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Code8's Self Made Stories: Julija Svetlova

As a small, start-up brand, we are always on the hunt for the opportunity to champion other hardworking individuals, both within the fashion and beauty industries and beyond. With this in mind, we are delighted to introduce Code8’s Self-Made Stories, a collection of stories showcasing influential individuals who have created a name for themselves in their respective fields, all while spreading kindness, motivation and encouragement along the way. Let us introduceJulija Svetlova, London based art historian, a freelance researcher and a founder of NEJA's Art Walks.

Have you ever walked around at a museum and been slightly confused by a piece of art?  Art Walks is all about tailoring the art experience for you, where Julija guides you through London’s galleries and museums while explaining the artwork, the artists’ philosophies. What made you become an art historian?  I was doing event photography (anything but weddings, as I used to explain it to those who have asked) for many years and was looking for a change of career. Doing a postgraduate degree was on my mind for a long time but I could never find the time or decide which topic to pursue. Eventually, I decided it was ‘now or never’ and got accepted to MA in History of Art with Photography program.

What was your journey to becoming an art historian like?  While still doing my MA in London, I also began training at Tate Guides program and started to deliver the free tours shortly after I finalised my training. I then had a stint as an assistant researcher at Tate's Collection Research Department which gave me an interesting insight into how the gallery's labels and online texts were written.  I wrote my thesis about one of Tate's exhibition displays—so basically, I was spending all my time there, either researching, explaining contemporary art to the visitors or just looking around. After my graduation, I decided to combine all of my passions and came up with an idea of theArt Walks. I love art, walking around, researching about art and storytelling, all in equal measures, that's how the idea ofNEJA's Art Walks was born.

Who’s your favourite artist? That’s an impossible question, I like so many! But if you pushed me hard enough, I would probably go forNatalia Goncharova (1881-1962). She was an amazingly talented woman. At the time when the art world was predominately male, she produced some truly pioneering works of art. Eventually, she was forced to emigrate to France and had to abandon painting. While in France, she worked as a stage and costume designer for the Diaghilev’s Ballets Russe. 

What are your favourite ways to experience art digitally/online? Are there any portals or resources that you can recommend for people who are still unable to go to museums at present?  Metropolitan Museum of Art’s website was recently voted the best in terms of being informative and user friendly, it offers so many things, you can get lost there for hours. TheRijksmuseum’s website is brilliant too, offering the digital images of their artworks in the highest resolution possible, you can see every crack in the layers of paint and even the tiniest details. Talking about British art gallery’s, theNational Gallery has a very good website. For something more contemporary, check out theMayfair Art Weekend’s website.  My way of online-based visual research is very sleuth-like, sometimes I learn about an artist and then go down the rabbit hole of google image search, each click can lead in unexpected directions, from someone’s personal blog post to an open access PhD and so on. 

Tell us about your “normal” work day—what is it like?  On a ‘normal’, pre-COVID day, I would wake up, have two rounds of the filtered coffee, text a reminder of our meeting location and time to the clients of the day, jump on the tube and go to one of the destinations where myNEJA’s Art Walkswould normally take place. This could be eitherTate Modern,Tate Britain, theNational Gallery, theWallace collection or the privately-owned art galleries of Mayfair. After finishing giving a tour, I would help my clients to plan the rest of their day by either directing them to some cool lunch or dinner spot or suggesting some other interesting places in London for them to see.  Where would you take your friends to see the best arts in London? What gallery or museum are you most excited to visit as soon as you are able to do so safely, and why?  I would normally take my friends to Tate Modern (the Tate Modern Art Walk was the bestseller with my clients, too). There is so much art to see and it is so perfectly located, close to the river Thames, the Southbank and the Borough market. London is great this way, so many opportunities to have some quality time, any day of the week, and for any type of budget.  Thank you to Code8beauty for featuring me


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