Meet the Artists Blending Nudity & Dreams
Surrealist natural landscapes and contorted multicolored nude bodies splay out across their work. Blending the physical world into their tripped out brand of artistry, Ukrainian duo Tania Schlegova and Roman Noven have created and perfected their art under the name Synchrodogs since meeting online in 2008. Through seven years of collaboration, the pair has worked with Kenzo, Urban Outfitters, Bimba and Lola, and many others to help created otherworldly work that explores humanity and our connection with the world around us.
Later this month, Synchrodogs is scheduled to open a new exhibition called Supernatural at the Dallas Contemporary Museum of Art funded by donations from the Internet. While putting the finishing touches on the project, Tania and Roman took some time to sit down with Milk’s Chris Thomas to talk puppies, their fate with Prada, the Ukrainian war, and the faultlessness of nudity.
You’re raising money for a new gallery exhibition. What is the theme behind this new project?
The Supernatural project is a never-ending self exploration of two artists in context to the unknown. It deals with intuition, subconscious, natural phenomena, and some human essence, which is unable to be explained by science. We are aiming to depart from what is usual or normal. For this project, we used our own constructed images as a vehicle for questioning the border between the evident and the elusive and between right and wrong. We are uncovering the edges of our own subconscious and using intuition as a way of acquiring knowledge without the use of a reason.
You both met through an amateur photography website and started collaborating in 2008. Since then, how do you think your work has evolved individually and as a collective unit?
We don’t exist individually anymore. We are a team of two equal complementary artists who share ideas with each other and develop even better ideas out of them. We developed dramatically as a unit; we can rationally evaluate how much we have taught ourselves since then. Now we know we have power to do anything that is required from us and even more, while seven years ago we were two small puppies shooting diary pictures.
For ‘Reverie Sleep’, you recorded the dreams you experienced through lucid dreaming and turned them into photographic scenes. Did you ever have any bad experiences with lucid dreaming?
It’s not actually lucid dreaming because that is when you can control your own dream during deep sleep, and we think you need to have some superpower to do that. Instead, we tried to catch a dream the moment we were on the edge of falling asleep, as that is the time when you still can control yourself and wake yourself up when you realize you see something weird or spectacular. For example, it usually takes a bit time for Tania to fall asleep and she usually imagines painting all things in front of her closed eyes into black (over and over again) until she is too relaxed to resist and finally falls asleep. Maybe this thing also contributed to developing the ability to control a dream because this black canvas she paints in front of her works as some kind of meditation and you start to finally see something.
Besides your original projects, you’ve also done a lot of commission work. What has been your favorite collab?
We especially love Bimba and Lola not only for the spectacular clothes and jewelry, but for the incredible team. We also loved our recent Shiseido collaboration because it gave us the opportunity to meet so many Japanese superstars and the trip itself was full of red panda watching and sushi eating.
“We tried to catch a dream in the moment.”
Are there any fashion designers or artists you want to collaborate with on a project or do you like to keep things personal to your vision?
We had never looked for collaborations ourselves, as we never felt we should quicken events. All things that need to happen with us will find us without our help as they are our destiny, and if we never shoot advert for Chanel that’s fine—maybe our fate is Prada.
All of the locations you choose for your photos end up looking almost alien. Where do you find these places and what’s your favorite place you’ve shot?
When we travel for shooting we literally take every turn to check where that beautiful road leads us to. This approach never disappoints us but it is also a difficult one. When we see something interesting on the hill we climb the rocky mountain through thorny bushes and come back home all scratched, but come back with a shot.
I think our favorite place isn’t one we were shooting at, but was one we were having a rest at. It was in Sri Lanka and we loved the pure happiness of people who are so sincere and grateful for what they have—even though they have nothing, actually. We loved driving through tea hills because sometimes you would go into a cloud of the smell of black tea and turn your motorbike around just to go through it again. We traveled all over the island for a month and, once, when we were driving through a very beautiful land full of mountains, sun, and fog, the scenery was so beautiful that Tania started crying while sitting on the backseat of a motorbike because she had too much happiness in her.
Coming from Ukraine, have you been affected by the ongoing Ukrainian/Russian conflict or do you try to steer clear of politics?
As you know, Ukraine is going through a very difficult time when it has to fight not only its ‘big brother’ Russia, which is highly armored and entered our Eastern cities with its huge army, but also its inner fifth column. It makes the war last so long. In our minds, it lasts forever and we do not even remember when we used to peacefully live and never hear about victims. So we just do what many Ukrainians do—help the Ukrainian army stay standing and fighting by collecting donations. One year ago we created our first charitable project where we sell jewelry custom made by Tania and use the profits to help those who are in urgent need for medical help. You can check the project here.
Your work has a very lively vibe and your photos look like they capture an elaborate performance between humanity and nature. Would you ever go into performance art as a means of self expression?
That sounds like something we would do some day, but we doubt that it would be a performance observed by many people. It would be something people can see via video or virtual reality, which acts as a kind of a wall between the artist and the audience. We feel that we need this wall because we are sincere people and always keep our communication straight—no underwater stones or bad thoughts while we are smiling at somebody. This makes it difficult to act because there is something artificial in acting, and that is completely against our soul.
Most of your work features naked men and women interacting with nature. What is the underlying message you’re trying to send?
With our art we try to show a raw and sincere relationship with nature because it is the environment that raised us. It’s the one we feel safe and calm being surrounded by. For us, it isn’t about depicting something but is rather about exploring ourselves. There is something sacred in nudity because that is how we appeared and who we are. Naked is sheer, naked is true, naked is faultless. It says more.
Images via Synchrodogs.