Xenia Prokhorova is a young painter from St. Petersburg whose activities cover different aspects of creative work: easel painting, animation, and graphic novels (using both computer graphics and easel graphic work).
Her artistic endeavor is very multifaceted, this quality being a result of both cultural achievements on many levels and cumulative artistic experience which Kseniya was able to amass over the years and which she, needless to say, still keeps amassing.
Xenia’s career as an artist has been very special, even if somewhat eclectic. She started pursuing creative work at the age of 7 by attending workshops at the S. I. Rodionov Art and Design Studio for Children and Youth. At the same time, she was a student with the Physics and Mathematics Lyceum. Later on, she got interested in law, so she went, after her high school graduation, to the Legal Studies Department of the National Research University – Higher School of Economics.
After the university she worked first at the Bar Council and later at the Federal Financial Markets Service (Central Bank of the Russian Federation). She did not, however, neglect visual arts, although they were rather her hobby at the time. Realizing soon enough that this would not really become her path in life, Xenia changed her field of activities: after studying TV Program Directing at the Moscow Academy of State and Municipal Management, she worked as art director and director creating advertisement and music video clips.
During her work in the sphere of visual arts Xenia came to a decision that she would specialize in such areas that are directly related to free hand drawing: painting, graphics, and animation. She turned her attention to easel painting over the next four-year period when she painted many portraits while searching for ways of adequately replicating human image and character, and recreating the connection between external form and individual self. During this period Xenia was attending the Ilya Repin State Academic Institute of Fine Arts, Sculpture and Architecture in St. Petersburg as an unenrolled student with the workshop of Professor I. V. Petrov. With him as her mentor, she could source an additional range of artistic tools and study the world from one more angle. During this period Xenia has been actively involved in many group exhibitions in Russia and could also present her work in a number of solo shows.
At the same time, Xenia has been pursuing her professional interests as director: she has become interested in creating animation films. She attended a course in classical and short animation plus she took a course of dramatic arts.
As it is, the combination of fundamental classical, academic easel painting with the fundamentals of film art poses new challenges for Xenia, providing her with creative solutions and making her art maximally synesthetic, which results in a series of graphic stories.
The specific mode of expression in Xenia’s graphic novelettes can be defined as “poetic metaexpressionism”. The plot in these novelettes does not unfold linearly, along logical cause-and-effect links, as a narrative, but appears as an associative flow within which past-present-future exist in parallel. The location where the story happens is also not to be found anywhere within the space of the usual system of coordinates, but rather exists in a different reality; just like in the case of a palimpsest, one location will show through some other location making it possible for the hero to appear in two places at the same time. The pictorial language doubles with the text’s artistic and graphic structure; the space of the story consists of lines, dabs and words, it is planar, having no volume nor density, so one cannot “touch” it, because it is not an empirical, but a sensual, that is metaphysical, matter. The main means of representational expression, that is lines and dabs, help the viewer get a better feel for the transcendent nature of the novelettes’ semantic content.
Xenia’s graphic novelettes are characterized by changes of style throughout the story, so that each page shows a separate image related to the text which also features the same degree of variety of styles, and they represent, combined, a totally original story as far as its metaphoric character is concerned.
Girl Goose. A small story with a special atmosphere dealing with a transformation of a girl with a goose feather into a grown-up goose, which happens against the background of space scapes. Having experienced the cold grandeur of outer space, the Girl Goose does not want to return to a fully human guise, but on the contrary, her transformation into a bird is completed. As the girl starts emitting light like a firefly, like a star, the huge reservoir of Space accepts her. (This was exhibited in the Nizhni Novgorod Art Museum in 2014.)
A Friend for Me. Back in 2013, Xenia created this draft of a sci-fi story, her first. Action takes place in a world in which people have unlearned understanding each other via words: they can only rely on telepathy. But what awaits someone who does not have such abilities, for whatever reason? Xenia creates a dystopian story combining her knowledge of physics and mathematics which she acquired at a technical lyceum with her artistic tools being a graphic artist and a director. A Friend for Me is a story about the Sea of Loneliness in which the hero of the story exists. This is why images related to water appear so often in the story. Salvation comes when somebody appears who is ready to part that awful sea—eventually it withdraws, taking dreadful fishes with it, and the one and only friend replaces them.
Hamster Stories. Once, traveling on a train, Hamster met a very strange fellow traveler: Flying Fish! They were as different as can be! He was small and plump, he digs holes in the ground and likes eating carrots while she, the Flying Fish, adores flying above water and devouring amoebas. “Help yourself please!” they both said offering their favorite treats to each other. This was the beginning of their story which had a continuation as an animation short film completed in 2020. It is now being prepared for appearing at various festivals. Its first part, What Happened on a Train, took part in the international ComMissiya festival in 2017.
If we regard What Happened on a Train from the perspective of poetic metaexpressionism, it will become clear that Hamster and Flying Fish who have accidentally met on the Train probably have it, the Train, as a third fellow traveler because Train does not only take everyone to their destinations, but also listens to their stories while following its route… But Route is also a separate protagonist in this story, and it is connected with the travelers. There are many routes and they may cross for some travelers, but not for others, yet at a specific point where Train, Travelers and Routes have crossed in this story, inside the integrated time-space conundrum, a special moment arrives when a creative act of achieving their union happens.
Graphic solutions in this novelette echo the meaning of the text. Hamster is a round being, so he is depicted with small and fat strokes while Fish is characterized by sharp, expressive, long lines. It is interesting to follow how Xenia plays with color. Sometimes she adds several colorful dabs into a sketchy drawing, while other drawings are completely filled with color and still others are only done as a graphic.
