PULL NO PUNCHES: A Q&A with Artist Leyla Sandshiko

The Russian artist’s latest exhibition, “Counter Punch Round IV,” will be on display from Nov. 27-Dec. 12 at The 51 Live Gastro.

The Russian artist Leyla Sandshiko enjoys two activities with a passion: Muay Thai and painting. Sandshiko, who spent the past 10 years traveling between Bangkok and Moscow, has formed an unlikely pairing of the two hobbies, employing the use of the traditional fighting technique for her abstract art projects.

After watching a Muay Thai fight, and falling in love with the combat form, she began to visualise how it would look if she were to throw punches and kicks at a blank canvas.

True to her first name, which translates as “night,” Sandshiko immerses herself into the late hours dealing graceful blows and high kicks to create bright splashes of paint. It is an inspiration she owes to neo-Dadaist artist Ushio Shinohara and his boxing-painting performances.

Russian artist Leyla Sandshiko
Sanshiko combines her love for Muay Thai and painting in her artworks.

Sandshiko’s Muay Thai exhibition series “Counter Punch” is the knockout result of her crowning achievements by way of boxing glove. One can feel the raw intensity and energy that exudes from her radiant paint splashes. The canvas is a space where she transforms life’s frustrations into simple yet powerful works of art.

This year, with quarantine taking over many creatives’ lives, she has spent countless evenings knocking and jabbing blank slates for her fourth iteration of “Counter Punch.” For Round IV, she has enlisted the help of Persian miniature artist Arash Groyan to create a harmonic mix of traditional and modern art.

From “Counter Punch IV”

Bangkok 101 recently checked in with Leyla to get her thoughts on her new collaborative project.

For the latest iteration, Counter Punch IV, you are collaborating with Persian artist Arash Groyan, who is best known for his Persian miniature art. What was it like working with him?

I really love this collaboration project since it unifies Eastern and Western styles of art utilizing both modern and traditional techniques. The artwork represents an ultimate harmony of the Universe that can be found within any sphere of our lives. At the same time, it is a metaphorical battle between old and new, harkening back to the beginning of human history to create something unique, a new step of evolution.

We have created seven pieces together, some of which are already sold to private collections.

“The Garden”

What new artistic elements did Arash bring to your latest series?

I didn’t have broad knowledge of Persian traditional miniatures before we started this project. I have learnt a lot about it this year, and have realised what Arash sees in my works. He has deciphered the symbols of my abstract art, and translated them into the traditional plots of Persian miniatures.

What would you say is the biggest challenge in painting for Counter Punch?

The most challenging part is—and it makes me laugh as I say it—getting into the right mood! It also takes a lot of time to do all the preparations, mixing the colours and, obviously, washing all of it off my clothes and body. The paint splashes are literally everywhere! And I also have to be fit, strong and healthy to punch the canvas.

How do you know when a painting is finished?

It’s intuition. There’s always a moment when I feel it’s a good time to stop. It may take months or even years to finish some works, while others take only a few weeks.

What is your work-day routine like when painting?

I always need to feel inspired to start working on something new. If I don’t feel it, there’s nothing I can do about it. I patiently wait while occupying myself with other things, such as promoting and planning upcoming art events, scheduling meetings with collaborators, sponsors, my team, and fellow artists who I love thinking of as my family in art.

An artist needs to have a clear strategy for self-promotion. Once the inspiration hits, I can stop everything I’m doing, escape social life, lock myself up in my studio, and paint 24/7.

Sandshiko worked with Persian miniature artist Arash Groyan to create a harmonic mix of traditional and modern art.

You’ve stated that you work best at night. How does this put you in the right mood and inspiration to paint?

I have always preferred to work at night, whether it is creating art or anything at all. It is my creative and active part of the day. However, with Muay Thai art it is different. I punch the canvas during the day and work on the details at night. My name translates as ‘Night’ and I guess that says it all.

“Counter Punch” has always stood for never giving up no matter what life throws at you. To pick yourself up when feeling down. Has the pandemic this year changed the way you approach the latest exhibition?

This pandemic has been a valuable life experience and lesson for all of us. It has shown us that anything can change completely overnight.

I prefer to focus on the opportunities that can be found in any situation, such as creating new art series, adjusting my plans for the future and doing more promotion. I’m always ready to punch back, no matter what life serves me.

“Counter Punch Round IV” with Arash has brought even more energy into my life. I am very flattered that such a talented artist has shown so much interest in my project and proposed a collaboration.

What makes you happy when people see your work?

I am always happy when people try to understand what my art is about, and what thoughts and feelings it invokes in them. It brings me joy once someone else transcends the ordinary and joins me in discovering the unknown and outworldly realm of the subconsciousness.

Leyla Sandshiko


Leyla Sandshiko’s “Counter Punch Round IV” exhibition will be on display from Nov. 27 – Dec. 12 at The 51 Live Gastro (64 Sukhumvit 51 Alley).

A grand opening will commence on the first day of exhibition from 5pm till late.

Leyla Sandshiko is also participating in this year’s Bangkok Galleries Night with her new artwork “Don’t put all your Fabergé eggs in one basket” at Sathorn 11 Art Space on Nov. 26.

Her “Digital Dreams” and “Blondie Chain” exhibitions are displayed on both floors of Bartels (760, 1 Sukhumvit Rd).

Several pieces from different collections are also displayed at Muguet de Café and Art Space in Siracha (Porestva Hotel, 95/1 หมู่ที่ 10 Bang Phra, Si Racha District, Chon Buri).

Nicky Tanskul has written for Coconuts, Bangkok Post's Guru Magazine, and AsiaLive365 on topics ranging from food and tourism to events and entertainment. A graduate of Chulalongkorn University's Faculty of Communication Arts and Newcastle University in the UK, Nicky enjoys exploring Thailand's diverse attractions and cultural experiences, and meeting people from all walks of life.

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