A Conversation with Anton Nazarko

There is a quiet seduction in Anton Nazarko’s work.  A series of orchids brought to life from dyed silks exude a feminine sensuality, communicating through color and technique.  It is not easy to achieve a sophistication or elegance when working with dyes and pigments, as it has its own set of rules and parameters.  Upon viewing, only a textile artist or those well-versed in the medium would understand the complexity required to achieve the finesse of these flowers.  Anton's 13 years of experience working with materials and dyes at the brand Raquel Allegra helped to develop his acute sensitivity and understanding of how to create harmony with color.  His curiosity led him to explore his personal art practice, and Kneeland Co. Rarities is pleased to present his second show, In Bloom

1. You helped to develop the dye program for LA designer Raquel Allegra, who is known for her sophisticated take on tie dye, color, and silhouette.  What did the process entail and how did it evolve during your 13 years at the brand?

I started at Raquel Allegra 2 years after its inception.  I had no previous experience in the fashion industry and this naivety worked to my advantage, as it allowed for complete unhinged experimentation.  We would create tie dyes and treatments on fabrics that no one had seen before.  Cashmere, silk chiffons, pigments, paints … nothing was off limits. As the brand become more popular and the line larger, massive amounts of development were needed and I dedicated all my time to working off-site and being hands on in the legendary wash houses of LA.   Working with dye on fabric has so many variables, and there are considerable chalIenges in creating a design that’s beautiful but also has the ability to be reproduced.  It requires an insane amount of attention to detail to maintain that ‘magic’ factor that separates something beautiful from something basic.  I think my dedication and creativity was recognized and allowed for unprecedented access to some great facilities in LA.  I was able to work and control almost every aspect of a production.

When I think of LA’s robust fashion legacy, world renowned denim '80s surf wear, and some of the last remaining cotton mills in North America -  I’m so proud that I was able to spend 13 years in the industry and discover firsthand how LA is a place where you really can create anything you imagine.

2. You must have absorbed and discovered so much about textiles, technique, and color manipulation during that time.  What were some of the most valuable experiences you had in developing the program?

Dye has its own set of rules.  It’s very volatile and essentially a liquid medium, but that is why I love it.  There is an element of controlling the uncontrollable, and given the right parameters, working with dye will always give you something unexpected and beautiful.  During my 13 years I really learned what those parameters were. Temperature, fabric hydration, fabric composition, application, and numerous other variables all play an unquantifiable role in the outcome of a piece.  Another unique trait of dye is that it is always hand mixed.  Unlike paint with hundreds of shades that are pre-made, dyes must be mixed from 5 core colors.   As a result, I have an acute sensitivity and exact understanding of how to create a certain shade or a harmonious blend.  After all this time, arranging colors is still the most enjoyable part of the process. 

3. What encouraged you to step into your own personal practice, and did you have a vision for the kind of textile art you wanted to create?

I was lead into a personal practice through curiosity.  Prior to leaving Raquel Allegra, I spent a year converting my garage into a studio without a specific practice in mind, but it was important for me to have a space dedicated to creativity.  I gave myself the time and openness to create without the pressure of success.  Due to my fabric hoarding tendencies and my previous work in fashion, I naturally used all the fabric I had collected as my medium.  Thus far, it’s been a process of discovery, as each piece leads to new discoveries and informs the direction of future work.  I’m currently obsessed with organza for its delicate and transparent qualities.  There’s nothing quite like it.

4. This is your second show at Kneeland Co., and both shows have paid homage to flowers and the beauty that transpires when in bloom.  What I love about your work is how feminine and simplistic these flowers appear to be, yet there is a deep sensuality to them that is very powerful.  The way you mix color and fabric is incredibly romantic.  Can you talk about how you come up with a color palette?

I think in nature, colors seem to work together in such an effortless way and I really wanted to make a palette that honored that natural beauty.  To make this collection, I overdeveloped and created 30 color compositions before narrowing it down to 8.  It’s a collection that is meant to be viewed together as a whole, as the pieces incorporate colors from one another to achieve a unified and flowing color story.   

5. You dedicated this body of work, In Bloom, to the mysteriously seductive orchid.  What is it about the orchid that compelled you to turn it into art?

I spend a lot of time at the LA Flower Mart, where they have specialized orchid dealers.  We’re accustomed to seeing single orchids, usually a gift, but when you see 10 or more grouped together they take on a whole other sculptural magnificence.  In a way, they seduced me!  Before starting, I had the idea to use multiple layers of organza to create a more ornate composition and an orchid symmetry that was dramatic in presentation.  I think it worked out.