You don’t have to be an art aficionado or a stylist to appreciate the work produced by the Close Up and Private duo of Sergei Sviatchenko and Nello Russo. Their novel concept seems effortless: document classic styling with a touch of modern flair through illustrative photos and vivid paintings, and you have yourself an impressive art-fashion project that has been inspiring stylist, fashion bloggers, and artist since its launch back in 2009. CUAP’s recent month long exhibition at the CCA&A gallery in Hamburg was a massive success, which is a real testament to their innovative project. We recently caught up with Sergie Sviatchenko (aka Sergey Nielsen) who gave us some insight on his beginnings, his vision, and where he finds inspiration for CUAP.
Interview by Kyle Waney
How did you discover your talent for art?
I had very lovely and lively parents. They were occupied with their lives and I was there in the middle of changing interiors, writing funny sketches, preparing untried dishes and sewing new garments. Then my father wanted me to become an architect and I had to draw an infinite amount of drawings of plaster models before attending architect school. I studied architecture and I liked it, but probably the more visual part of it, not technical. I remember making my diploma drawings unnecessarily beautiful. And I made a career turn when I could live from my paintings.
What do you think is the most important influence in your art and photography?
I would like to mention a few known names Ilya Repin, Igor Stravinsky, Alexander Rodchenko, Frank Lloyd Wright, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Andrei Tarkovsky, David Hockney, Paul Newman, Richard Avedon, The Beatles, The Doors, Curtis Mayfield, Le Corbusier, Helmut Newton, Charles Eames , but there are many of unknown for the readers, but so important for me.
What moves you most in life, either to inspire or upset you?
To inspire – many things… everything actually. There is a beautiful Sir Paul Smith book “You can find inspiration in everything, and if you don’t – look again”. You can’t say it better. But to upset – mostly misunderstanding between people.
Do you work from life, or from photographs or from imagination?
Yes, from life. I have an idea every morning that someone wants to know what I have to say today.
Which is more important to you the subject of your photographs and paintings or how it’s executed?
It does not take me a long time to start something, I get inspired by the process, I want to involve many things and many people, I want to tell everyone about it and hear their opinion, I can’t wait till the morning to continue, I change everything many times, I always want everything bigger and better… All the details of the process of making something are important for me.
How would you describe your art?
It is a monolog. You try to tell something and there are times when you are heard, and suddenly you are not alone, you are connected with many people on different levels, you want to show what you got, you get inspired to do many things, you do many things, you think you are heard, but suddenly, you are alone.
What would you say makes your artwork and photographs distinguishable from other artist and fashion photographers?
The photographs I do for www.closeupandprivate.com are rather the suggestions than the postulates, they are more about style and details, than brands. They attract the viewers in a different way than my Close Up And Private paintings are. Paintings around CUAP are the natural way for me to do what I did for many years, but in connection with CUAP.
Where would you say your work fits in the world of fashion?
Somewhere between free expression and the items of a good quality.
How do u feel when you are letting your emotions loose on the canvas?
With my abstract works, after finishing a painting, I feel empty. I want to meet people, to hear what they see in it; I love to meet people at the opening of the exhibitions, to feel that we are connected. With the photography for CUAP, it is different – I enjoy working with my children and later, when I create the running chain of images for the website, adding random pictures in order to disturb the “niceness” of the look, posting new works and choose some images for my CUAP paintings. Those two activities are for viewers. In making collages I am more unbound, careless, different and private, but still brave to show it. I work continuously with a few themes and did it for many years, but only recently got recognition for my collages.
You recently wrote a lifestyle manifesto for the “modern classicist”. Can you elaborate on that and styling that inspired the words behind it?
I wanted to lecture about a style, but I wanted to be positive – not “what not to wear” stuff – and wrote a list of things, which were important for me. The list was too dull, but Victor Verbeek helped me to formulate it wisely. Recently I visualised it for a short film.
How do you see yourself changing the face of art and photography?
I see myself as a freckle – for some unseen, for some unnecessary, but for a few charming and important.