Lucy Ivanova and Yehor Antsyhin about curating and residency in Dnipro

On October 30, the Artsvit Gallery, which is located in Dnipro, opened a new exhibition season with a cultural residence project supported by the Ukrainian Cultural Foundation. The residency program in Dnipro was held in August-October 2019 and consisted of research, performative and visual focuses. Each part of the residence was formed and implemented by the curators, who the gallery invited.

The research practices vector under Alisa Oleva’s (Great Britain) supervision was devoted to the alternative ways of urban space exploration. Valdemar Tatarchuk (Poland), artist and curator, mentored the performative vector. The third and final vector – visual – focused on the city’s pictorial understanding; the artists Liusia Ivanova and Yehor Antsyhin (Ukraine) curated it. The city theme, its public and private spaces, was unifying for all three parts of the residence. For a month and a half, 21 Ukrainian cultural activists from different country regions were acquainted with Dnipro and its history. Vita Popova, author of the project, and the curators of each residence vector present the residents’ works realized during and after the project at a group exhibition. It is held at the Artsvit Gallery in Dnipro from October 30 to December 7, 2019.

Yehor Antsyhin and Lucy Ivanova became the curators of the Dnipro residence visual part. Halyna Hleba spoke with them about the collaborative practice, hometown rediscovery, and responsibility for influencing someone else’s artistic practice.

Yehor, Lucy, and the Artsvit Gallery invited you to be the Dnipro residence curators of the visual art part. Tell us, what task did you face from the organizers, and how did you determine the curatorial idea and goal for yourself?

Yehor: We were faced with choosing 7 participants as curators: three artists from the Dnipro and four from other regions. The visual art section received the most applications, about 60. Accordingly, Daniil Halkin, Anton Kariuk and Svitlana Sharamok became residents from Dnipro and other cities—Zhenia Korshunov, Daniil Nemyrovskyi, Nastia Svyrydenko, and Olena Dvukhhlavova. It was essential for us to see the interest in the town among the participants. Still, we also wanted the participant’s project to ripen in the residence process so that the idea would change following the context of the city and the environment.

Lucy: We carefully studied each portfolio and paid attention to how close the future resident’s creative method is to us, how “visual” it is, and how open they are to interacting with the environment and teamwork.

Yehor: Gender balance was important. This is how we selected the residents. Each has a different set of tools — one is a painter, another is a graphic artist, someone works with photography, and another works with installation.

The group photo of the participants and curators of the Dnipro residence visual part. Photo courtesy of the Artsvit Gallery.

From this, it follows that in the selection of residents, you were guided by the author’s ability to combine research practice with visual tools, the author’s ability to plasticize his method, and the extent to which the artist can deviate from the usual visual means of expression. As a residence result, can you say who of the participants entered a different visual medium for themselves?

Yehor: We would rather say that all the participants had a different approach to work; it was not the tool that changed but the process to work and ways of representation.

Lucy: The method of the artists has been changed. For example, Zhenia Korshunov, in this project, practically left his usual sarcasm. In addition, Daniil Nemyrovskyi usually works with small-format graphics. Still, he went into a four-meter sheet—he worked with it as with a monumental sketch, also in colour. In the case of Nemyrovskyi, we observed how the artist was looking forward to his work even before its creation. From that, he went into a trance, no longer heard anyone, and experienced a completely new experience for him in the perception of his idea and its implementation.

Daniil Nemyrovskyi, Minimum actions necessary to feel good and survive. Photo courtesy of the Artsvit Gallery.

Yehor: And Sveta Sharamok usually works with linocut and photography separately. And here, she combined the tool with the material and printed her work on a photographed sheet. Layering graphics on a photograph with its unique texture revealed a different reality and layer in her work.

And if we return to the question of your original curatorial idea, how did you introduce residents into the context of the city?

Lucy: We did not set the task for all residents to work with a particular topic.

Yehor: But there was one topic that captivated us—Picturesque Colors of the Dnipro—but for some reason, we refused it (laughs).

Lucy: The idea was to immerse the city’s residents as much as possible in a week. Nevertheless, the task was to create the most comfortable conditions to reflect on their impressions and produce work.

