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 Liza Ostanina- RED: Interview

In the heart of Paris, where the Seine river flows gently under the watchful gaze of centuries-old architecture, resides a creative force that defies boundaries. Liza Ostanina, affectionately known as RED, is a Russian-born filmmaker, photographer, and multidisciplinary artist whose work transcends mediums and captivates audiences around the globe. With a portfolio that spans movies, paintings, digital art, and photography, RED’s creations are a testament to her boundless imagination and unwavering commitment to exploration.

Her art is a symphony of bold strokes and vibrant hues, often underscored by the signature crimson that permeates her pieces. Through her work, RED delves into the intricate interplay between the digital realm and physical existence, delving into themes ranging from sexual desires to manic episodes, from social media to mental health and beauty. With a prestigious list of collaborators including Off-White, Comme Des Garçons, Vogue, and Nike, and exhibitions in Paris, Moscow, and New York, RED’s influence in the art world is undeniable.

Anna Masó: Your journey from a small city in Russia to the epicenter of the art world in Paris is nothing short of remarkable. Can you share with us how this transition has influenced your creative journey?

Liza Ostanina: I was born in a small town in Russia where hardly anything happened culturally, and I was dreaming to move to New York as long as I can remember. In reality I worked hard and was able to move to Moscow first where I started my fashion and art career in Vogue Russia and assisting my director best friend, and later on Paris happened to be more realistic for me to move so I decided to take this step and leave everything behind. Paris is the place where I feel free and this is the most important feeling as an artist and a human being.

AM: Your latest project, «Many Reds,» is a multimedia exploration of the intersection between the digital and physical realms, offering viewers a glimpse into your world of self-praise, self-destruction, and everything in between. Could you tell us more about the inspiration behind this project and what audiences can expect to experience?

LO: “MANY REDS” is an ode to many personalities of mine and celebration of being “too much”. I started working on “MANY REDS” a bit more than a year ago, but inspirations behind it been in my art for a while. I was so happy to start painting and having the right support around me to do so, and fully embrace the process.

AM: The exhibition is divided into two parts, «Physical» and «Digital,» each offering a unique perspective on your artistic expression. How do these two realms intersect within the context of «Many Reds,» and what message do you hope to convey through this dichotomy?

LO: I have been inspired by the digital world for a really long time and I wanted to implement the feeling of experiences through the screen vs. experiences in real life. So “MANY REDS” has both the feeling of “real” life moments and the emotions that go through the messages, videos, social media, dms and tweets. I had many relationships in the past that were based on the digital more than physical, this is why sometimes the screenshots can mean more than hugs to me. “MANY REDS” is all about the mix of both and the influence of one to another.

AM: What initially drew you to the world of filmmaking, photography, and multidisciplinary art? Was there a specific moment or experience that ignited your passion for these mediums?

LO: I started making art as long as I remember and always switched up between mediums. I feel like my brain is very versatile and choosing one would be unfair, so I decided to try whatever I want whenever I want. At the end of the day, it’s the ideas that are important and some mediums express it better than others. I started painting very recently because I feel like I have those few ideas that I can’t express with anything else, so I just took a brush and knife, went with the flow and fell in love with it.

AM: Your use of the color red seems to be a central theme in your work. Can you share with us the significance of this color in your art and how it influences your creative process?

LO: My whole story with red started simply by dyeing my hair, people randomly started to call me RED outside, I wore a lot of red clothes and at some point it became my brand to the level that everyone been sending pictures of every red thing they saw. The color also just speaks to me itself, as it is the color of danger, passion, aggression, beauty and love. It brings me comfort and disturbance at the same time, I even paint in red lights so I hardly see undertones or my paintings until the morning – this is what I think feels like spending time with me.

AM: Mental health and beauty are recurring themes in your work. Can you elaborate on the significance of these themes in your art and the message you hope to convey to your audience?

LO: Mental health has been an important part of my personal and professional journey. As a teen I have been battling serious illness and wasn’t sure if I will be alive by 20, so this obviously affected me in many ways and I started to develop some inner struggles. I was not diagnosed with bipolar disorder until a bit more than a year ago and it all made sense then. During my darkest times I worked on a documentary of mental health struggles of young creatives and this helped me a lot. I owe art everything including my life and I can’t imagine myself doing anything else. I think it is important to be open about your mental health struggles to erase the stigma and better connect with others: like yes I might be in psychiatric urgent care today and open the craziest exhibition in Paris tomorrow, what now?

What about beauty – and I don’t want to sound too full of myself because beauty is not important to me – is that when you have been beautiful all your life it creates the certain view of the world. You can have anyone at all times, but also you can feel like hell and no one will believe you just because of the way you look. You fight to be taken seriously as an artist for years. There is a lot of darkness in beauty and I want to transfer this through my art as well. Beauty to me is more demonic than angelic and this is something that I also try to explore more in the future. 

AM: Looking ahead, what projects or collaborations are you most excited about, and what direction do you see your art taking in the future?

LO: This exhibition gave me so much inspiration and new ideas, I feel truly unstoppable! I am currently working on documentary about creatives with Russian/Ukrainian origins that I started filming in Moscow; and also I got a book deal thankful to “MANY REDS” – those are two things I am working on right now, but I am also very excited to take on some commercial shoots to photograph and direct. Can’t wait to work with some of my favorite brands and artists, can’t say much more for now yet!

AM: If you could invite three artists, living or deceased, to a dinner party, who would they be and why?

LO: Ye, Andy Warhol and Marina Abramovic, no doubt. I would want some chaos. I would have Teezo Touchdown too, but just as my date.

AM: What’s a piece of art (whether it’s a film, painting, photograph, etc.) that has had a profound impact on you personally? How has it influenced your own work?

LO: First one that comes in mind is Yeezus, this album has not stop to amaze me ten years after. It reflects my personality a lot, chaotic yet passionate. I have sex to it, I paint to it, it is deeply encrusted in my mind.

I think I really try not to let other visual pieces of art influence me too much because I don’t want them to reflect in my work, but my favorites of all times are George Condo and Tracy Emin and their work speaks to me profoundly. I love movies too and I think recently I been onto David Lynch – his colors and scripts are out of this world and I am proud to show my first three films in his theatre Silencio in Paris.

AM: We all have moments of self-doubt and creative blocks. How do you overcome these challenges and reignite your passion for creating?

LO: My secret is I let them be. This is how they don’t happen.  I tell myself it’s fine to take a break and two days after I am already organizing a whole movie shoot. Making art is like breathing to me and I never stop or I will die.

AM: Imagine you’re granted the opportunity to collaborate with any artist or creative professional, living or deceased. Who would you choose, and what type of project would you envision working on together?

LO: My longest dream has been making a music video/short film with Ye, Runaway type but even more surreal and scripted. I think we would kill it. And I’d love to shoot for Maison Martin Margiela while he was still in the brand, he is one of a kind to me forever. I can make the whole list but those are definitely in my top. Would walk a runway for Rick Owens too, I love wearing it but visually our aesthetics don’t match much so I’d just wear a red dress with kiss boots on a runway instead.

AM: If you could give your younger self one piece of advice when you were just starting your artistic journey, what would it be?

LO: Honestly I am very proud of myself for never selling my brain out artistically. I always created what I wanted and I cannot say that there would be much more to change. Just maybe get deeper in my influencer bag at 17 so I would never have to have a day job, but that is also a part of my path and I don’t regret anything.

AM: Finally, if you had to describe your artistic style and ethos in just three words, what would they be?

LO: Passion, power, insanity.