Artist Interviews 2022
By Johnny Otto
When you originally submitted your art to us a few months ago, there was no war raging in Ukraine and the focus of my interview was just going to be about your art, but now I have to ask how you and your family are holding up and how has the whole ordeal affected you and your art?
Fortunately, my family is now safe in Austria, we came here one day before the war started. My parents settled in an alpine village as for me- I and my beloved are now located in Vienna. Here is also my brother with his wife. Unfortunately, my other brother with his wife and little daughter stayed in Ukraine. Although life here is at a high level and quiet, we all really want to return back home. I do miss my studio, my house, all my friends, my flower garden and my pets. As for my art, I have a lot of inspiration and ideas now but it's quite difficult sometimes to start doing something. I have always been an artist who takes inspiration from the inside. I experience each of my paintings and try to convey my feelings and emotions. And now there are a lot of emotions and feelings, some of them are very sad and I know I may never sell these dark works but it's who I am and if I will not express what I feel it will burn me from the inside.
When I first saw your work I was reminded of one of my favorite painters, Otto Dix and in particular his masterpiece "The Portrait of Sylvia Von". Who are your greatest influences as far as style or subject matter?
Haha so many people said that I remind them of Picasso or Matisse or someone else but I don’t see this similarity. I can't say that someone specific influenced me. I like a lot of different artists from medieval artists to Fauvists as well as contemporary artists. Themes for my paintings I always take from life and from the inside of my soul. Since childhood, I used to draw people, faces, animals. It's not about me to paint beautiful pictures. My works are stories sometimes with hidden meanings and symbols that urge viewers to solve mysteries ... a little bit of drama, a little bit of humor and irony, a little bit of sadness - everything that happens in everyone's life. As for style, it is a mix of different styles and improvisation.
Your work has a great deal of violence and anger but it is conveyed in a comic and colorful way as if to deflect or rob some of the power of the cruelty that you see around you. Is that correct? Can you explain further?
It is so. My paintings are a mirror of myself. When you see them for the first time you may think they are so bright, funny, happy and colourful but then you get to know them deeper and become to notice many important details that show you other sides of reality: evil, violence, sadness, suffering. I work mostly with mental health, as this topic plays an important role in my life. I just show in my paintings how life and society impact our lives, sometimes in a good way, sometimes in a very bad way. For me it is important to see light during dark days, I always try to find it, that's why I paint with bright paint dark things.
I was going to ask you if you have any shows coming up in Ukraine but much of the major cities are now in chaos and being destroyed by Putins evil empire. There is always hope that Ukraine, who has the world on its side, will prevail. What are your hopes for the future of your country and how do you hope that your art will contribute to its story and history?
I had to have a solo show in Kyiv in summer 2022, but now obviously it won’t happen. I'm trying to figure out how to make it here in Europe. My paintings now are about the current situation in Ukraine, about bad things that Russians do with my land. It's my duty to show the truth to the world, because many people around the world are still under Putins propaganda and they believe in lies, in fake news. I want to show things how they are, cuz I know exactly what happens in my country with my people. Its a very difficult time now but of course we will win. Good always defeats evil.
Are there any artists that you'd like to collaborate with?
For me it's always better to work alone and create things by my own rules.
Is there any particular music that inspires you to be creative?
I don’t think so. I am a melomaniac, I like different music but it has nothing to do with my creativity. Life , love, people and things around inspire me. Music is nice just to relax or sometimes get deeper in my feelings. While I paint I use to listen to audiobooks or lectures. I like to learn something that interests me - psychology, philosophy, health.
Finally, what else inspires you other than visual art? Are you creative in other ways or what other things do you like to do, when life returns to normal or perhaps to help you deal with the chaos?
As I said before, it's a usual life- my family, nature, friends. I used to play tennis, visit dance classes, travel, and meditate. Now life is changing very fast, we are now waiting for a baby that should come to the world in 3 month, so taking care of him and painting will help me to deal with chaos.