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Mara Ravins

On your website you talk a lot about beauty.  Talk more about beauty in your life and in your work.

Beauty in whatever form is that which gives balance to all that oppresses and corrodes, even though the corrosive can also be beautiful.

Beauty is something that affects our emotions and evokes pleasant sensations, surprises, mesmerizes…

One art critic in his book about beauty mentioned that beauty is the most radical movement in art. Carravagio created shock with his paintings of angels and naked men displayed in the church. This author compares Carravagio’s paintings with Mapplethorpe’s photographs, which contain astounding beauty whilst being provocative.  I do not know much about theory, about post modernism (about postmodernism I only understand that it is a mélange of different styles, a movement that does not like beauty… or the word “beauty”),  but I do know that beauty is important and it is radical.

My work is often criticized as being too beautiful, as if it is too precious.  I do not do this consciously.  I simply notice beauty everywhere.  I notice the gorgeous reflection of light in a window, a line on a wall that has seduced me… I am always fainting with wonder.

In Ventspils I was photographing a lot of old buildings, abandoned, corroded houses, the different colors and textures of walls, strange angles, rooftops, a sea of mud… Everywhere I was able to be inspired by beauty.  I see all that and people do laugh at me for it…

And what if Siberian Story turns out too beautiful? 

I feel there has to be beauty! For example, in the film Slumdog Millionaire (2008) there is a lot of brutality but it has been gorgeously filmed. Or, for example, the film White Material (2009) with the magnificent Isabelle Huppert in the lead, a woman who refuses to give up her coffee plantation in Africa – that is a very intense and brutal film, but cinematically beautiful – a lot of gold color…

I believe this kind of balance must also exist in Siberian Story.

Please talk more about your passion with photography.

I am still using my old Nikon and film negative.  I like to take walks and by intuition capture moments. I am always surprising myself.  I think I will always photograph because it is important for me to express myself creatively.  It is simply something I must do and it is easier to do photography parallel to other things happening because I do not have to wait for the film funds.

Alongside the Invitation to Red project, I am asking my women friends to take part in this photography project, a portrait series in which each woman’s manifestation of and relationship with passion is revealed through her expression with red fabric.  I have a wonderful piece of red fabric and each woman chooses how she wishes to relate and work with this piece of cloth.  I am doing this as a parallel project, because waiting for film funding… you can fall asleep…

What are the film funding politics right now in Canada?

Unfortunately, Canada is orienting itself more toward commercial film, looking more for simplified stories. I believe that they are deceiving themselves going in that direction, not really understanding what the public wants.  The Canadian audience is ready for deeper, more alternative and interesting films.  Canada, like the rest of the world, is obsessed with reality shows. At one point that will end and perhaps good dramatic series will take their place.  Needless to say, American cable television HBO are creating wonderful series and the Brits also create wonderful television.

But, talking about Canadian film funding – thank God that there are still arts councils (Toronto Arts Council, Ontario Arts Council, Canada Council for the Arts) which do not give colossal sums, but enough to allow the creation of smaller budget films and these are grants.

Quebec has a very successful film industry. They work together with France, but tend to give funding to their own Quebec artists.  The film industry in the west and east coast is weaker.

It is not the right time to ask for money from Latvia. I understand the situation really well, that there is no money and therefore I do not wish to tap into their funding pot, if I do not need to.

What is your plan in relation to Latvia?

Riga is very dear to me. People think I am very naïve in this matter, however something really speaks to me in Riga. Just simply taking a walk here I feel balanced and I feel like I am in love. I have a love affair with Riga. That is some kind of relationship between the essence of who I am and the energy of this city.

I want to move to Europe, best first to Latvia, because it is clear to me, that the way in which I perceive the world, feel things – no one in Canada understands that.  Sensibility and understanding exists here on a different level and I have an ease of understanding with others, I have no need to explain everything.

In Canada, a lot is very surface.  Even though I have a few close friends, overall, the way in which I perceive the world, orient myself, this does not resonate and jive with the city in which I have spent so much time.  Of course, I appreciate the positive and the good, but it is time for me to leave. Everything there has been done, lived and tapped out. It is the same as with relationships – one morning you wake up and  understand, it is over. I need to live in Europe, where a new dialogue is developing for me. Perhaps I could live in Montreal, learn fluent French, but to integrate into their distinct society would not be easy…

What else would you like to realize in your creative work? Perhaps you have some conceptual ideas?

Often walking in cities and through different environments my head fills with images. For example, wild ideas like a swimming pool in the middle of the city that is filled with milk on which are projected films.  I am interested in exploring ideas of bringing film into environments, film installations, but in a more poetic manner than what is done by advertising.

Mara Ravins. Self-portrait