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Interview with Alexandr Strepetov

Home > Designer Interviews > Alexandr Strepetov

Editor Frank Scott (FS) from DesignPRWire has interviewed designer Alexandr Strepetov (AS) for A’ Design Award and Competition. You can access the full profile of Alexandr Strepetov by clicking here.

Interview with Alexandr Strepetov at Sunday 15th of November 2020
Alexandr Strepetov
FS: Could you please tell us more about your art and design background? What made you become an artist/designer? Have you always wanted to be a designer?
AS: I’ve been drawing and modelling from my early childhood. When I was six I studied at the School of Arts for the kids. However when my family moved from the centre of St. Petersburg to the outskirts of the city I could no longer study at the School of Arts. My parents used to take me to various museums. Yet we unfortunately did not know personally those artists who were well known and I did not have a good understanding of the artistic work, of the true creative atmosphere of the artistic process. After school I became a cabinet-maker and for a year I worked in the department of decorations and technical constructions of the “Lenfilm” cinema company. Although I had been making some objects that one can consider as those of arts and design it is only later while in the army I made my decision to become an artist. At that period I had got the ideas of my first two works that I initially understood as objects of arts. Since that time the art continuously was my major interest and I tried to get involved in various parts of arts. I participated in several exhibitions of contemporary art, made certain monumental objects for the Russian and the Georgian Orthodox Churches, made special furniture and other objects of interior. At some point I realized that I am interested in fulfilling my ideas in both art and design.

FS: What is "design" for you?
AS: It is perhaps one of the ways to survive in our social and physical environment making it more humane and raising its culture. Our existence in this world is tragic: humans die; they are inconsistent and have inalienable weaknesses. And yet design as an important part of the human culture still delivers optimism, a certain mystery making the sense of human destiny. A spider spins a web, birds build nests, and a man creates a new world around. Design is a way of communication, it is a language on different levels and at the same time it is a manifestation of a certain period of time. Only in a while our future descendants will be able to objectively evaluate it.

FS: When do you feel the most creative?
AS: I think I anticipate a new breakthrough when I feel – from inside – that I am standing just near the new discovery. It is as if you sail along a quiet small river and suddenly realize that something fully unexpected is going to happen. Your subconsciousness somewhere deeply fixes changes in surrounding noise, speed, lights and you feel that behind the next turn it will be if not a waterfall then at least big rapids or perhaps a mighty storming ocean where a quiet river is irrevocably bringing you in.

FS: Which aspects of a design do you focus more during designing?
AS: There are two opposite sides in a piece of art. One side is its integrity, laconism, strict thoughtful completion where it is nothing to add or take away as if we deal with a beautifully cut stone. The other side is a flourishing complication, possible exiting continuation, it is as if a gripping beginning of an exiting story. To continue our parallel with a stone we see on this side a crystal druse with its unpredictable chaotic nature. In order to develop the first side one should focus on the initial stage of the job while considering and getting rid of many variants to make the final version perfect. The second side is mostly about experiment and improvisation. It is a certain way in creation of the piece of art when there is a search of new ideas, just like a growth of a druse to later extract material from and beautifully cut it. Various circumstances often prevented me from properly reaching the ideal of the first side. I naturally highly value thoughtfulness, integrity, perfection, - and not only in design. Yet in my efforts to create pieces of art I had to make projects unfinished in their planning. Still after a while I started admiring a freedom of improvisation. It has a gift to suddenly produce new ideas. Those features of design like comfort, safety, reliability are very important. Yet if they are not enriched by aesthetic and constructive beauty, by audacity of imagination with its novelty, by daring life with her right to even make mistakes, by magic and by mystery then pieces of art become a boring background, remain unnoticed just like details and mechanisms under the frame of machines. They loose a gift to inspire for new creativity, to decorate make alive and even to attribute soul to our environment. Unless it is intentionally done to emphasize the novelty of the other objects presented in the same space.

FS: What kind of emotions do you feel when you design?
AS: I am often very excited while thinking about the new ideas. The creative process for me is perhaps like a game of chance where there is an entire spectrum of emotions: from frustration due to a wrong decision up to a joy of victories and delight of discoveries. I feel depressed if I don’t create. Perhaps in medicine it would be called dependence.

FS: What kind of emotions do you feel when your designs are realized?
AS: So far it has not been the case when my project would be realized without my direct participation or would be produced by industrialists. Apart from just one exception I had to work myself at every stage of each of my projects. So the result has never been a surprise. When my object is finally completely done I feel an internal encouragement and liberation, even from being stressed, and a freedom for fulfilling some new ideas for the previous job had completely taken all your time. At the same time one feels confusion for you don’t know what to do first of all.

