Vladimir Putin's Russia is a less than ideal place for a young gay artist to work. Yet 27-year-old Igor Sychev creates and thrives. He is out to his family, and he has been with his partner, Misha, for four years. Igor agreed to answer a few questions by email about his art and what his curent experience in Russia is like. (We edited some of Igor's responses for clarity, but we tried to not change the tone of his replies.)
The Advocate: Can you tell us about the first male nude artwork you were exposed to?
Igor Sychev: The first male nude artwork I saw was postcards with photos of antique Greek sculptures, and a big book with reproductions of Dalí paintings, which parents gave me when I started my education in art school. It was when I was 5 years old, in a small town near the polar circle called Nadym, where I was born and lived until I was 16. So the reproductions of classical masterpieces that I could see in books in city libraries were the only possibilities to find some inspiration. And now the Internet for sure, but it came a bit later, of course.
Above: Igor Sychev from Facebook
Tell us about the first artists that inspired you and who you look to for inspiration today.
I admire the works of many artists. Egon Schiele, Lucian Freud, Michelangelo Caravaggio, and many more. I like how they use the light and color. And of course the current painters and artists too; many of them I follow on Facebook: Kevin Peterson, John Tarantola, Carlos Barahona Possollo, the very impressive works of Paolo Troilo, and the colorful paintings of Gregory Little and Chris Lopez, and many, many more. Each of them has their own special style and brushwork. I like to follow their progress. I also like modern gay comic and graphic novel artists. I think they are more plastic with the body and use some more difficult poses. Comics are a very important part of the male nude art genre. I also like the art with masculine and bear themes, powerful bodies, strong and mostly bearded faces (maybe it's just because I'm skinny and hairless, lol :-D ), and with interesting storylines.
Above: Igor with his partner, Misha (left)
What is it like living in Russia and being gay?
Hmm ... the first thought that comes to my head when some foreigners ask me this questions — I want to say only two words, "Russia sucks!" but then I remember that home is not a location or motherland, it's your family, your good friends, your favorite places to go.
Yep, I should say that if I had the possibility, I would like to leave this country and go to some more warm, comfortable, and tolerant place. I would choose Portugal, the Netherlands, or Spain, for example, and meet friends and family on vacations. Moscow is a more comfortable and modern city then other Russian towns, but even living here I can't say that I feel 100 percent safe. Can you imagine in the 21st century that some stranger on the street will shout to your back "Hey you, are you faggot?" just because you wear earrings. I don't want to dramatize the situation in this country, but Western countries seem to me more friendly.
Most of my friends are gay. My life became more easy three years ago, when I came out to my family and introduced them to my partner, Misha, with whom I have been for for four years. It was a hard step, but now I don't need to hide the real me, and my parents are no longer asking me why I'm painting nude guys. Even still, they are shy with my partner and ashamed to talk with their friends about why their son is 27 years old and still doesn't have his own family and children.
What is it like being a gay painter in Russia? You create your work here, yet don't want to publicly exhibit your work here. Only private exhibitions for friends and gay society. It's sad, but I think that gay life in Russia will long remain "life under the blanket."
Do you have any concerns or fears about being out on Facebook and in online galleries like this?
Nope, have no fear ;) I'm an open-minded person. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right? :)
See Igor Sychev's artwork on the following pages >>>