“Since I moved to a big city, I have been interested in the phenomenon of a passerby. I remember I thought if each of these people had the same rich life as mine. This is the realisation of the fullness of being. And now I often depict passersby in my works. Who are they? What do they think about? I do not know and keep the opportunity for different interpretations,” writes Moscow-based artist Maria Kostareva, who is known for her paintings of bold colours, sharp contrasts and unknown, ordinary people. Romantic, melancholic and mysterious, they draw you in with their simplicity in an instant.
Maria reconstructs fragmentary episodes that, on their own, are insignificant. She seeks to emphasise the mutual connections between people and events, even if the trajectories of these links are not seemingly clear.
“Passers-by in my paintings are often obscured or without faces,” she continues. “I not only maintain their incognito status, but also leave the opportunity for constant transformation. This is a way to create a holistic space without division, my subjects are neither friend nor foe. In my works, I weave grains of the world such as past situations and fleeting memories into a single babble of images. In my work, I remain fascinated by the incomprehensible being of the Other; their fragility, originality and vulnerability.”
We see figures in bars and restaurants, in the subway. There are momentary meetings and curiosity, great tenderness in interactions, sometimes a sense of loss.
Born in small village in the Kalininskaya region of USSR, Maria has lived and worked in Moscow since the age of 17. Moving from a rural area to the city greatly informed her artistic vision. Being an outside observer, she formed her own understanding of the position of people within urban spaces and was able to focus her art practice on making those mundane spaces and actions of daily urban experiences the subjects of her work. Even casual passers-by of Moscow’s many underpasses secure a place in her memory as bearers of meaning.
In an attempt to cope with the hectic pace of a big city, Maria strives for mindfulness through capturing and bringing to life those images that we normally endure only for a short while. She seeks harmony between humankind and urban architecture, similar to the unity with nature. The composition of her artworks is based on the principle of an accidental photo. The figures appear on the canvas, just as they would to a human eye, only partly. The images do not unfold into a narrative: they are nothing but the moments appropriated from eternity. The subjects’ lack of definite identity and the little context provided allows the viewer to participate and expand the story.
“I think we have a lot of significant information in our modern time,” the artist says, “but minor events of our everyday life have a much greater impact on us. That’s why I depict very banal scenes and places in my artworks. I want to show the value of a minor.”
Maria holds a Bachelor of Arts History (Moscow State University of Arts named after the painter Vasily Surikov) and a Master of Visual Culture Program (National Research University Higher School of Economics). Formerly a graphic designer, she has been a full-time artist since 2017. In her figurative abstract works, she derives inspiration from 20th-century artists like Richard Diebenkorn and Francis Bacon, as well as the philosophical ideas of image theorists such as Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Georges Didi-Huberman and Jean-Luc Marion. Her artworks are held in private collections in Russia, Australia, USA, UK and France.