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G.ART interview with young artists

Anna Kostritskaya

Anna Kostrytskaya, Katya Syta and Dima Kashtalyan are three young contemporary artists. We talked about how they got into art, what they’re working on today, and how they see the prospects for the Ukrainian art market and art in general.

The beginning: the way to art

From childhood, Anna lived in an atmosphere of creativity, among the works of her artist mother. She specialized as an art historian. After graduating from the institute, she traveled around Europe, saw many works of art, and had a real catharsis when she saw the originals. At a crucial moment in Anna’s life, her mother gave her a canvas and paints for her birthday, hoping that her daughter would be able to express her feelings on the canvas. For two days Anna created her first works: not so many paintings as personal psychotherapy, meditation, and retreats. Never before had she experienced such emotions – as if the whole outside world had stopped existing, and there was only a personal spiritual universe. At first, art was only a hobby, Anna studied colour, its possibilities. Her first paintings were bought by friends, and in 2016 Anna was invited to an exhibition.

Academic education is important for an artist, but Anna is one hundred percent happy that her way to creativity turned out to be different. As an art historian, she knows the laws of a work of art, but she is not interested in dealing with perspective and shadows. The most important thing for her is freedom of expression. Anna has made elaborate, spectacular collages, but she does not enjoy them as much as she enjoys working with paints. “When our world moves into a state of meta consciousness,” says Anna, “I will be the last artist sitting with a palette in the studio, hoping that people need something alive and real.

Development: today

Anna Kostritskaya is sure that in contemporary metamodern art there are no strict borders and conditions, each artist has enormous freedom. Art of the XX century discovered that one does not have to be a craftsman and copy reality, he can create his own worlds. In Anna’s opinion, a very important quality of an artist is the ability to go beyond the usual boundaries. If she sees that some area of her work has become too commercial and one-dimensional, she dramatically changes the subject and comes up with something new. She is convinced that success will come to the artist if he is honest and free inside. He can be anything he likes, but he must remain himself.

“Portrait of a Powerful Man” was born at a time when Anna was in a financial crisis and did not know whether to continue making art that does not sell. At one point, she decided to do what she wanted without looking back at the conjuncture and customer demands and created an unusual portrait in pastose. Once the work appeared on Instagram, it created a sensation and customers were queuing up. Anna soon had a personal exhibition in one of the most famous Kyiv museums. Nowadays, the artist works successfully with portraits where the interior is reflected in the exterior and the sincerity and emotionality are in excess.

Anna does not yet have an art dealer or curator, she sells her work through Instagram thanks to her successful self-management. Her classes in illustration and her study of computer programs have given her an understanding of what a piece of contemporary art should look like in terms of its design, a visual solution. She follows global trends in art and reads professional foreign periodicals. But at the same time, she tries not to become dependent on popular trends and generally does not like borrowing. She is happy with her new work as she senses the arrival of experience and new forces. In the spring, she is planning an exhibition at a major museum, and later she would like to do a project abroad to show her work to an experienced viewer.

Prospects: artist and art market

Anna dislikes feelings of victimhood and pessimism. Right now artists are having a hard time surviving, but the market is changing and competition is emerging. A generation of talented young artists has emerged in various media, and slowly a taste for collectors is forming. Kostritskaya has her own buyer – people from 30 to 45 years old, active, traveling, familiar with world art, and open to new things. Unfortunately, says Anna, in Ukraine, there is no expert art criticism, no museum of contemporary art, where one can get acquainted with new names, and no abundance of buyers. She gave an example of Amsterdam, where any window you look through will reveal a great number of various works on the walls. It is an important time for Ukraine to build a relationship between buyer and artist, and generally to develop a mass taste for and love of art.


Katya Syta

The beginning: the road to art

From childhood Katya read a lot, was fond of art and could not imagine her life without it. During her school years she had lessons from a professional artist. However, the family could not fully pay for the lessons, and Katya had to “work off” her studies, preparing the studio and putting things in order. She got her higher education in economics. In 2018, experiencing a life crisis and trying to regain her psychological balance, Katya suddenly came to art – as a space where she could hide from the challenges of life. She started making collages and became fascinated. Katya does not lack an academic education, because she relies on strong intuition in her art and generally considers intuition to be extremely important for an artist. It helps you to sense society’s “movements” and react to them. Katya considers true artists to be those for whom art is a way of life and self-expression. They are the ones who are free in today’s art world. The ideal artist is someone who expresses his or her individuality regardless of the circumstances, because he or she cannot help creating, just as he or she cannot help drinking or eating. Those who constantly calculate and analyse are trapped by conjuncture; they are craftsmen preoccupied about making a profit.

Development: today

Katya loves the collage technique for its freedom, low material cost and speed of creation. She spends anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour and a half on a collage. Now she’s interested in experimenting with techniques and increasing the size of her work. It angers Katya that collage artists often do not take themselves seriously, seeing collages only as an additional occupation or hobby. She would like to raise collage to a higher, more serious level both in Ukraine and in the world. Katya hopes that the CUTOUT collage festival which she created together with her colleagues will popularise this art form. She is planning to look for collage enthusiasts, and to extend the festival to Europe, and to Berlin in particular.

