''NBO ordered pencil sculptures for the new season of Game of Thrones''
Prices for miniatures by Ufa master Salavat Fidai start from $1,000
An exhibition of Ufa artist and sculptor of Tatar origin Salavat Fidai is successfully taking place in Southeast Asian countries. What is more, it is difficult to evaluate many of his works with the naked eye: he makes figures of famous characters and buildings at the point of a usual pencil and creates paintings on grains. In a talk to Realnoe Vremya's reporter, he told when he became keen on the new art, the price for his works and where the Ufa citizen's fans live.
''I returned to what I liked to do as a kid''
An exhibition of your miniatures by Game of Thrones is taking place in Thailand. Do you also like this saga or did anybody advise you to work on such plots?
NBO (Editor's Note: an American TV network that makes, broadcasts series and organises boxing fights) reached out to me 1,5 years ago and ordered pencil sculptors for the 7 th season of Games of Thrones. I performed the order for them. This exhibition went on tour to Southeast Asia. Everything began with Singapore, then it was in Malaysia, now – in Bangkok. Then it will be in other countries of the macro region. It is a kind of promotion of HBO and Game of Thrones.
Salavat, as far as I am concerned, you have a degree in Law but work as artist. What made you hold a pencil and start to work in art?
My parents have a degree in Art. They are on a pension now. As a kid, I looked how they worked, absorbed this creative atmosphere. I also like to draw, I studied at an art school. Then it turned out I decided not to become an artist but get a more prestigious profession, as it seemed to me. I thought jurists had a high salary, status, etc. while artists did not have any perspective. It seemed that I had a crisis by 40 years, and I decided to return to what I liked to do as a kid and try to do it again. I started with usual paintings in oil, then miniatures on a match box interested me, then seeds. As I became interested in miniatures, I saw on the Internet that somebody carved figures out of a pencil. It became interesting, I tried – there were results.
This exhibition went on tour to Southeast Asia. Everything began with Singapore, then it was in Malaysia, now – in Bangkok. Then it will be in other countries of the macro region. It is a kind of promotion of HBO and Game of Thrones
Did you manage to work as jurist?
I worked as jurist for just several years. Then I worked in senior positions in different companies – director, deputy director.
What area did you work in?
In sales, commerce.
Is Fidai your surname or pseudonym?
Fidai is my full surname, not a pseudonym.
''I prefer doing something that's mine''
How much time does it take to create one mini-sculpture or small painting?
It depends on the object, the difficulty, the plot. I make something during a day – 8-12 hours are enough, while some things take 3-4 days. For instance, I made Iron Throne for a week. I also worked on the statue of Braavos (as gladiator) during a week. Everything turns on the difficulty: from 8 hours to one week or more.
You said you create paintings on match boxes. You also draw on rice seeds, different seeds. How did you it came to your mind to use this type of canvas?
I was not the first person to draw on seeds. People drew on rice seeds in ancient China and ancient Japan. It was not me who invented making miniatures as art. I just saw other artists on the Internet and it inspired me.
It depends on the object, the difficulty, the plot. I make something during the day – 8-12 hours are enough, while some things take 3-4 days. For instance, I made Iron Throne for a week
As for match boxes, I lived in the Soviet Union, I collected match boxes. They were made with interesting labels, were dedicated to something: ships, planes, famous people. I also collected stamps at the same time. Now match factories put some silly ad on their products or something boring that has only one colour, they are ordinary. So I decided to adorn them, make them attractive again – it was original, my idea. I have never met decorated match boxes.
You are already called the Ufa Lefty (Lefty is a craftsman in Russian literature). Are you lefty?
Righty. The Lefty is a proper name linked with the person who forged the steel flea.
Have you ever tried to make a flea?
I can make it easily, but this niche is also occupied. It is not interesting to repeat. I prefer doing something that's mine.
Who are your favourite artists of the past?
Vincent van Gogh and Leonardo da Vinci are two most favourite ones. Van Gogh's fate is interesting, I like his impressionism very much. His biography, art are close to me. I like Leonardo da Vinci as a talented all-round person: he is an artist, inventor, sculptor.
Have you ever tried to copy their works by featuring them in your paintings?
I copied van Gogh on match boxes. I have not copied Leonardo da Vinci yet, I just admire him.
I copied van Gogh on match boxes. I have not copied Leonardo da Vinci yet, I just admire him
''Graphite is more understandable to many people, it is closer to the people''
What is the price of one work?
Prices are different. It depends on the difficulty, the client. They start from $1,000 and more. Sums can reach multi-digit numbers depending on the object.
How do you sell the miniatures? Do people order your works or do you make anything what you like, so people see a ready work and buy?
Both. If there is an inspiration, I make something up, it comes from me. But sometimes a client offers. If I like the idea, I accept and make. When I don't like the offer, I just refuse.
Where does the majority of your clients live?
I can count them on the fingers of one hand in Russia – there is a handful of people here who have ever ordered something from me. Now six sculptures are exhibited at Titikaka in Saint Petersburg. Russian Lefty museum (Petersburg) purchased five works. Two works were purchased by guys from Kazan for their exhibition. In total, one can see less than 20 works of mine in Russia now. All other sculptures are sold abroad, mainly in the USA. Information about exhibition and publications are available on my page.
Are there any miniatures that you also like?
Nowadays I have made a lot and can't point out something specifically. I like Iron Throne, Titan of Braavos, The Eiffel Tower, Robot WALL-E.
There were many people who wanted me to do it, I was offered something similar many times – to depict different people. I don't have such plans. I denied such orders, there is no creative interest here
You also made figures of Putin and Trump. Whom else are you ready to feature?
It is not interesting for me now. There were many people who wanted me to do it, I was offered something similar many times – to depict different people. I don't have such plans. I denied such orders, there is no creative interest here.
Are there many miniature making masters besides you? Or can they be counted on the fingers of one hand?
Any type of art can be divided into genres, techniques. Performance technique can also be divided into levels the person achieved in his mastery. I know just a few people who make miniatures on seeds abroad: in the USA, Turkey, Japan. There are those who make mini-object in the eye of a needle, on hair ends – we also have such masters, in Ukraine, 2-3 people. I personally know 3-4 people in the world who deal with pencils, graphite and reached a certain level. There are few of them.
You carve sculptures out of lead. Have you ever tried to work with other materials like matches, hair ends and others?
I have not. It is more difficult to work with wood on such a scale because its structure is porous, soft. It is almost possible to make micro-objects from wood. The smaller the object is, the harder and stronger the material needs to be. I adjusted to graphite. I like this material. I tried to make from chalk, stone, wax, but I don't like other materials. Graphite is more understandable to many people, it is closer to the people: they know what a pencil is, they can imagine the scale.
It is almost possible to make micro-objects from wood. The smaller the object is, the firmer and stronger the material needs to be
What pencils do you use in work? I mean certain hardness or softness, the brand.
The hardness is HB and harder: 2H, 3H. Soft pencils are more fragile. I also prefer a certain brand but I won't name it not to advertise it. I will just say that this foreign manufacturer suits me the best in terms of quality.