Interview With Ukrainian Artist: Solomiya Zelenska
Solomiya Zelenska in her studio. Image courtesy of the artist.
Allow me to introduce you to Ukrainian artist Solomiya Zelenska. She is one of the many artists living in Ukraine, giving birth to artistic creativity and preserving culture in times of war. I came across her artwork on Instagram and instantly felt captivated by the figures in her paintings with stoic faces staring straight at the viewer. The women and men that she paints are depicted partaking in mundane activities, such as sitting at a table, drinking a glass of wine, or sunbathing, all enjoyable activities- however, their mood is left for interpretation. The minimalistic expressions of Zelenska's paintings intentionally leave space for the viewer's imagination to roam, allowing them to create their own story for the figure in the image, making them very intriguing. Are the figures in the painting experiencing sadness, joy, etc.? You decide.
Without further due, here is my interview with the artist...
Please tell us about your background and what inspired you to become an artist.
My name is Solomiya Zelenska, and I'm an artist from Ukraine. I started drawing in early childhood. During my school years, I used to go to an art school. Then, I finished a fashion design course. All my activities were always somehow linked to art and creativity, but I got completely immersed in art just over a year ago.
At first, I spent a long time looking for what I wanted to do and deciding which direction to move. And I did not dare show my paintings to anyone for a long time. However, when my friends saw my paintings, they wanted to buy them, and this gave me a huge push to move forward in this direction. Then, there was a small exhibition in a local cafe, after which I received a lot of positive feedback- people really liked my work. The positive feedback gave me a lot of self-confidence and inspired me to continue doing what I love: to paint!
Solomiya Zelenska, Cabaret. Acrylic on canvas. Image courtesy of the artist.
It has been a year since the Russian terrorist attacks started in your country. I cannot imagine the hardship this has brought to every Ukrainian. How do you, as an artist, find inspiration to continue working during challenging times?
War is very scary! On February 24th, I woke up to air raid sirens. I felt a rush of panic and couldn't hold my tears. For the first few months, I couldn't work at all, and I was worried about the canvases I sold before the full-scale invasion, which were still to be sent to my clients.
It is very difficult for me to find inspiration in stressful situations. So I returned to painting closer to the summer- this was probably the influence of the sunny weather and the feeling of relative safety for me and my loved ones since I live in the west of Ukraine.
I still can't say what exactly inspires me. Usually, for inspiration, I just hang a blank canvas, and the process somehow starts by itself.
Solomiya Zelenska, Summer Pool. Acrylic on canvas. Image courtesy of the artist.
What does your work aim to say? What are the major themes you pursue in your artwork?
All my work is about people- how we can all be different, such as sociable, lonely, cheerful, thoughtful, dreamy, sad, and serious. It is about our differences and how we must allow ourselves to be ourselves.
Solomiya Zelenska, Twin Peaks. Acrylic on canvas. Image courtesy of the artist.
What does the process of starting a new painting look like for you?
When creating a painting, I give myself total freedom. I trust my feelings by allowing body movements and proportions not to be ideal. An image of what I want to paint often appears in my head- then I place the canvas on the wall, sometimes making a pencil sketch, roughly sketching the lines and movements. As soon as rough lines are on the canvas, I apply the paint. I improvise a lot while painting and never know exactly what the end result will look like.
Solomiya Zelenska, Day of Summer. Acrylic on canvas. Image courtesy of the artist.
What does the current state of the art community in Ukraine look like? Are there artists who formed tighter communities to support one another?
I'm still a pretty young artist in terms of work, and I may not be familiar with as many artists in Ukraine as I would like. From my observations, the artists in Ukraine are not in competition with each other. They gladly support each other and are always open to collaborating. During the war, many artists were getting together and traveling to art residencies, and the curators organized joint and solo exhibitions for Ukrainian artists in Ukraine and abroad. Therefore, I think this only united the art community and strengthened it even more.
Solomiya Zelenska, Mermaids. Acrylic on canvas. Image courtesy of the artist.
Who are the living artists that inspire you?
Oh, there are so many talented artists and so much beauty being created. As for me, I can highlight the Dutch artist Peggy Kuiper.
Solomiya Zelenska, Unattainable. Acrylic on canvas. Image courtesy of the artist.
Lastly, would you like to share any career goals you want to manifest this year?
The main goal for 2023 is to move to a new workshop. I'm really inspired by this idea now, and I hope that it will give me the opportunity to work and experiment even more. It will be a large space where my husband and I plan to combine a music studio and an art workshop.
Thank you for reading the interview!
To stay up-to-date with the artist's career, make sure to follow her on Instagram @solomiya.zelenska
If you want to discover talented artists, such as Solomiya Zelenska, to begin investing in their careers, I can help. As an art advisor, I do the research so that you can make informed decisions when buying art. With my help, you can discover artists that best fit your taste, space, budget, and goals.
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