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Mykola Zhuravel: Painting, Sculpture, and Harmony

Mykola Zhuravel is an acclaimed multimedia artist from Ukraine. By blurring the lines between painting and sculpture, Zhuravel creates intricate, abstract pieces that combine artistic traditions and current events. Through his art, Zhuravel seeks to rediscover humanity's intrinsic connection with nature as well as search for harmony in an ever more chaotic world.


Portrait of Mykola Zhuravel, courtesy of the artist

Who and what inspires you the most and why?

Artists need to constantly “reboot” themselves like a computer and get inspired by the right things. Personally, I am inspired by travel, music, and my family. It also makes a big impression on me when I look at the works of great artists such as Picasso, Marino Marini, Giacometti, Braque, Matisse, and others.

Portrait of Mykola Zhuravel, courtesy of the artist

What advice would you give to a young artist just starting out in the field?

An artist has the unique tool that they can influence people's attitudes and their development. When you start working on an art project, you first need to ask yourself: Why are you doing this? What do you want? What do you see as the result?

School really helps, it gives you tangible results. But you have to work specifically on your own achievements, artistic and technical. In general, there are no bad topics for art, but there are bad performers. You can be able to draw and not be an artist. Sometimes artists only have the idea but can’t execute it.

It is important to not just be a dreamer, but to apply a rational approach to social issues. I'm interested in submitting the “material” correctly. It's like music, you need to play well and technically. Sometimes among artists we can see such an approach as "the worse the better," in which you focus mainly on the idea of the work over the visual aspects. For me personally, I do not accept this; I work differently. I strive for perfect visual presentation. When I see that I can do better and achieve something more worthwhile for perception, I try to constantly improve my creations.

I believe the artist should be honest and true to his work and try to avoid the secondary factors that aren’t as important. Demonstrating depth through the original sensations of life and the world using your own "language" of art is what truly makes the artist unique.

Portrait of Mykola Zhuravel, courtesy of the artist

If you could pick anywhere, where would you most like to exhibit in the future?

Probably every artist's dream is to have a show in such museums as MOMA, and The Guggenheim, or in a gallery such as Marlborough or Gagosian Gallery, and I am among them.

Separate and Whole, 2016, oil on canvas, 110x160 cm, courtesy of the artist

How do you think the role of the artist changes in times of turmoil and uncertainty?

The role of the artist does not change as much as it sharpens. Artists often reflect on social, political and environmental problems in society in their work. And I, as an artist, react to such events. So did Goya, Picasso, Kyoto Kollwitz…

The last of my large-scale projects "Invasion," was dedicated to the battle for Ukraine and the armed invasion of Russia into the territory of Ukraine. Within this project, a series of paintings, photographs, video art, and sculpture was made. The main atmosphere of the project is the kind of multimedia that you need to look at figuratively. In fact, it is really a very difficult topic that I chose to highlight. We are faced with the fact that problems in society are developing very fast. The artists cannot ignore these problems.

Apiary Project, courtesy of the artist

What is your process like, from inception to completion? How long does it usually take you to create a piece?

When I go to my workshop in the morning, I work until the evening. I work on my projects in parallel, and I love when one project flows into another. I can go back to the same topic several times and open new stages in it that also complement it. It’s as though you are tying the knot in one place, but every time, it gets bigger. I can do several paintings in a few days in one go, or I can work on one painting for months.

The works of more sophisticated and complicated technique are my Levkas. The basic technique of the Levkas is covering a wooden board with glue (gelatin or sturgeon glue) and paste made of gelatin and chalk, followed by the application of tempera or oil paint. This technique is also used in wooden sculptures and reliefs and can be organically combined with various types of metal. Levkas are interesting in that they can combine several types of art such as sculpture (bas-reliefs), painting, and graphics.

The Last Supper, 2019, wood, levkas, metal, oil, 120x280 cm, courtesy of the artist

What role does nature play in your work? How do you define the connections between the natural and the man-made in your work?

Today, at a time when humankind is not simply separated from nature but in direct confrontation with it, co-creation between human and nature seems like a real miracle. In such circumstances, the art that can create a complete harmonious universe is especially relevant.

At one time in the contemporary creative context, I drew parallels between the society of people and the bee family - “Apiary,” thus forming a humanistic project of the same name. “Apiary” is an attempt to understand the issues of society, where too much aggression and cynicism have accumulated. People are no longer feeling like one social organism, they are breaking the natural balance of ecosystems and in the end losing personal balance and succumbing to the chaos. The artistic image is a beehive sculpture with honey bees. The bee, carrying honey and nectar in a hive, is associated with a person who brings with him high and pure feelings of love, empathy and repentance, thus seeking to achieve spiritual balance in this turbulent world.

Wings of Griffin, 2013, wood, levkas, metal, oil, 120х140 сm, courtesy of the artist

How do you prepare for an upcoming exhibition? How does this differ from your normal routine?

I am recently more inclined towards abstract art. My big projects are always accompanied by paintings and Levkas.

I prefer multilayer paintings. I like to add unconventional, unexpected materials such as metal, wood, hemispheres, nets... The works look like ancient frescoes, as if time has taken its toll on them.

My new series of creative works represents the openness of one's own systemic vision, and the reconstruction of a space filled with lyrical and philosophical reflections.

Invasion Project, courtesy of the artist

What do you find most challenging and most rewarding about being an artist?

I consider myself a supporter of the concept of a harmonious escape from our existence, because every artist has the key that opens the door to potentially solving problems. He is the instrument, the conduit of those dreams and thoughts that exist and will always continue to exist.

I love to work as an artist because I can see the elements of the world and visualize them through my own unique lens. I like the most imaginative thinking. Without the image there is no artwork. This image is created, not copied by the artist. And this is all in order to reach the heart and mind of the viewer, and stir empathy in them. Only an image is capable of this, whether it is painting, photography or something else.

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