Kiev-based artist and graphic designer Alexey Kondakov makes collages. Seamless splices of elements from people’s lives now and far back in the past, cleverly combined in a single frame. But Alexey argues that it takes two to tango – it only works if your audience responds to what you have to say. And, well, if his work is any indication, people were always saying the same crazy things, adding fuel to the same fire.
Like many of us, you were once the unbearably bored little boy at the art museum. What was your first ‘artistic love’ – that one piece, place or experience – that convinced you not all art is boring?
Visits to museums and galleries were a regular thing in our family – our mother was always pushing all of us to go to any cultural event in town. I don’t remember being bored at museums per se, but for sure, I’ve admitted that there are different kinds of art, and some kinds that attract me more than others. But having a liking for and interest in art has always been normal to me. Like making shadow puppets while watching films during art history class in art school. Or the way everyone used to amuse themselves by adding some artistic touches to the illustrations in school textbooks.
You attended the same art school as your elder sister. What was your attitude towards each other’s art – sibling rivalry, constructive discussions, sitting in opposite corners of the room and doing your own separate thing, etc.?
We have a nine-year age difference, so there wasn’t much of a constructive discussion between us. I was in design and graphics classes, she was in painting. She had a great impact on my introduction to the arts. I was always watching how she did her home tasks. When I was six, she helped me paint my first still life.
In a previous interview, you’ve joked about wanting to show your collages to your former art history professor and get his expert opinion on it. Has this conversation happened yet?
Well, we didn’t have the best relationship, thanks to the unjustified expectations that he’d placed on my sister. Anyway, that conversation isn’t possible for many reasons, but I hope that he, as any teacher, would be glad to know that he did have an impact on me.
You’re the creative director of an e-sports company. How did this happen, and how do the e-sports projects live harmoniously with the classical art projects in the same head?
I think that creative people are creative in everything. The rest is just a matter of experience and chances that you take. It might not be common knowledge, but a lot of different artists have done designs for a lot of different brands.
Any advice from a graphic designer to a classical painter and vice-versa?
It’s just work, but you should do it with love and passion. So any designer may try themselves in the role of an artist if he/she has something to say. Likewise, any artist can try to design cleverly if he/she wants to solve a problem through design.
You’ve mentioned that it’s important not only to place the right character in front of the right scenery, but to ‘show the soul of a city’ as well. Why is the latter so important?
Not only the soul of the city, but also the feeling of a situation. That is the dialogue with the audience – we all see the same things around us, but these things aren’t special until an artist shows us that they are.
Do you agree with the claim that Kiev has become a sort of ‘cheaper, cooler Toronto’? As a long-time Kievan, how do you think that comparison came about?
Hmm, I’ve heard ‘new Berlin’ a lot, not so much Toronto. Kiev is indeed cool (and cheap compared to other capitals!). It’s great to have friends here, someone to take you in and show you the best spots.
You’ve participated in various exhibitions in the Ukraine, Italy, Ireland and Mexico. In your experience, what was different and what was the exact same every time?
Every time is different. But it’s always an opportunity that you can take or leave.
You’ve emphasised how important a good sense of humour is both for individuals and for society in general. How do you know that an image works, that it’s funny?
There are no guarantees. It’s just a matter of how your artistic interlocutor responds – does he accept what you’re offering or not. We all prefer different sorts of comedies. Irony is always fun, I’ve never been bored sitting next to someone who can poke fun at himself, his life, his successes and his failures. Irony, in art, is one of the keys to reaching your audience.
Have you had any interesting experiences with the inconsistent censorship algorithms of social media platforms, especially Instagram?
No, I haven’t. But I’m always waiting for when it’s finally going to happen, when we get into an argument with IG.
You’ve collaborated with the Ukrainian band Boombox (orig. Бумбокс) over the design of their album cover. How did it go and what was your biggest takeaway?
It was the first time someone asked to use my artwork as cover art. Boombox is a well-known local band that’s making a big impact on our culture, so I was very happy and glad to have this opportunity. It was the first time I had a feeling that I could leave a mark on culture.
For a while, your collages have been sold as posters through the National Art Gallery gift shop. Have you ever had any interesting encounters with your work ‘in the wild’?
I’m always happy when people tag me in photos with the physical prints. Whenever I stumble upon their owners in real life, it’s also nice, even though I might not know these people personally.
What is your most labour-intensive collage? Has the artistic feat of ‘waiting for an hour for the right-coloured trolleybus to come along’ been topped yet?
For now, I’m working on a series of pieces on raves. It’s very hard to capture the moment because the crowd and light are constantly moving.
Looking to the future, are there any cities that you’ve been planning to visit or characters who you’ve wanted to take along with you on a trip?
New York, probably. Though every new experience ‘opens up’ a new character for me, as was the case with nightlife.