Interview with Elena Tezhe a very talented artist from Riga, Latvia. ElenaTezhe.com
USSR and Latvia
My life started 35 years ago in Latvia which used to be at this time one of the USSR republics. When I was seven USSR collapsed and a lot of people had to decide where they want to live. Between Latvia and Russia my parents decided to stay where they were at the moment – Latvia.
Passion for art and academic path
I’ve started my life as any other child in that time: kindergarten, primary and secondary schools. Between the age of six and the end of secondary school my passion for art started to appear, first in the art club for children and later in the art school. It took five days a week of my life. Drawing, painting, learning from the basics to more advanced techniques.
Coming from a family where higher education counted as a must – I had to choose a high school and university to continue my academic path. I decided to enroll in Management and HR bachelor course, but to do it in a different country – Russia. It was one of the most interesting and exciting times in my life: everything was new, people, culture, attitude towards life.
When you are eighteen and suddenly end up in a completely different environment to the one you’ve used to – it is a very life learning experience! In four years I received bachelor’s degree, and in a year after that I became a master of Management and HR. But that was not enough for me – I went to a second university to get another master’s degree. This time it was an international one. In total I spent seven years studying and working away from home.
My work in Russia and Latvia
I’ve worked in a company which provided HR services for larger businesses like Gazprom or Lukoil. Unfortunately, the rhythm of life was so intense that I had to stop doing art. It was hard, but getting a degree was more important at that time.
After all these years I’ve finally returned home. It was year 2008, the middle of the global financial crisis. It had hit Latvia very hard, the country had to take credits from world bank, save its own banks, not very pleasant situation to find yourself in. Everyone was talking about what is going on at that time and I wanted to ride that wave: I joined one of the biggest Latvian transport companies as a junior accountant to learn finance and see how the money flows within large businesses. Before applying for a real job, I had to work for free, because my background was different to the classical “accountant” one.
A lot of learning and research was done, a lot of courses finished. It took me five years of hard work to get to the head accountant position in the same company. I’ve got internationally certified and knew a lot more comparing to the beginning of my accounting journey.
And all that time I was dreaming to paint again. But again, and again days, weeks, months and years passed keeping me busy with daily routine and leaving no time for the thing I was dreaming for all these twelve years. It lasted three years more – head accountant in a large company, with a brief week of vacation once a year between the end of balance and beginning of audit.
A salty taste in my mouth and ambulance
It was an ordinary day in March and an ordinary run for lunch. The balance had to be finished soon and I had to finish two things that day, as usually – no matter how long it takes. Thinking about work I ran down the stairs and the next thing I remember a salty taste in my mouth. Then there was an ambulance, a day in a hospital with a diagnosis of concussion. The doctors let me home the same day, but under one condition: I had to stay home and do nothing for two weeks. And then one week doing almost nothing at work. Those were the first three weeks in a row since my school when I could literally think about myself, my life, and how these two combine together. I could have easily died that day if I fell a bit differently. I decided at that time, that losing your health or life just because you think about your work so much, that you’re not even paying attention to the stairs, is not a good thing at all. In the following months I let the board of the company know, that I finish the current balance and leave.
Reincarnation of my dream
My husband was periodically working in The Netherlands at that time and it couldn’t have been better, because this beautiful country is well-known for its deep and bright art history. So, I decided that it is the perfect place to reincarnate my long-abandoned dream and get inspiration from the land that breathe art. We started with renting a small house in Aalbek, a beautiful little village close to a little town of Hulsberg. Later we moved to Maastricht, where we are staying now.
Have breakfast in Belgium, lunch in The Netherlands and dinner in Germany
The first thing that comes to my mind when I’m asking myself what my impressions of The Netherlands are is the way infrastructure is built in the country. You can basically get anywhere on time. Even the little village we lived in had an easy communication with Maastricht.
The second thing are the people – people in The Netherlands are very friendly and so easy to communicate with that it is almost unimaginable.
The food is really amazing too, I would put it on the third place. The quality of the products is simply great.
Talking about Limburg its location is a huge benefit. You can easily have breakfast in Belgium, lunch in The Netherlands and dinner in Germany.
Another benefit of Limburg is that is has one of IWC clubs of The Netherlands.
Dogs and art
The thig that I miss the most is the amount of property available for rent that allows pets. I have a lovely dog, but sometimes it can be a pain to find a place to live in with a human’s best friend.
As a dog owner the huge difference that is visible immediately is that you can take your dog almost anywhere – something unimaginable in my country. Living in Latvia you would never even think of taking a pet with you for dinner.
The second thing that I see as an artist is the amount of art in the country. You don’t even have to look for it – it finds you itself. Exhibitions are advertised, stores for artists, endless galleries – art is basically everywhere.
The way the country looks is astonishing, you can literally go to almost any place, and take a picture, or paint it and it will look great. Fields in a correct shape or buildings in a city which look similar, but at the same time each one is different. If you start to look at the details you can’t stop noticing something new every minute.
My places in Maastricht
There are three places worth visiting to experience different aspects of Dutch life: Beluga – restaurant in Maastricht led by a Dutch chef, here you can see and taste how Dutch can cook. TEFAF – the famous art fair in Maastricht that has a lot of Golden Age Dutch art, and a lot of modern one as well – here you can see how talented Dutch are in art. The final one would be Dominicanen bookstore – it is an old church that is carefully set up to sell enormous amounts of books. Here you can see how Dutch can preserve history and put it to use.
My plans and my tips
I’m planning to catch up with all those years I spent doing other things. At some point I hope that all the art and history spread around the country will allow me to get enough experience to enter the market as a successful painter.
Finding a group of people to be able to make new connections in a new place is essential. For me it was IWC. There I was able to meet a lot of interesting people from all over the world, who shared a lot of inspirational experience, and encouraged me for the things I would never dare to do myself.
No matter what happens in the future a part of The Netherlands and Limburg will always remain in my heart as one of the brightest memories.
Interesting links to find out more about Elena:
Photos: Elena Tezhe © Copyright www.communications-unlimited.nl, 2018
Text: Communications-Unlimited.nl © Copyright www.communications-unlimited.nl, 2018. All rights reserved.
With Vitally, Elena’s husband
Elena’s amazing works
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