Protagonists: Asya Kozina

Explorations with paper


When paper becomes not only a too, but also a concept helping symbolically express the historical process, a parallel reality made of single and unique works of art that are hand-made, created just once and the result of mere artisanal work. Pure refined beauty is the final result.

Her name is Asya Kozina, she is an artist. She works together with husband – Dmitriy Kosin – in art tandem. She was born and grew up in Ukraine, and nearly 7 years ago she went to live with her husband in Russia, where are two of them engaged in paper art. Now they live in the Leningrad region near St. Petersburg.

Asya and Dmitriy Kosin’s Art Group is now a creative duet focused on exploring the possibilities of contemporary paper sculptures. Their interest as professional artists lays in the field of cultural research, archiving, and plastic expression of different historical, traditional and artistic renderings. Unique and complex designs are calling to be tried on, insistent on telling their stories through photographs and limited edition prints. The versatile white paper is used not only as a tool, but also as a concept which helps to express the historical process in a symbolic fashion. The images of Mongolian, African, Scythian, Venetian, Baroque, Art nouveau cultures are easily recognizable while simultaneously metaphorical. A paraphrase of modern appropriation of history as a set of events cleared from insignias of the epochs, but often full of contemporary emotions and value judgements. Artists have since left the blank paper surface to be devoured by the perception of the viewer. The plain white sheet works have become the artist’s signature mark. Asya and Dmitriy Kozin believe that white paper allows for them to accent form and conceal secondary details. All of their pieces are crafted by hand, each unique in its own right, never to be replicated. This individuality forms an opposition to multiplying media images created with the help of digital tools, a representation of modern visual culture. At first glance, one may suspect some of Kozin’s works to be graphically designed through digital means. Happily enough, these projects have been left unaltered by present-day technology, a true representation of craftsmanship

We had an exclusive interview with her for Paper Industry Word, let’s see what she told us.

What training did you have?

I think we can surmise from my responses that I have tried several professions. I spent 8 years singing in the choir, 4 years dancing at college and then 6 years studying painting at university (Cherkassy State Technological University, Ukraine). This is a somewhat simplified way to account for my changing the direction, as in fact none of the changes came easily. I had no desire to paint, but the injury in my left kneecap had cancelled my future as a dancer. I am very glad now that my life has gone the way it has. There is indeed a silver lining to be found in every cloud.

How and when you started working with paper?

I’ve always been fascinated by paper, ever since I fell in love with my grandmother’s intricately cut Chinese bookmarks. Then I got sick at the age of ten and had to spend a lot of time in bed. My mother showed me the technique of symmetric paper cutting and I was hooked for a long time. My parents still treasure the album with my first works, with funny little men and other creatures. My brother and I used to make up their stories and act them out. Having learnt to do this, I switched to silhouette cutting, illustrating my favorite fairy tales. Yet all this time I had been following the wrong calling, meaning I never learned to draw or cut, but was learning to dance instead… I became certain about my future profession at the age of 20 and have been an artist since then. My first exhibition was back in 2007 in my hometown of Cherkasy. I exhibited 23 paper sculpture dolls 25-30 cm in height, dressed in various historical costumes. It was the beginning of everything. The exhibition was called Fascinated with White. It was a huge success, and aroused great interest in many cities of Ukraine. It was followed by first master classes, first interviews, first television coverage, huge interest of journalists and first commissions.

So many wigs and historical figures. Where do you inspires from?

The history of costume, clothing and accessories is the platform and the foundation of our work. It is a long-time achievement of different cultures and nationalities that we totally admire! Everything is subject to the law of cause and effect, so each individual garment gives us the answer to why it was created. I am crazy about every country, every national holiday and every historical style. I become really absorbed in the background material so reading up takes a lot of time. In fact, when I was working on the “Ethnic Wedding Costumes of the World” mini sculpture series, background studying actually took longer than making the dolls.

Do you work alone or do you have any assistants?

No I do not have an assistant I have a co-author artist Dmitry Kozin my husband. We work together and it’s just great. Dmitriy is the innovator, the fearless dreamer and the adventurer. I am the thorough hardworking perfectionist, for whom the cutting process is a kind of trance or meditation. In this way we each put something of ourselves into our work.

How much time do you spend making for a paper dresses or wigs?

It’s hard to answer because, complexity of costumes very difrent and it’s not even to do a lot of detail its depending how much material you need learned before you do something. Therefore, I can only give an approximate frame. From one day (this is for a wig) and maximum – month (for a costume).

About paper: what kind of paper do you use, type, weight, recycled or not, do you have particular suppliers?

I am very particular about the kind of paper I use. I prefer the kind of paper with a cold glow, surface smooth like that of a lake, pure and perfect. Seeing a clean white sheet of paper is ecstasy. When the scope of our work has changed, so have the requirements. It is important now that the paper has certain density, is easy to glue, and does not flake. Some of our projects are now years old. For example, we created an installation for Surgut Museum of Fine Art, which has been there for 3 years, and been seen by a huge number of visitors.We oftenly select the kind of paper suitable for the project. So it is really very difficult to answer this question specifically.

Is there a work in which you particularly recognize yourself?

I think that our projects are quite recognizable. Especially those that we are proud of. For example, the horses (the 3 horse sculptures), which were created with my husband’s help, as I didn’t believe such things were possible to make out of paper. Yet my husband believed in our abilities, and with his support, encouragement and knowledge of the horse anatomy, the project came into being. Another project involved park sculptures made of paper for the city of Lucerne (Switzerland). This six-foot paper sculptures will be exhibited in the open glass sarcophagi in the wind and the rain. I very much hope to go and see them in Lucerne one day.

What are your customers?

At one time an internet marketer told me that our potential customers woman near 30-50 years old. But in fact, we have never seen this. They are very different people. These are companies, these are museums, they are ordinary people, design bureaus, buissesmenes. That I can say I sure that they all buy because they really like what we do.

Projects or dreams?

Our last project is not finished yet, and I am completely absorbed by it. I will not be able to conceive any new ideas until this one is done, either. Unfortunately I cannot say anything more about it because there is always a chance that we will fail to complete it. I’m looking forward to sending our children to kindergarten and to finally resume working in full force. I have a blue folder full of ideas that is about to burst, and I think it’s high time we made it slimmer.