The artist, Iryna Maksymova was born in Kolomyia, Ukraine in 1991. Right now she is based in Lviv. She studied graphic design but, tired of the medium and seeking something more fulfilling the pandemic was the push she needed to set herself a full-time career as an artist. She paints to reflect her emotional experiences and what is important to her inner self, like feminism, ecology or making visible cruelty. Each of the art pieces contains her personal voice, a tool to call for reflection and action.
First off, I’d like to know what is art to you.
Art is an opportunity to feel and perceive the world from the other side.
You studied graphic design, knowing that you’ve always said that you wanted to be a painter, why did you take this route?
It is hard to make a living as an artist in Ukraine. I tried to be realistic and chose the closest route , that's more popular and well paid.
What brought you to make the decision of becoming a professional painter, in such difficult circumstances due to the start of the pandemic, 2 years ago?
Before the pandemic, I quit my job and didn’t want to look for the same one in the same domain. So, while being in the state of inner search, I spent more and more time doing art. And, from the start, it was painting.
Are you a full-time artist right now? Do you need any other job to sustain yourself, financially speaking?
Yes, being an artist is my full-time passion and work. I am glad to say it is enough to cover all my needs.
At the moment, you are living in Ukraine, where you were born. Does the country support emerging artists? Have you ever thought of moving abroad?
From the beginning of my art journey, my country hasn’t supported me in any way but personally, I don’t see any problem in that as I am lucky to fulfil all the necessities myself. Actually, I haven’t planned or thought of moving anywhere, I love it here.
I notice you critique global issues in each of your artworks. Sexism, cruelty and human supremacy over animals are some of your main themes, why give voice to these global issues above others in the present?
Through my works, I talk about themes that touch me personally first and which make me worry the most as a human and a woman. I like talking about animals because they are not able to ask for help themselves and I feel it is the least I can do.
What is the goal of, ironically, using all those colours and patterns to represent current problems? I think you encourage viewers to stay positive and invite them to be hopeful about current problems.
You know that feeling when you are so devastated that you can only laugh, these colours and patterns are like that laugh. However, a lot of my paintings are about love and friendship and warm good feelings.
Your paintings are full of what seem to be feminine bodies and you are keen on talking about feminism and, also, self-love. I would like to know how you personally feel about the treatment of the image of women in the art world throughout history. I don’t think your way of representing these figures sticks to the ordinary shapes, colours or positions that are usually used.
Past is our heritage, and we have to respect it, learn from it and take only the most needed parts.
Another issue you approach in your work is human supremacy over animals. Do you consider yourself an animal rights activist? What else do you do in your everyday life to support the cause?
I cannot say I am a true to life animal activist, but I try to financially support dog shelters in Ukraine on a regular basis. And, it is really fulfilling when my art helps me achieve that.
You’ve been a professional painter only for 2 years now, but you’ve been an artist your whole life. Has your style changed during these past years? Do you think you might change it in the future?
Yes, my style has changed over the past years. I started with abstract painting and, step by step, I started to paint in a more figurative way. I am sure my style will change and evolve in the future. As they said, keep pushing your limits.
In August, you made a piece reusing clothes from your wardrobe in which the main character is your dog Loki. Are you thinking of trying any other artistic techniques like sculpture and collage?
This was a very interesting experience which I enjoyed a lot. I would definitely want to do more upcycling works. It is cool in both ecological and visual ways. I have been thinking about sculpture for over a year now, I hope it becomes some exciting project in the future.
Where does everything happen? I heard you already have a private studio for yourself. Please, tell us about it!
Right, I am lucky to have a beautiful large studio in the historical part of the city. There are no modern renovations but it is very bright and cosy. It is enough for me and for organising art events from time to time.
What series or artistic project are you currently working on?
I cannot say that I am currently working on a series or project but more individual pieces about my country, animals, myself. Maybe it is autumn that makes me slow down a little bit.