We caught up with this Stockholm-based visionary, curator, and artist to talk about her journey, challenges, and what it’s like to be an artist with foreign roots in the Scandinavian capital.
When one imagines the start of an artist’s career, we imagine the road as very long and tricky. It takes a lifetime to develop one’s craft, and sometimes there is discouragement from others which makes it hard.
At the start of Christeseva’s creative endeavors, art was a career field her mother strongly discouraged. She grew up in a Belarusian household, where her traditional mother collected items for her dowry, as she was expected to “settle down” in the classical sense. An artistic career was certainly not part of those plans and when she applied to an art school in another city, the disappointment was complete.
However, her mother’s discouragement was the driving force behind Christeseva’s successful career and contributed to her artistic individuality. She talks about this juxtaposition in her work; if we look at her atelier’s carpet, this carpet was part of Christeseva’s original dowry. She repurposed it with paint as a reminder that there can be other goals in women’s lives.
Art is worth our attention, our respect. There are other methods to communicate besides weapons and killing each other. Let’s learn this. We should remember this!
Christeseva has more than fulfilled that ambition in her artistic career. She made history by being the first artist who started recycling prototypes from the fashion industry and bringing them to the art scene; inspiring established fashion houses such as Dior to showcase their own. Christeseva was also invited to show her installation of “The Toiles” in the context of the harsh and unique nature of Fårö as part of the worldwide celebration of Ingmar Bergman’s 100-year jubilee at the Bergman Centre. Christeseva was the executive producer and art director for the international exhibition “Ingmar Bergman and his Legacy in Fashion and Art,” which was shown in more than 60 countries worldwide in 2018.
Ludmila is also known as an artist who painted The Sky Over in 2006. She has also partnered with Swedish Embassies to promote gender identity, equality, and representation. This message was strongly underlined in 2019 when she organized a fashion show on Stockholm’s streets, bringing together a number of Stockholm locals to participate and thereby support women who are on the way toward their creative dreams—facing both challenges and successes.
An iconic painting of L.Christeseva “The Sky over Stockholm”, mixed media on canvas, (cropped).
In addition to her own artistic merits, she always tries to encourage others to pursue creative endeavors. In her various workshops (see here) which she runs at her Stockholm atelier called Artten, she comments on her participants: “They are talented and amazing. And when they say they can’t paint, I don’t believe them. I will show them, yes they can!” She enjoys witnessing how free, curious, and liberated the workshop participants become when they are in her Ostermalm atelier. She continues to elaborate: “In my environment, the attendees hear my story, learn my artistic secrets, and then go ahead. They try, they explore, and they enjoy! It’s all just about enjoyment!”
When one attends her workshops, one does not have to be fearful, as participants are encouraged to explore their commonalities. It begins with a treat such as cinnamon buns and coffee – the classic, “Swedish Fika” or wine, depending on what the group chooses. Ludmila breaks the ice by playing her guitar, or a bell, or urging participants to clap their hands. She encourages the attendees to get inspired, connect with their inner child, and go crazy. Everyone is encouraged to contribute to a vast collective canvas. One does not need a paintbrush as everyone is spilling colors, (sometimes spilling wine), and dancing. People don’t need to worry about limitations as no one’s behavior will be judged. It’s a safe space.
Upon completion, there’s a celebration. As Christeseva adds, “Participants can take pictures of the completed canvas or buy a piece. It is beautiful, and everyone succeeds in making art, even if they claim they have never painted before. It’s just amazing how talented they are.”
Artwine workshop with L.Christeseva. Photo by: Alice Ilmenska
Christeseva is also an activist: since the onset of the Russia-Ukraine war, a topic that has affected her deeply, she has launched a number of projects to support Ukrainian families fleeing the war and finding a new home in Sweden. Her aim is to facilitate the integration path into Swedish society through arts and crafts. For example via her photo project, “Stockholm through the eyes of Ukrainian Children” where Ukrainian kids capture images of their new hometown, under the guidance of professional photographers. Her most recent project is called Restart Ukraine and connects Swedish and Ukrainian youth to create art for peace together. Some of these pieces have been publicly presented during Kulturnatt Stockholm 2022.
Christeseva would like to be remembered as a visionary who can see things from a distance and see the whole picture. She adds, “I want to inspire. When people experience my art, I want them to feel comfortable and connected because today there is so much art you don’t understand. You don’t want to understand. You are afraid. You feel stupid. You have to read, and then people start to ignore art because it’s too difficult and seen as elite, and then it will disappear from our lives.” We can say, her artistic sensibility shows a more authentic sense of the Swedish art scene, which is free from overt stereotypes and discouragement.”