GEM TALK WITH SHOLPAN SHARBAKOVA MILLER, CLASSICAL PIANIST & CONTEMPORARY ARTIST
The series of interviews with women and men who have personalities, story to tell and their own GEM style. They make it happen for themselves all over the world and follow GEMOLOGUE by Liza Urla.
Sholpan is ever-present in my life – her abstract colourful paintings hang in my living room! Sholpan is an epitome of a true artist, expressing herself through music, painting and fashion. She is a classical pianist, who gives concerts and teaches the craft to others, as well as a successful painter – she exhibited at Venice Biennale this year! – and she also runs her own fashion label, Miller.
Sholpan has minimalist taste in jewellery. Her most treasured jewels are the ones that have been passed on from her great-grandmother dating back to the middle of the nineteenth century: her jewellery box is full history and love.
Name: Sholpan Sharbakova Miller
Alma Mater: Gnessins Academy of Music, Moscow & Royal Academy of Music, London (Piano Performance)
Occupation: Classical Pianist, Contemporary Artist, Designer and Actress
Hometown: Aktyubinsk, Kazakhstan
LOCATION AT TIME OF INTERVIEW: My favorite place in London is our apartment. Honestly, my husband and I are not particularly fond of going out to restaurants and cafes, we love inviting friends to our dastarkhan to visit us. I love to cook, so all the juiciest staff usually happens at home.
IN THE BEGINNING: I got interested in music at the early age of 4. Can you imagine that I myself asked my parents (my mother – an engineer, my father – a doctor), to buy me a piano? Which they actually did: they bought a piano for me and my sister for the new year, just before my 4th birthday! This is how I made my first steps in music. First, in a preparation class, and then in a specialized music school named after K.Baiseitova in Alma-Ata.
As for the painting, as far as I can remember, I have always drawn. It was intuitive and at the same time very organic to my nature. Interestingly, painting helped me to interpret music in colour. It is amazing! When a 3rd year Gnessinka student I decided to enroll in the Graduate School of Design at the Moscow Institute of Architecture (Moscow Architectural Institute). I had time to study in two universities, preparing for competitions and having concerts. As my favorite Professor Gordon used to say, “Sholochka, 24 hours in a day is enough for those who really want to manage everything». And it really was as he said.
LONDON DEBUT: After graduating with Honours from the Gnessins Academy I decided to continue my studies at the Royal Academy of Music in London. In December 2005, I came to take my entry examinations for Master of Music. I clearly remember my piano audition, where I came wearing jeans and sneakers, and all the other young ladies and gentlemen were dressed officially. Then of course, I told myself that I simply had to give it my best shot. I was immediately enrolled, and I got a full scholarship! I was very lucky to study piano with the best professor – Hamish Milne, with whom we have since been great friends, and I consider him to be my Scottish grandfather!
While studying in Academy I had many concerts, both solo and in chamber music genre in different halls across the UK, and in November 2008, I made my debut at the prestigious Wigmore Hall.
MUSIC: My first teacher was amazing Olga Alexandrovna, whose classes I still remember and will remember ever after. They truly say that talent is contagious. I believe that she did very well, “infecting” and inspiring me to daily music practice. So, the choice of my future profession as a musician was beyond any doubt.
Music is my life, it inspires me, nourishes, gives energy. After all, when you’re playing live performances or just practicing, your emotional state is similar to meditation. It’s an exchange of energy at the highest level.
ART DEBUT: When I moved to London, I also continued painting. This was my second self, which gave freedom and exhaust to my emotions. All the paintings I made were for myself. Sometimes, I did give them to my friends as a presents, and so, one day, in 2011, I was offered to present my work in a collective exhibition of young artists in Shoreditch. At first I was worried that my abstract painting would be difficult to understand, but then I realized that the main thing is the emotional idea. If it is sincere, then it will be clear to many! So this all started after the first exhibition, and since then I am constantly involved in collective and solo projects. This year, my work took part in the 56th Venice Biennale and ART 15 (London’s Global Art Fair), together with IADA (International Art Development Association). It’s amazing when you achieve creative dreams (for me it was the participation at the Biennale). It gives you so much inner strength and power that it inspires you to create more!
POWER COMES FROM: Power comes from love and nothing else.
