In 2018, Shanghai’s Swatch Art Peace Hotel invited Sveta Dorosheva to take part in its artist residency program, and over the course of three months, the Ukrainian illustrator explored every nook and cranny of the city, dovetailing in a series titled Life in Shanghai. To her, as someone who’d never traveled to China before, her time in the city was something out of a fairy tale, a fantastical place that captivated her imagination. Her experiences in the city also gave her newfound insight on Chinese culture and local lifestyle. “Shanghai is different from just about anything in this world,” she says. “It might have landed on earth straight from a different universe altogether. ”
奇幻，总拥有一种让人无法抵抗的魔力，更何况亲自置身于奇幻之中。2018 年夏天，受斯沃琪和平饭店艺术中心酒店（Swatch Art Peace Hotel）邀请，现居以色列的乌克兰插画师 Sveta Dorosheva 前往上海参加艺术家驻地项目。为期三个月的上海生活，Sveta 漫步在整座城市，并围绕上海创作了插画系列《Life in Shanghai》（上海生活）。对于她来说，“魔都”的生活绝对算是一次奇幻般的经历，这是她第一次造访中国，而此前她甚至对这片土地从未有过了解，“上海的一切都太不真实，这里像是外太空在地球建造的城市，”她回忆道。
Within her Life in Shanghai series, the city is shown in a truly magical light. The hand-drawn detail, the full-frame compositions, and minimal colors presents China’s biggest metropolis with a dream-like grandeur.
What may be surprising to viewers though is that the prominent use of reds in the series isn’t due to the color’s significance in the country. It’s not rather traced back to her own childhood. Dorosheva was born in Zaporozhye, an industrial city in southern Ukraine. Growing up there, she always thought that rivers were supposed to be red—a result of how the factory productions in town often bled a crimson dye into the river. This unnatural red of engrained into her memories is now an integral part of her art style. In the context of this project, the reds evoked the palettes of older Chinese art.
翻开 Sevta 过往的画集，仿佛踏入魔法的领地，精致细腻的手绘风格、古典雅致的色彩、深思熟虑的构图、一笔一画勾勒出惊人的场景，在观众眼前呈现不同地域和文化的神奇。Sveta 出生在乌克兰东南部工业城市扎波罗热（当时仍属于前苏联），家乡旁边的河水因常年受工业污染而泛着红色，这一怪异反常的现象伴随着她的成长，对孩童时期的她带来强烈的视觉冲击，Sveta 甚至曾一度以为，红色是河水本来的颜色。而关于童年记忆中，最让她念念不忘的，是当年父亲每晚在床头讲述的童话故事，她常常听得入迷，以至于将这些故事又讲给同龄孩子们听，一讲就是好几个小时。这些经历让 Sevta 对奇幻、猎奇、神秘的画面和故事充满好奇，也自然而然地融入进自己日后的创作中。
Shanghai instilled Dorosheva with a new dose of inspiration though. With skyscrapers that seem like they were built in the future sitting alongside aging architecture from decades past, the city felt like a confluence of different timelines. “Shanghai is all about extreme contrast,” she says. “Ancient history in hypermodern settings, mythical creatures under mundane laundry, glamorous shopping malls and nondescript but crazy underground clubs. You don’t know what to expect and what you might see next.”
Dorosheva soaked in the sights before ever putting pen to paper. She took strolls everywhere in the city, and took in all it had to offer, from window shopping at high-end malls and visiting historical temple to checking out locals parks and trying out street food. Everything that she saw, she took snapshots, which would become the foundation for much of her work.
当 Sveta 第一天来到上海，她很快意识到这里到处充满了绝佳的创作素材。一切都看起来极不真实，像是一场在不同时空线上完成的拼装大会，她说：“上海是座反差感极强的城市，古老建筑与摩天高楼、古老神兽雕塑和日常用品、你可以从高级的商场一跃进入一场疯狂的地下派对，永远也不会料到接下来将看到什么。” Sveta 打算先做个普通游客，在创作之前，她先在城市街道上漫无目的地游荡好了几天，从购物中心到寺庙、从公园到街边小吃，随手拍下有趣的场景并先用铅笔进行速写，时常达到一种迷失和忘我的状态。
Life in Shanghai was originally planned as a watercolor series, but on one outing, she realized the watercolor kit she carried around to be too cumbersome. She decided to shop for different illustration supplies on Fuzhou Road, and there, she discovered shops that carried traditional calligraphy art supplies, a medium that she’d previously been unfamiliar with. The novelty of working with ink brush on rice paper was a game changer. “It was a calligrapher’s paradise, a garden of earthly delights: brushes of all possible shapes and sizes—from huge witch broom-like brushes, hung from the ceilings, to tiny, hair-thick brushes the size of a grasshopper’s leg, that were sold by the bunches like greens at the street market,” she recalls. “And the inks, the wax boxes, the delicately carved jade seals, the phials with ink crystals! I lost track of time, lurking around the corners of the shops—a lifetime wouldn’t be enough even to try such an amazing wealth of treasures!”
