Maria Kreyn on How to Paint like a Human Being

An allegory of indecision. Oil on canvas. 64 x 76 inches. 2017
An allegory of indecision. Oil on canvas. 64 x 76 inches. 2017

When viewing the fine art of Russian painter Maria Kreyn you’d be forgiven for thinking the works had been created hundreds of years ago. However, the remarkable scenes are in fact by the hand of an artist in her twenties.

Hailing from a family of unusual thinkers and polymaths, she has crafted an unconventional, self-architected path, combining an interest in the sciences with a passion for the literary and poetic.

After rigorous training in classical drawing, Maria studied philosophy and mathematics at the University of Chicago. At 20 she left for Europe, trusting that its wealth of museums and culture would benefit her more than conventional tuition.


When I was younger, I used to think I needed to paint like a man, later I wondered what it meant to paint like a woman. Now I try to paint beyond that binary, like a human being. When I paint women, I ask, how vulnerable can you be and still remain strong? I’m reframing old techniques to tell a contemporary human story. I’m investigating a particular set of human emotions, attempting to give them a voice they didn’t necessarily have in the history of painting, particularly as they relate to women.”

Maria then settled in Norway to live and work alongside a master painter. She observed him and several other artists at work over the years, which informed her approach to the technical side of drawing and painting. Of her craft, Maria explains: “I’m trying to build an original language through collaging imagination and citation, a sort of remix of past and present”.

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