Martha from the Mahest Cemetery. This series of short novelettes about Martha who “lives” in a small village cemetery and about her mysterious admirer Salvador who once every forty years leaves presents for her during Halloween at the threshold of a crypt. Today Xenia works on final parts of this story preparing this book for a presentation. She exhibited the first chapters of the book during the international ComMissiya festival in 2017.
Martha’s story is a story about the path of mercy, forgiveness, kindness and love, that is all those universal forces that exist in humans and even beyond humans, forces that have no form, nor matter. If we follow the narrative in “Martha”, we will notice that as the story unfolds, fewer and fewer words or narrative plots are left while more and more pages with some abstract drawings appear having no text at all. Both Martha and Salvador get gradually more disembodied even though they were quite specific entities at the beginning of this novelette. Also, their story which began as a common life situation with real attributes becomes ever more abstract and poetic, that is metaphysical.
Rita and The Sea. This is Xenia’s fifth story, and it belongs to the genre of graphic poetry. Xenia was using poems in her work before, yet here she could finally realize what her stories convey in terms of their language: it is metapoetry. The story about Rita, an eccentric woman who lives in a Lighthouse, a woman who loves the Sea and dances through the nights so that ships do not run aground or get thrown on reefs, was completed and published in a small run in 2019. The book had its presentation within a framework of a social project called House Full of Amazing People in Nizhni Novgorod, Xenia’s home city (this project is dedicated to making people with special needs adjusted to ordinary life). Illustrations for Rita and The Sea were also exhibited during the Russian Arts Week and were a part of the Russian Arts Award project in Moscow in 2018 (her illustrations received third prize there).
If we turn to poetic metaexpressionism as a method of world perception, we can say that Rita is not simply in love with the Sea: she is a part of the Sea, she is the Sea and the Sea is her! But what is the Sea? Perhaps an allegory of her inner world, through which she appreciates the external world, that is the Sea is this external World indeed, as created by Rita. And the Lighthouse is the axis of her World, the source of her inspiration which she has created herself. Rita is ever-changing and variable, just like the Sea is. She looks different in every picture, depending on subtle changes in her inspiration. This is underscored by playful changes in the texture of her dress, the many variations in the lines delineating her figure and her face, flowing with changes from one picture to the next. This constant change is underscored by the ever-changing texture of the Sea and the Lighthouse, which is enhanced through dabs, colors and lines.
Damned Couch. This quarantine-time fairy tale relating the fate of Ivan the Fool who got glued to the Malicious Magic Couch appeared during the pandemic in spring of 2020. It is oriented as an online project only: this is a text quest with elements of animation. This story is published on online platforms.
Xenia Prokhorova’s graphic novelettes have clues in common which get over from one novelette to another because they exist as definitive signifiers in Xenia’s life: they are the sea, the fish, the lamp, the path, and the circle. These signifiers are echoed by the color series; a color is a pointer to a signifier bearing a certain semantic message rather than a coloristic one, otherwise illustrations are dominated by sketch lines. Separate dabs of color are often incorporated into the graphic solution forming a special emotional tenor and helping to create intonational accentuation of the text’s content. Graphic elements are never used in Xenia’s novelettes as a means for directly illustrating the text. They are rather present as a means of evocating figurative series of associations—however, the text itself becomes one of the elements in the illustrations thus complementing not only the informative, but also the visual content.
Xenia prefers using a warm palette for her painting, but her graphic novelettes are mostly resolved in cold colors. Xenia’s painting is mostly about creating human portraits, yet they are portraits of human souls and not of external human forms. It is important for Xenia not only to feel something, but also to “project herself”, to be able to “get inside feelings”, that is to appreciate the world and life in general through the soul of the person whose portrait she creates. As for graphic novelettes, their heroes are totally self-sufficient individuals who have been created, of course, on the basis of Xenia’s own experience, both of life itself and of her ability to project herself inside the feelings of other people. They exist, however, living their individual lives, in their own world—a world which mostly was not created by the author in her novelette, but one which the protagonist sees from own perspective, without any participation of the author. That world is no so much hostile as indifferent towards the protagonist. Xenia’s paintings tell the viewer about some human person, about his inner self, while her novelettes are set to clarify the relationship of this inner self with the surrounding world—and that accounts for choosing mostly cold color palette for the stories.
Xenia defines the style of her graphic novelettes as “poetic metaexpressionism”, yet it is, perhaps, not so much a style as a form of the perception of the world and its corresponding expression via visual and textual images. This is the rhythm of color-word-line-dab-sound. This is a synesthetic experience, and it allows Xenia—despite all her variegated interests and skills—to see the world and herself in it as an integral entity. Most importantly, she appreciates own creative work as a part of that entity and sees its diversity as being an equivalent of harmony. Perhaps the most characteristic feature of Xenia’s creative work is her ability to visualize the perceptual unity of the chaotic and fragmented world around us. Such a “unifying” vision of our world—a world that has become very fast-paced as well as over-filled with so many flows of fragmented, disconnected information—represents an unexpected, yet natural response to all of its challenges. What Xenia does is sharing her vision and her harmony with others.
As of today, Xenia has participated in her capacity of a graphic artist and a writer, in many exhibitions in Russia and around the world. Her works are stored in public and private collections, they are represented in many galleries and art spaces in Russia and in the USA as well as exist on the sites of well-known online galleries. Such is the dialectic of Kseniya’s life journey as implemented in her creative work, a dialectic which could find its expression in a particular, special artistic language which is chaotically harmonious and is always on the move, a language which can be defined as “poetic metaexpressionism”.