Artist Lena Hades Will Burn Her Nemtsov Рortraits

I was interviewed by British journalist Sarah Hurst. The full text of the interview was published by Sarah Hurst in her blog X Soviet. Also, you can read its full Russian version in the Vestnik Civitas.

Zaur Dadaev and Boris Nemtsov. Pencil on paper, 2015-2017.
Zaur Dadaev and Boris Nemtsov. Pencil on paper, 2015-2017.

Sarah Hurst: Has your art always been politically-oriented?

Lena Hades: Not always. I’m only a socially sensitive artist. For example, my skull series (1995) is about the greatest mystery in life - death itself.

Above all I’m interested in what is a person, what is human consciousness, what happens to it at the moment of death, from what source did languages appear on Earth, and what language was the very first one on Earth?

Science can’t answer these questions yet, so as an artist, starting in 2000, I’ve been trying to answer them in images, to make these questions a scientific problem that has to be solved. I called this artistic and scientific search MATISM.

SH: Do you try to promote a political message with your art?

LH: Not at all, only an artistic and civic one. I would like Russia and the Chimera of Justice to have real justice and I would like to bring that bright future closer by making it real. My cycle Chimera is about this, it’s about how we actually live in some kind of chimerical, unreal world.

SH: Do you experience any problems with the Russian authorities, any kind of harassment or censorship?

LH: In 2010 I received a summons to the investigative department of the Basmannaya prosecutor’s office. 300 Russian nationalists were trying to open a criminal case against me under 282 – the “Russian” article [of the Criminal Code, prohibiting the incitement of hatred]. The Russian nationalists were upset by two of my paintings, “Chimera of the Enigmatic Russian Soul” and “Welcome to Russia”. In the work “Welcome to Russia” I had tried to depict the dualism of the Russian soul, in which the sacred and the sinful have got along together peacefully for many centuries already, and cases where a Russian person prays with one hand and steals with the other are common and hardly bother anyone.

In July 2010 I saw an investigator from the Basmannaya prosecutor’s office and tried to convince her that I wasn’t aiming to denigrate or insult anyone on the basis of their ethnicity.

Despite that the Russian nationalists didn’t leave me in peace – now my name is on ALL their kill lists that are going around the internet, I’m considered a “Russophobe”, a “fifth columnist” and an “enemy of the people”.

SH: What made you embark on the Nemtsov art marathon?

LH: On February 22, 2015 I made a painting with a dead man-bull lying in a sea of blood, towards midnight on February 27 I published it on Facebook. I don’t know where I got this impulse, but I took a pencil and started drawing his face, and on the day of his funeral I announced an art marathon in memory of him. I tried to bring other artists into this action, but no one supported me.

Boris Nemtsov by Lena Hades. Pencil on paper, 2015.
Boris Nemtsov by Lena Hades. Pencil on paper, 2015.

SH: What was the public reaction to the art marathon, and the reaction of Nemtsov’s family?

LH: I have to talk about the real persecution of this art action of mine, the persecution started specifically on March 9, 2015, when the late Pavel Sheremet wrote about the art marathon in his Belorussky Partizan. On that day a post came out on LiveJournal – “Shit artist – world glory”, and it began... For over a year they called me “talentless”, “an FSB agent” and so on.

Few people knew about the marathon for a whole year, despite the constant accusations, so there was virtually no public reaction. The Nemtsov family reacted to my initiative with sympathy at first: Zhanna, for example, friended me on Facebook early on and wrote to me asking me to give her a poster with portraits of her father.

Boris Nemtsov by Lena Hades. 2016.
Boris Nemtsov by Lena Hades. 2016.

SH: What is your personal opinion about Boris Nemtsov?

LH: Before the art marathon he wasn’t very attractive to me – I considered him a womaniser and careerist.

But since during the art marathon I listened to and read virtually all his interviews and read two of his books, I woke up quite quickly to his sincere friendly charm. On February 27, 2015 not only a politician and state figure was killed, but also a talented scientist.

SH: When and why do you plan to burn the portraits?

LH: I’ll burn the portraits in the autumn, I haven’t decided when exactly yet. I’ll make the word PRAVDA [truth] out of them, pour petrol over them and set them on fire – I don’t like the fact that the investigators and the trial failed to find not only those who ordered the murder, but even those who committed it. I don’t believe the Chechen theory, the Chechens were just “selected” for the role of the culprits, but different people killed Nemtsov.

SH: Why did you decide to draw Nemtsov murder trial defendant Zaur Dadayev?

LH: I follow reports from the trial closely and I’m completely convinced that Dadayev is innocent; you only need to know that the Chechen version of the murder arose even before the arrest and questioning of the accused!

In the investigation itself and the trial hearings there are many contradictions and unclear things. For example, why was there no blood on the asphalt, on the clothing of the murdered Nemtsov, and why isn’t there a single photograph of the murder scene with his girlfriend in it, Anna Duritskaya? Why didn’t Duritskaya appear in court?

Who turned off all the security cameras on the Kremlin wall and how? Why do all of the opposition support the investigations committee’s version of the murder virtually unanimously?

Dadayev has an alibi, which the court didn’t look at.

For me Zaur Dadayev isn’t a murderer, but a typical “little person” who fell into the clutches of our Chimera of Justice.

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