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Culture & Press news – Embassy 36

Portrait of an artist

Ambassador Marija Efremova tells Pierre de Villiers about a lifelong passion.

Marija Efremova, the Ambassador of Macedonia, has paint in her blood. Growing up in Skopje she would watch spellbound as her mother created vibrant floral paintings, works of art that prompted Ambassador Efremova to pick up the paintbrush herself.

With her mother guiding her progress, Ambassador Eframova started selling paintings at the tender age of 14.

“I sold them from my mother’s studio to people visiting Macedonia from Greece or Spain,” she recalls. “Also once, during my studies, I travelled to Switzerland and sold my paintings on a bridge in Lucerne – not for much money, but to sit there on the street selling my paintings was just so enjoyable.”

Years later, that passion still burns bright, with the Ambassador’s Residence a gallery of her own cityscapes and portraits.

“It is very important for me that I make the time to paint,” Ambassador Efremova says. “My family is not here with me in London so I am essentially a 24-hour ambassador. But on weekends instead of going out, I like to paint.”

Ambassador Efremova spends a lot of time in the kitchen – but instead of cookery utensils, the drawers are filled with paints and brushes. “I have white carpets so it I can’t really paint anywhere else but the kitchen,” she says with a broad smile.

And while her family is far away, her mother is always near: “I have one of mother’s framed watercolours with me always,” she says, pointing to painting of flowers in the middle of the living room. “It inspires me and reminds why I paint.”

Unlike her mother, she primarily does cityscapes that reflect the places where she has lived over the years. There are buildings from her hometown Skopje, Italian bridges from her time in Rome – where she worked as  Minister Counsellor (2002-2006) – and some unmistakable London landmarks. Sometimes she creates a skyline merging all three.

“A painting is never really finished because it can always be worked on again and rebuilt,” says Ambassador Efremova, who often works gold leaf into her paintings to sunning effect. “It is important that you find the beauty in things. That is something that I learnt from my mother as well.”

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