and Tatler, which gave me an immense understanding of the fashion world from an insider's point of view.

Now, I am fully embracing my artistry as a fashion artist, creator of unique workshops, and founder of Fashion Illustration Studio, an illustration and art-content agency for the fashion industry. I’ve been living in the Middle East for a year, and I am absolutely thrilled by the vibrance of the region, its dynamic energy, diversity, and all the amazing opportunities it gives for those who love to work and have a passion for creativity and craft.

Do you take inspiration from the contemporary world, or live fashion events like the Met Gala or the ongoing Cannes Film Festival? How do these events affect your life as a fashion artist?

I prefer the major fashion weeks like New York, London, Milan, and Paris, as there I can really immerse myself backstage, fully explore my creativity, and get inspired by the moments happening within. But with the Met Gala and Cannes Film Festival, it’s always a race to capture the style and current trends among celebrities and supermodels attending. I once drew a whole set of animated images of Kim Kardashian in vintage Mugler, Monica Belucci in Versace, and Brad Pitt and Blake Lively for the Cannes Festival, which was very intense but lots of fun.

How do you handle creative blocks or moments of self-doubt in your artistic journey?

As a creative person, I have all of these moments. Self-doubt is actually a good thing, as it makes an artist push the boundaries of their creativity and crave new creations and artworks. As an artist, I’m never 100 per cent satisfied with what I do, and I am always looking forward to the next project. But at the same time, I try to get some really good rest between each project and reflect on what I’ve done. I take off and travel for a week doing nothing, but enjoying nature, walking in the sun, and spending time with my family. Here, I let my mind wander and create something out of the box, experimenting with new mediums just for the joy of it, just like a kid without any plans or deadlines. And for me, these are the best ways to overcome creative blocks and push self-doubts away.

What role do you think art plays in society, and what impact do you hope your art has on viewers?

Art plays a vital role in our society. To me, art is about feelings and emotions that inspire human connection. You either feel it or not; that’s it. Even though a lot of contemporary art today has a negative context and aims to question existing norms, I hope my art brings out the beauty in this world and just makes people happy.

Are there any particular themes or messages that you often explore through your artwork?

Currently, I am focused on a mission to drive attention to fashion art in its essence. Even though the world of fashion is changing every season, it was never about just clothing. It’s very ephemeral and extremely deep, and this is what I capture with my art and with everything I create. With my line of work, I am always surrounded by beautiful and unique people, such as top models, Olympic athletes, and ballet dancers, and this resonates with my passion, which is the beauty of body language. I started learning it through exquisite clothes and external beauty. Then came the incredible bodies, power, and commitment of the Olympians. Now I am fascinated by the intricate plasticity of ballet dancers, which greatly inspires my pencil stroke along with my desire to capture the moment.

I love watching someone at their peak performance and taking the leap of faith with them. During the drawing sessions, I often talk to my models about their pains and fears or moments of crystal clarity. To capture these moments, I prefer to work in two mediums. The most perfect and polished are digital sketches, which I then animate and turn into cartoons. The less restrictive and free spirited are pencil and ink croquis, in which I let my imagination run wild and just flow with my emotions.

We see a lot of AI-generated paintings/images that almost look too real. What would that mean for artists like yourself?

I actually love AI and use Midjourney, a generative artificial intelligence programme and service, for some projects for my agency, Fashion Illustration Studio. We create amazing backgrounds within a couple of hours and concepts for set designs for future real-life shoots. I believe AI is just another tool for artists to explore and express their creativity, and I encourage everyone to learn it to create a beautiful universe based on their style and imagination. On the other hand, I love the feeling of real tangible materials like pens and papers on the tips of my fingers, and we should be encouraged to explore the possibilities of AI with the real world and combine them both into one creation. Art nowadays is limitless, we can push the boundaries and experiment as much as we want.

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