Expressions of abstraction

Artist Zhanna Shomakhova.| Photo courtesy of

Artist Zhanna Shomakhova will be exhibiting over 50 works in her latest series Motion, a collection exploring the allures of the universe in flux, at the Leigh Square Community Arts Village from Oct. 5–Nov. 28.

Born in Nalchik, North Caucasus, Russia, Shomakhova moved with her family to Canada in 2008. Her immigration has had a transformative effect on her artistic style, which has evolved into renderings of an ever-shifting environment. Her work blends influences from Canada’s natural beauty to the Eastern roots of her Russian heritage.

“My artwork became more abstract, and now I tend to use brighter colours. The world around me changed and I changed too,” Shomakhova says.

Mixed media: a cultural mosaic

Shomakhova enjoys combining different media in her work to create tactile symbols of multiculturalism, the weaving threads of nature into balanced and patterned decorative designs.

“I often use symbols and signs in my work, which is probably related to my cultural background – the place where I was born and raised. Vancouver’s scenery has certainly contributed a lot to my artistic vision. It is a vibrant, colourful city where diverse cultures organically coexist and complement each other,” she explains.

Her artwork draws upon the exceptional natural landscape of British Columbia. Whether it be a gust of wind rustling leaves, the rhythmic waves of the ocean or the elegance of falling snow, Shomakhova is reminded of nature’s unpredictability and spontaneity.

“Every day we hear from mass media how the world changes for the worse. A lot of horrible things, like natural disasters and wars are happening every minute and I want my works to remind people how beautiful the world is around us,” she says.

To express the rhythm and motion of the universe, Shomakhova relies heavily on texture and colour to create complex surfaces and depth in her paintings.

“The most important for me is the first stage when I use gesso to produce an effect of an old, scratched, threadbare surface. Then I use multiple layers of colour, until I achieve the effect I am looking for,” says Shomakhova.

As a rule, she does not change the original idea of her composition during the process of its creation but selects her colours from instinctive feeling.

“Colour is mystical to me. There’s nothing like the feeling of anticipation of a new colour coming to life,” she says.

The artist attributes her passion for art to her first drawing and painting lessons at her local arts school in Nalchik where her inherent sense of creative intuition blossomed. While Shomakhova values her technical instruction from the state educational institution the College of Arts in Vladikavkaz, she appreciates her home town arts school for developing her unique style by focusing on the fun and enjoyment of creating in addition to studies in art history.

Finding the geometry in nature

Balance, acrylic on paper.| Photo courtesy of

Creating abstract works inspired by nature requires Shomakhova to interpret the world around her differently. Rather than mimic natural phenomena, she concentrates on small details and elements that are often overlooked. For her Motion series, Shomakhova has juxtaposed angular, geometric forms such as triangles and squares with sinuous, organic curves one might find in nature.

“I transform [geometric forms], stylize them but, at the same time, try to keep a resemblance to the source,” she says.

In her Motion series, her harmonious compositions dispel the staunch divide between the organic and the geometric. Moving away from recognizable images to a repertory of abstracted forms, Shomakhova’s canvases provoke curiosity and provide viewers the freedom to see whatever they want.

“I like to leave space for people to find their own keys to decode the meaning of my work – space for their own explanations, associations and things that resonate with them,” she says.


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