Today Katya and her colleagues sell their work at fairs, festivals and directly from exhibitions. Collectors of collage in Ukraine are still few, people rather make impulse purchases. But this trend is developing, young artists are finding their buyers and sponsors. One of the promising areas of CUTOUT is the creation of an online platform for the presentation and sale of collages, and access to the European market, where there is more interest and purchasing power.

Prospects: artist and art market

Katya believes that the Ukrainian art market is noticeably behind the European one, but Ukraine has many talented artists. Often an artist sticks to a theme that has become commercially successful, afraid to experiment. Katya is convinced that an artist must not be afraid of being enclosed in his world, he needs communication skills, expanding his circle of communication, and self-promotion.

Quality art criticism, professional art dealing, courageous gallerists willing to discover young talents, and, of course, buyers willing to consider contemporary art as an investment will all help to develop the Ukrainian art market. Katya ambitiously dreams of having her own gallery in Europe, where she can present both Ukrainian contemporary art and classic art, promoting Ukrainian culture. Being just an artist is boring for her, she admits that she loves art on its own, she “collects” talented people, likes to promote them and is happy with their successes. Next spring she is planning the next CUTOUT festival and a performance of the festival’s resident artists in Berlin, as well as two solo exhibitions in Ukraine, possibly in tandem with a photographer, because Katya finds the collaboration of collage and photography most harmonious.

Dima Kashtalyan

The beginning: the way to art

Dima is an artist from Belarus, who has been living and working in Ukraine for the past few years. As a child he was far from art, he did not study drawing, but exactly 20 years ago, as a teenager, he was fascinated by graffiti. Dima did not receive any art education due to his life circumstances, but he realized early on that he was much more attracted to the author’s graphic technique than academic drawings. Today he periodically returns to sketches from life to improve his technique, studies materials in his specialty and is not ready to agree with the popular opinion that an academic education kills creativity and stifles freedom. The important thing is that one has something to say in art.

For several years Dima was involved in graffiti, most often typography, but sometimes he drew characters. The next stage was a passion for illustration, Dima created non-graffiti compositions on paper, canvas, or computer. Gradually integral subjects with characters took the main place in graffiti, and at some point, Dima decided to combine everything: to transfer his new style from paper and canvases to walls – thus murals were born. His portfolio now includes no fewer than 10 large murals in Turin, Vienna, Barcelona, St Petersburg, Berlin, Aion (French Alps)… Unfortunately, a number of projects on different continents have been put on hold because of the coronavirus.

Development: today

Dima doesn’t position himself as a mural artist only, he follows the work of various artists worldwide and is particularly interested in multimedia projects at the intersection of different disciplines. He considers it very important to keep abreast of global processes if only to avoid repeating someone else’s work. “The world is open, the world is not as evil as it seems,” says Dima.

Initially, Dima worked with color, but once he tried to make a fully graphic monochrome work – and for 6 years he couldn’t stop. He has come to the most detailed recognizable technique: dots and strokes. Unfortunately, the graphics so beloved by Dima is a rather niche product with a low value. People, in general, prefer bright, spectacular work. And Dima himself loves colour! In Kyiv, a new creative stage has begun – he paints with paint on canvas and enjoys it. This trend has proved commercially profitable, often Dima sells work in progress, even before its publication on the Internet. He is currently working on a combination of his graphic detailed technique and polychrome painting. Despite the time-consuming process, his work is spectacular and original.

Dima has experience in collaborating with foreign venues and institutions. One of the most interesting experiences was working in a small Swedish town where wealthy locals created a gallery with a street art focus. As part of the project in this gallery, he was among the foreign artists who exhibited their work and created work in real-time on the gallery’s wall. Another interesting project was an art competition organized by the gallery in Barcelona, where Dima won the jury prize.

The themes Dima works with are constantly changing, along with changes in life itself. Artists are affected by the new speed of information perception, life flips through life like an Internet page, and the artist has to work at the same speed, inventing new tricks, in order not to get lost among thousands of other artists.

He tries to slow down his personal rhythm because his technique does not allow him to create one work a day. He listens to serious internal criticism so that tomorrow he will be no worse than yesterday. Dmitri’s creative plans include sculpture. He wants to try making his characters in volume, in clay or metal and has even taken lessons from an old-school Belarusian sculptor. Another dream is to work with mosaics, which are attractive because of their “pixel-like” nature, and with stained glass techniques.

Perspectives: the artist and the art market

Dima has recently lived in Kyiv, but he talks a lot with local artists and gallery owners. He believes that the Ukrainian art market is booming, the artists are creative, creating modern works of high quality with a distinct author’s style. Unfortunately, they lack media exposure. Not all the authors are known abroad, but there are galleries and dealers, which exhibit Ukrainian art in different countries and introduce the local potential.

Dima finds the Ukrainian art market especially successful if compared to Belarus; in his homeland, he could hardly sell his works and focused on foreign buyers. He is wary of the national identity and is not convinced that Ukrainian artists should always strive to be recognizable as Ukrainians. Flirting with the nationality tends to look bad. It is more important to reflect in their works a solid, voluminous, and original artist’s personality. An additional plus is if an artist consciously works with their culture and can manifest Ukrainian context through their style.

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