CHARITY WORK: My whole story of charity began after meeting Dina Korzun, a talented actress of theater and cinema, which, together with Chulpan Khamatova is a co-founder of the fund “Gift of Life”. I wanted somehow to be useful to this organization that help many children to cure cancer, and it so happened that after making friends with Dina, we decided to give charity concerts in London to raise funds for the children of Russia. Since then, our duet became a trio with the stunning singer Alexia Mankovskaya. All that originally was planned as several charity concerts, has grown into a real spiritual independent theater. We are making full-scale performances, and have already been touring with them. Almost everything that we earn goes into the fund to help children. We have recently started to workwith a wonderful director Maxim Didenko, which makes a whole new exceptional performance especially for us. You know, miracles happen when you genuinely believe in them and do something to achieve your goals, and we strongly believe in our theater.
SHOLA MILLER FASHION LABEL: As for the design and my brand Shola Miller (Shola – the way my friends call me, Miller – my husband’s surname); This is the project I often dreamed of. I think it’s something subconscious as I recall that when a schoolgirl, I loved drawing beautiful prints for dresses and bags on the back of a notebook instead of treble clefs, dreaming that one day I will be wearing my own bespoke clothes! Well, that day has come. Last year, I enrolled in St. Martins and began to study the course of the design of bags. This was a fascinating thing which led me to create my own brand. My debut collection is called “Daughter of the Steppes,” that comprises only 25 bags, each of which represents a synthesis of abstract forms and orientalism. I created them manually, so the number is limited. The inspiration for this collection comes from my Kazakhstani roots and abstract vision of my paintings.
I would prefer not to tell you all about my plans, but at the moment I am preparing a new winter collection inspired by Russian fairy tales.
PERFECT ENGAGEMENT RING: To be honest, we’ve spent quite a lot of time looking for a ring that I would like. Eventually, after having visited all possible fashion capitals, I followed my good friend’s advice and I decided to order a ring with the jeweler of the Savvy and Sand based at Hatton Gardens. I elaborated the design myself and after 6 weeks I got exactly what I wanted.
VINTAGE JEWELLERY: I’ve always liked vintage jewelry. We have this Kazakh tradition when women pass their jewellery to the next generation. Kazakhs have always valued and been able to make beautiful things of silver with semiprecious stones. I inherited a few pieces from my great-grandmother that date back to the middle of the nineteenth century. These are beautiful silver bangles and two rings. My grandmother gave them to me, and I always wear one of the rings as a talisman.
TOPSHOP OR CHANEL : I love eclectic things so I have both simple and designer clothes, because the most important thing is to feel comfortable and beautiful. The last purchase I made was, by the way, a Topshop trench coat and an YSL bag. I don’t have a Chanel bag, but I have one from Shola Miller! If you still do not have this, you know the name to follow now.
SHOP THE LOOK
GEM STYLE: I prefer simplicity. As for the tinsel I leave it for the Christmas tree.
FIRST JEWELLERY: I remember as a child I got my ears pierced with a needle, which was very painful, but it was even more painful to wear these earrings that were a bit twisted. As for my favorite stone – I really like turquoise. Two years ago I went on a jewellery course, again in St. Martins, where I learnt a thing or two about silversmithing.
MY EVERYDAY JEWELLERY: Studs and my wedding ring made of three different types of gold with diamonds.
ROLEX OR CARTIER: Toywatch.
MEN JEWELLERY: Brain is the best adornment a man can ever have.
FINE JEWELLERY: Transparent, purely clean and extremely expensive.
JEWELLERY AS AN INVESTMENT: Why not. Some prefer investing in paintings, some in jewelry, some in stocks. Everyone chooses to his or her liking.
FASHION JEWELLERY: This is all very nice, but not quite my cup of tea. Actually, as they say «Chic is always silent» and I stick to this rule.
PERFECT GETAWAY: Russian Arctic.
DON’T LEAVE HOME WITHOUT: Energetic helmet.
COACHELLA OR BURNING MAN: No idea what this is about.
MY WEAPON OF CHOICE: Kitchen knife
WILD WISH: Paint over the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
GEMOLOGUE by Liza Urla features exquisite global discoveries, trendy urban street style, exclusive interviews and rare jewellery reviews – a celebration of fine jewellery, fashion jewellery and vintage jewellery.
*Photographed by by Liza Urla.
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