FS: When judging a design as good or bad, which aspects do you consider first?
AS: When I see something for the first time the emotional reaction is important. Yet I also consider the practical side and how convenient it would be to use this design. I try to find out if it consists the new ideas, philosophy, the original solutions of the technical problems, the improvement of things most habitual as well as what is beautiful in the object, which colours and materials were put together. Sometimes when I had a careful look at an unusual construction of a wooden chair I clearly understood that I would never use it, never take a sit until they make it differently or just from a different material. If the important parts of the chair were made just for the sake of its beauty with no consideration of its safety, of the durability and character of the wooden material then a possible breakage can easily turn a small wooden stick into a sharp spear that would hit a human sitting in this chair. The design was wonderful, it was just a wrong material.

FS: When was your last exhibition and where was it? And when do you want to hold your next exhibition?
AS: Last time I participated in the exhibition that took place in the St. Petersburg Museum of Puppets in 2003. The group of artists including myself presented this exhibition. As for my personal exhibition I have not had any so far. Yet I think that I would make a composition from my works for this kind of presentation.

FS: Where does the design inspiration for your works come from? How do you feed your creativity? What are your sources of inspirations?
AS: My inspiration may come from different sources: it might be a careful observation of the pieces of nature or may be just a spontaneous image developed from a view on a chaotic pile of objects or accidentally made heap of garbage. It can be the influence of the works of great artists or just the most naïve drawings or scribbles of the kids; it comes from the philosophical or artistic compositions or from my own reflections. Sometimes when you suddenly bump into a poorly designed or unsafe object you would be outraged by the carelessness of its authors and definitely feel a need to make something different – just safer, more rational and better designed. Even the very formulation of a difficult complicated task can inspire the search of its beautiful solution. Yet I think that the major source of ideas for me are my own drafts or various bits I had occasionally made or intentionally done to further develop their creative nature. If I find an interesting or potentially promising detail I try to somehow fix it on paper, make it from paper, wood or metal in order to practically discover if there are any new ideas emerging from these drawings or objects.

FS: How would you describe your design style? What made you explore more this style and what are the main characteristics of your style? What's your approach to design?
AS: I don’t have one constant unchangeable style. In some of my works there is a possibility to create in the future a number of objects in a similar style, with similar known features. Yet to make it practically I would need a serious large order. I so far don’t have it. My experience tells me that enthusiasm alone is not enough, yet I did make certain efforts in this direction. As for the Kepler-186f armchair one may conclude – at least about the drafts and graphics of this armchair – about a possible creation of this “similar” style. However even if I create a certain number of works in this style it would not be “my style”, but “Kepler-186f style”. I believe that a personality of an artist or a designer is greater then any possible direction and personal freedom should not be limited by the borders of one style. I think that even the most interesting and fascinating style can in the end become a bore for its author just like a slow, predictable and safe way of life would be boring for an innate traveller to the lands unknown.

FS: Where do you live? Do you feel the cultural heritage of your country affects your designs? What are the pros and cons during designing as a result of living in your country?
AS: I live in Russia. The rich cultural legacy of my country could undoubtedly influence my activity. The trouble is that the current regime has been trying to primitively and cynically use this great legacy in their propaganda. It only completely discouraged me to perceive and use the legacy of our past. Although I have one pretty old and to a certain stage well - considered idea of a design under this influence. I suppose when time is better I’ll make it. In general I believe it is a right way for artists to be cosmopolitan, to be a citizens of the world. An artist should try to learn from the best achievements of different cultures, to broaden his perspectives and not be a puppet of local provincial myths that present their country as the centre of the world. I was born and lived for more then twenty years in the late USSR. In this country most of the industrial products demonstrated an obvious neglect of beauty, of comfort in use. As a result many Soviet people cherished a reverential attitude towards the opposite approach to the objects that was natural for the free world. While at school I carefully painted in water-colours the “monopoly” game. I used carefully preserved pictures from the booklets of the American exhibition in Leningrad in 1974 that my family visited. Many were doing similar things. Only after the collapse of “the iron curtain” I was amazed: the real game “monopoly” looked in fact so simplistic.


FS: Thank you for providing us with this opportunity to interview you.

A’ Design Award and Competitions grants rights to press members and bloggers to use parts of this interview. This interview is provided as it is; DesignPRWire and A' Design Award and Competitions cannot be held responsible for the answers given by participating designers.


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