Sveta 原本计划继续沿用水彩，不过沉重的水彩颜料对出行造成不便，才打算来上海本地购买。一次在上海福州路闲逛的经历，让 她改变了主意，一改此前的水彩创作。那是她打算前往福州路购买画材的路上，却意外地被玲琅满目的中国传统创作媒介深深吸引，笔、墨、纸、砚……福州路应有尽有。她说：“这里就像是书法和国画家的天堂，尘世间快乐的道场。从天花板上如同女巫扫帚大小的笔刷、到蚂蚱腿、头发粗细的毛笔，还有墨汁、砚台、玉玺等等，它们像蔬菜一样被放在街头市场上兜售。我在那里忘记了时间，兴奋地到处转悠，心想，即使是用一辈子的时间也不足以尝试如此丰富的财富！”在采购完成之后，Sveta 决定用墨汁、毛笔和宣纸代替水彩来进行该系列的创作。
To the uninitiated, it might be difficult to believe that Life in Shanghai wasn’t created by a local artist. The fidelity with which Dorosheva captured the local ways of life and Chinese culture is mesmerizing. Calligraphy-inspired brushstrokes, Buddhist sculptures, and Chinese porcelain define the series. This respect for Chinese culture was in part due to the time she spent at local museums and bookstores. “I spent a lot of my money on a large number of calligraphic calligraphy books, Chinese comic books, such as Journey to the West, and more,” she recalls. “The books’ delicate, skillful techniques were unheard of to me.”
At the age of four, she discovered the magic of drawing, and even though her parents didn’t come from an artistic background, they supported her. Throughout the years, she developed an aesthetic that drew heavily on European medieval art. For Life in Shanghai, there was no intention to mimic traditional Chinese art. She believes that the medium she worked with carry inherent qualities that transformed her style.
倘若不告诉你创作者，你或许完全料想不到《Life in Shanghai》竟是出自一位乌克兰画家之手。画中充斥了大量中国元素细节：书法、神像、神龙雕刻、花纹、门窗的斗榫结构、陶瓷大花瓶、甚至还有传统园林艺术等等，时不时的一抹红色，更增添了浓浓的中国味道。这一切源自 Sveta 花费大量时间和精力在博物馆和老式书店中所得。“我在福州路的书店里，一逛就是好几个小时，还会偶尔扫荡上海寺庙附近的跳蚤图书市场”，她说到，“我花光了所有的零钱，来购买大量书法字帖、中国连环画小人书，比如《西游记》等等，书中精致、娴熟的技法是我闻所未闻的。”
反观 Sveta 的《Life in Shanghai》，的确带有浓浓的中国小人书痕迹。作为百余年的一种艺术形式，小人书从滥觞到退出大众图书的历史舞台，以至于近乎无人问津，这不仅引人思考传统保护和延续的话题。
如此超凡的临摹功底，是她多年练就的创作能力的展现。Sveta 并未接受过专业的绘画学习，家人也并拥有自艺术背景，她最早四岁时通过家里的一本博物画册接触到绘画，并在之后慢慢效仿欧洲中世纪画风，一步步打磨出自己现有的创作风格，成就了超高的临摹水准。而在此系列中，Sveta 并未刻意效仿传统中国的绘法，她认为正是毛笔、宣纸和墨水，这些创作媒介自身便带有某种魔力，渐渐地指引她的画风发生转变。眼下，Sveta 的创作还就中国文化延续，2022 年，她受“敦煌文创”的邀请重绘了敦煌壁画的风采，近乎绝伦的技巧，令上千年前敦煌壁画上的舞乐伎、仙鸟、仙台楼阁恍若重生。
Dorosheva says that the entirety of Life in Shanghai were based on real-life happenings—the scenes portrayed are rooted in her experiences. They all depict on people she’s met and places she’s visited, though she sometimes transposes objects from other parts of the city into a scene. To her, reality is far more interesting that fiction. “In this series, my objective was to stay as close to real-life observations as possible,” she says. “That was the whole point, to convey just how fantastical everyday life in Shanghai really is. ”
Whether it be a mother and daughter praying at a local temple, a group of elderly men playing Chinese chess in nongtang alleyways, colorful laundry hung out to dry from windowsills, or a restaurant worker catching a cigarette break—these mundane scenes are given significance under Dorosheva’s delicate brushstrokes. The details draw viewers into each scene, almost as if they’re seeing through the artist’s eyes. There’s no over dramatization, and the hand-painted approach adds a certain human warmth into every scene. “There’s something special about an image enamored with everyday life versus something heroic or tragic or any other type of extreme,” she notes. “Life largely consists of routine rather than peak emotions, actions and events. Things we do every day are more important than things we do once in a lifetime. So, I am giving them special attention and find beauty therein.”
和一贯的创作风格相背，Sveta 在《Life in Shanghai》系列中并未融入任何想象元素，画中的内容都基于她的所见所闻和遇到的人，偶尔会为构图而平添一些元素，但也都参考了现实中的事物。在她看来，现实往往要比我们的想象力丰富的多，“系列中，我尽可能做一个生活的观察者，向观众传达上海奇妙般的日常生活，这是我此次创作的核心。
Life in Shanghai is comprised of thirty artworks, and Dorosheva is in the process of publishing the entire series in an art book. “The book will in Russian, but hopefully, one day I can get it translated and released in Shanghai,” she says.
《Life in Shanghai》系列共有近三十幅作品。现在，Sveta 正撰写一部以上海生活经历为主题的书，书中所引用的插图正是来自《Life in Shanghai》系列，她介绍说：“这本书将会在今年发行，目前只有俄语版本。也希望有朝一日可以翻译成汉语在上海发售。” 中国有一个成语叫做 “入乡随俗”，Sveta 通过沉浸式的体验和观察力，绘就的一幅幅精致的作品，都像是对这座奇幻般的城市的一次回礼。