Sholpan Sharbakova: Music in colours

Sholpan whom we are going to talk with today is no doubt an outstanding personality. She is a professional musician (she performed in the Oscar Wilde’s ‘Star child’ interpretation along with Dina Korzun), acclaimed artist (was represented at the 56th Venice Biennale and Art15) and a popular designer (she produces hand bags under Shola Miller brand). Sholpan tells La Bohème about her artistic and charity projects.

– I should admit that this interview is very special to me. Firstly, you have talent for both music and fine arts, and have been exceptionally successful in both areas. Secondly, we both come from a far-away town of Aktobe in Kazakhstan and happened to meet in London. Can you please outline your creative path? Had you started as a musician and have then decided to try yourself as as artist and a designer? 

– For me creative path means lots of work and constance search of yourself and your voice in the art. It has started with my parents taking me to the musical school in my native Aktobe and then it developed really fast as if I have been following a scenario written by someone for my life. After Aktobe, I then moved to Almaty to study in Baiseitova music school, then to Moscow to attend Gnessin Academy of music followed by doctoral studies in the Royal College of Music in London. Music is a big part of me, it inspires and renews me, makes me a better person.


Sholpan Sharbakova, Sounds, Mixed Media Collage on Canvas, 30cm x 30 cm, London 2009

– What does your musical background bring to painting? Would you say that music and painting are inseparable for you?

– Absolutely! I came to painting from music because I have been imagining music in colours since I was a kid. I could ‘hear’ music in colours where each tonality is a colour palette. Perhaps this sounds strange but this is how it is for me. That is why you would find many bright tomes and halftones in my paintings. My paintings have their beat and rhythm. Music has opened to me an astonishing world where I can think in images, see in colours and feel with my heart.

– For many artists their surroundings bring much influence on their artwork (think England-based vs California-based Hockney). What does London mean for you as an artist? 

– Surrounding environment does have impact on the person, however, I believe that every artist lives in his own world which does not depend on his actual geographical location. For me London is the capital of this country and place where I live, not a destination. We, Kazakhs, are nomads after all.

– I have heard many times from artists that London is a very competitive place and it proves to be difficult to achieve recognition. Would you agree with that? What tips would you give to someone who is starting his artistic career in London?

– Recognition should be pursued by politicians and pop stars. I don’t strive for recognition, I just believe that you should love what you do and do what you love.


Sholpan Sharbakova, Alter Ego Series, Mixed Media on Canvas Board, 20cm x 20cm, London 2015

– Can you tell us about your designer project? What it is like for an artist, to step into commercial world? Are you going to continue to produce bags? Other accessories perhaps?

– I’ve started my own brand Shola Miller one and half a year ago after I went to study at Central Saint Martins. It is a bright, daring and cool project which helps me to express my wild designer ideas. I have created three collections so far and am working on the fourth. It would be interesting, trust me!


–  It is obvious that helping others is very important for you. How did you start your charitable projects?

– I believe that this should be a norm for every single person. There is nothing outstanding in this, we should just help others when we can and do it wholeheartedly.

– The past had been a very eventful and busy one for you, including ‘Star Child’ performance in London. What Shola Sharbakova-Miller has planned for us in this year?

– I have some colossal plans and you will surely hear about them soon! 😉


Ak Zhol Installation, Special Project Installation for ARTBATFEST 2014, Mixed Media on Canvas, 10 meters – 20 meters, Almaty, Kazakhstan

© Zhamila Tampayeva



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