Anna Pogossova takes everyday items, picks them apart (physically and theoretically), and transforms them into art. Cool, right?
Born in Moscow and based in Sydney, Anna works across a variety of mediums, including photography, digital illustration, model work, and painting. She works with ordinary objects, exploring their relationship and place in history, language and myth. The items she selects are not merely things, they’re markers of meaning and metaphor, and I had to give her a buzz.
What is it about working with objects that appeals to you?
I love working with objects because they stand for so much more than what they appear to. I’m really interested in signs, symbols and meaning-making, which are all intrinsically connected to objects. I talk about mythologies of objects a lot, but that’s what it’s really all about for me; every object transcends its physical form into language, and has a story to tell. They are loaded with so many associated histories, metaphors, and cultural references, which gives me a lot to play with.
Did your background in photography lead to you working with still life?
I definitely think working as a still-life photographer helped me arrive at these ideas. It’s very much how I construct shots; I’m always referencing and thinking about what a particular object might remind me of and using that to construct a hypothetical world for it.
For someone who’s work is digitally based, I can’t help but notice your interest in the Renaissance era. How does looking to the past for inspiration help shape your work?
I am obsessed with classical, figurative art! Like, textbook kind of art. I think a lot of the formal conventions which I am working with now—both consciously and unconsciously—were born out of the Renaissance era, as well as so many other aspects of visual language which I find really interesting; how we represent certain things, what they symbolise. Also, as a still life photographer, I’ve always felt an affinity with painting and the way artists used to track light and construct studio scenarios; so I’m always looking back to the past.
Regarding your still life work, would you rather be working in a studio environment or in a more natural, outdoor setting?
I really enjoy both, to be honest, and both present unique challenges. I love the control of a studio setting, and I love building environments from scratch—that has always been my nerdy thing—but if you never work with natural light, I feel like you’re somewhat limited in your understanding of artificial light.
The lighting in the studio environment is just trying to simulate sunlight, so it’s really helpful to understand how real light behaves in the world before you embark on creating something artificially. I feel the same about any tool I use; I love to know the analogue equivalent. I have been airbrushing in Photoshop for so long without really giving it much thought. I’ve recently started to airbrush in the real world and it has definitely informed how I use that function digitally.
In a lot of your work, there’s an interesting juxtaposition between products related to beauty and the banality of everyday items. Can you talk about this relationship?
I think of myself as a very passive observer of sign and symbol in my every day, rather than a commentator. For me, all man-made objects as equally interesting and important creative works that reveal something of our shared history. So, in my world, no object is really banal, because someone at some point had brought it into existence from their imagination. They all have stories which can be unpacked, and I’m interested in seeing what kind of narratives come about through placing certain things together.
A personal favourite of mine is your Lipstick Ladies series. How did that and the collaboration with the Pass~Port crew come about?
I was already a big fan and a friend of Pass~Port. I absolutely love their aesthetic and humour, as well as all the artist collaborations they’ve done, so I have been wanting to do something together for a while. I had been messing around with miniature carvings of lipsticks, just as a weird side hobby. It was quite a spontaneous thing which came about after I had a lot of leftover lipsticks from a beauty shoot, and I wanted to explore intuitive forms. I initially put forward other works for the board series but Trent really loved the lipsticks and we just went for it! I’m so happy with how it turned out.
What’s it like moving between art and commercial practice? You have such a recognisable style in both. Do you have any advice for people struggling to balance those worlds?
Try and find a place where the two converge and develop that space as your unique practice. At first, I did keep them quite separate; I thought clients would be put off by the conceptual work and vice versa, but in reality, I think it made both sides stronger. It gave me an identity as a commercial photographer, and on the flip side, the access to resources I normally wouldn’t have, and the ability to experiment and execute multiple ideas quickly, helped inform various aspects of my art practice. I really think about practice in the literal sense of the word; it’s about doing something every day, always exploring and perfecting and the nature of commercial practice really allows for that. Whilst my art practice is much slower moving for me, and in some ways more restricted.
So they’re always in conversation with each other. One is my equilibrium and one is my testing ground. I wouldn’t be happy if I had to give one of them up. Also, when commercial work slows down, I always have something to come back to so I don’t go insane.
So, what can we expect next from Anna Pogossova? Please say more skateboards!
More skateboards! Fingers crossed.
To catch a glimpse of the Lipstick Ladies live in the flesh, head along to Anna’s show at the Pass~Port Store & Gallery until August the 1st – 16 Oxford Square, Darlinghurst. Also, find all of her work at her website annapogossova.com. It’s rad.