When I walk into Anna Razumovskaya and Ivan Alifan’s beautiful house in a peaceful, green part of Vaughan, north of Toronto, there is an art overload. Paintings and sketches, mostly by the two artists, cover nearly every wall of the main floor, including a collaborative dark green wall featuring a young woman asleep, curled into the fetal position, dotted with QR codes. It is, Ivan tells me, “the house that art built”.

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Anna has been successful enough with selling her paintings (Anna Art Publishing, is a business, after all) to live an artistic life comfortably, and provide her family with what they need and want. Eugene Korchinski, her husband and Ivan’s father, takes care of things on the business end, freeing the mother and son time to focus exclusively on creating. It’s a rare, magical family dynamic, one in which all relationships are in symbiosis: everyone helping everybody else, working together toward shared goals.

Ivan credits that close family relationship, specifically that of his and his mother, with perhaps being the reason he first picked up a paintbrush.

“I think in many cases it all derived from me watching my mom paint when I was little,” Ivan says, touching on the idea that his desire to paint may be a subconsciously formed yen. “I always think about me and my twin brother, in a way that he did not come with painting skills, so there has to be something different there. And the only difference is that I got to see her paint, and he didn’t.”

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Anna, though, credits Ivan just as much with her growth as an artist, stating she is currently transitioning from fine art to conceptual. It’s a move she says was partly inspired by her son. “We all influence each other,” Anna says. “And thanks to Ivan, because he always brings in new ideas and new thoughts and new books, so he’s kind of always inspiring us, constantly, so he pushes us to some different directions. It’s fascinating. Challenging and fascinating at the same time.”
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Ivan will be showcasing his work at a gallery in New York City in September. His latest collection, titled “It’s Not Milk,” is a bold group of work featuring human figures and strange landscapes covered in a white liquid.
“I guess that for me was playing with ambiguity, and it has to relate with the sub-consciousness with a person’s desire, fantasy, and fear,” Ivan says of the paintings.“I didn’t want it to be too pretty or too scary, but to have a little bit of both, to maybe show the true nature of a person. I tried to envision the modern gaze with modern portraits.”
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“There’s something that could be viewed as erotic, or sometimes I even get spiritual, I don’t know why, from grandmas,” Ivan continues. “Grandmas have said the work is somehow spiritual to them. But I like how it jumps from scary, to sexy, to sometimes, even childish. And I sometimes wonder if that’s just how our subconscious works.”
One of the main reasons he paints, he says, is because of the record it provides you – proof of who you were, how you worked, and how you’ve changed.

“Your paintings act as a form of diary. Through your paintings and progressions, you can learn your stupid period, your idiot period, your slightly immature period. And then I get to observe this, and when I look at these old paintings, I see the old version of me. And the epiphany that you get is what I like about painting. It’s not a written diary but it’s so observant. It has to do with how you observe the world and how you portray it through paintings. And then you can say to yourself, ‘at age 18, this is how I observed the world.’”

Anna’s paintings, are a bit more subtle, understated, featuring women prominently, in long, flowing dresses, sometimes dancing, sometimes lying in bed. She says the reason she paints women more so now, as opposed to men, is because of a pure beauty and energy she connects with as a woman herself.
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“For me, it’s just so clear. It’s very conducive for me to express my feelings through the female form. As women, we relate to this energy, and I guess it’s just easier to show my state of mind, my perception of life, through a woman’s form.”

Both of them agree that, because of the rise of technology, especially as a means to creating art, it’s become easier to ingest, easier to simply take for granted, there will always be a place for fine art. Put simply, the concepts, time, and skill involved are things that no robot or computer has yet to achieve.
“There’s something that robots simply can’t replicate that humans can,” Ivan says.

“Paintings will become more valuable,” Anna adds. “They’ve always been, but they will be even more valuable eventually because of that, because they have something that a machine doesn’t have. And for me, the more I paint, the more I’m fascinated by that, and I have no idea how I’ve done it, even.”
“There is no formula, there is no system. That, I guess, is the fascination.”
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I get into Anna’s white Volvo convertible for the ride to the studio to see where she does most of her painting and creating, where the prints are made, where they’re shipped from. On the way there, we talk about her home country of Russia, where she grew up during the height of the Cold War, and her new home, and the differences between them. When I ask her if she misses it, her answer is swift and clear.
“No. I miss people, not government.”
The freedom she has as an artist in Canada is not something she takes for granted, and it’s clear she is maybe unable to imagine a life where she doesn’t paint every day. It’s not work in the simple sense of the word, but there is a discipline she recognizes as essential if she wishes to continue the life she’s built for herself. She paints eight hours every day, with the only exception being when she’s on “official vacation.”

“That way, when you have to really paint, your hand will fly,” she says.

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We pull up to the studio, and inside there are paintings absolutely everywhere, not unlike their house, workstations, and a couple computers. Anna’s mother and her niece, who are visiting from Russia, greet us. In not too long, Eugene’s mother, also visiting, walks in as well. Everyone is happy to see each other, and Anna cannot help but smile the entire time.
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It’s a tangible, real life observation of what she said earlier, when I asked her what pushes her to keep painting. “Life itself. Every single day. Curiosity of life, beauty of life. My family, my sons, my friends, everything. That’s my biggest inspiration.”
“Your paintings act as a form of diary. Through your paintings and progressions, you can learn your stupid period, your idiot period, your slightly immature period. And then I get to observe this, and when I look at these old paintings, I see the old version of me. And the epiphany that you get is what I like about painting. It’s not a written diary but it’s so observant. It has to do with how you observe the world and how you portray it through paintings. And then you can say to yourself, ‘at age 18, this is how I observed the world.’”

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Article by: Matthew Williams

Photography by: Matthew Williams