Yehor: Speaking about the program, it consisted of two parts. In the first part, there was a four-day information stuffing. We went through the city’s whole centre, industrial regions, districts, and gateways and visited museums.

And since in the application, Zhenia Korshunov indicated that he would be interested to find out if the Dnipropetrovsk school of painting exists, we devoted a separate day to clarify this issue and for a bit of research. Our whole cheerful company was filled up for gatherings with Aliev-Kovyka, one of the few representatives of the such Dnipro artistic free-thinking. We talked with him about the regional school and tradition.

Lucy: We also discussed our project ideas collectively, talked about our work methods, and developed communication links. It seems to me that it is the collectivity of interaction that is important for participation in group residences. You learn the specifics of each other’s thinking.

Suppose the author speaks about the idea of an unrealized work, and the team gives feedback (and therefore, they somehow influence the final concept). Where is the line between individual and collective artistic practice?

Yehor: When an artist goes to a group rather than a solo residence, this is a necessary experience—getting out of one’s comfort zone. However, if a person is uncomfortable pronouncing their ideas in a collective discussion, no one knocks views out of him with sticks.

Lucy: It was more like a focus group where you tested your idea. Moreover, it has also become an internal challenge and task – not to mentor, not turn into an educational course, since we see the residence as a way of contact, as communication. We did not recruit students; we recruited artists ready for interaction.

Fragment of the Anastasiia Svyrydenko’s installation. Photo courtesy of the Artsvit Gallery
Olena Dvukhhlavova, From Dnepr with love. Photo courtesy of the Artsvit Gallery.

For Yehor, the experience of curating is not new, but you, Lucy, are trying your hand at curating for the first time. What difficulties did you face? Did you feel a different area of responsibility than when you are engaged exclusively in artistic practice?

Lucy: Before the residence started, I was afraid of communication-building difficulties and was concerned that I could unintentionally switch to an informative contact form. Alternatively, if I do not like someone’s work, I cannot control myself, and there is nothing to say. However, my fears were superfluous; everything went very comfortably. I hope that it is valid for all participants.

What about artistic jealousy? After all, you are actively practising artists. Did it happen that in discussing residents’ works, the “hell, why didn’t I come up with this idea” thought arose in your head?

Yehor and Lucy: Hmmm…

Yehor: My artistic receptors at that time were tuned to intra-social, intra-collective work. And even if such an idea occurred to me, I am sure that the implementation of the same idea by various authors will still be completely different.

What about you, Lucy? I am not talking about envy but the alienation of an idea when you feel it is closer to your artistic practice than the author’s because it is difficult for him/her to cope with it. Were there such moral dilemmas in the process?

Lucy: Complex issue. We discussed each specific work a lot, and the results of different authors changed significantly in the process of embodiment. Nevertheless, in the end, I stand in solidarity with every idea and every artistic decision.

Yehor: You know, I am happy that I’m with Lucy in this residence. We managed to mix our two artistic methods. There are no purely my view of the process and Lucy’s. It turned out to be an expanded general field of creative experience. In addition, for us now, this is a different super skill, which we opened for ourselves in this residence.

Lucy: Oooh, this is so pleasant.

Your visual residence was built primarily around exploring the city, but the first section of the place, for example, was also about the city study. Did you feel some tautology in these two sections?

Lucy: The research section of the residence was built on a completely different principle. Alisa Oleva and the residents developed methods for interacting with the city; she brought special tools and equipment that, for example, can enhance the effect of sound interaction. In city studies, residents used similar methods. Our approach was like the flanneurship of an active tourist, which opened up many topic clues.

As native Dnipro residents, what locations or significant points of the city did you consider essential to show to the participants in Dnipro. What new things did you see through the eyes of the residents in this city?

Lucy: If we talk about specific places, these are the factories we got to. This is the metro, in which I was only once in my childhood and did not remember anything: historical Museum, Zoological Museum, Illich Palace, and others.

Fragment from Yevhen Korshunov’s work, Landscape around the Dnipro Art School in the 1980s (from the series Memorial). Photo courtesy of the Artsvit Gallery

Yehor: Your focus changes because of the collective around you and the group interest. I often thought that I was looking at something different than I would look if I were walking alone. Lucy and I never walked so much in this city. We were able to see some of its parts for the first time. The walks were exhausting.

Why do these places define Dnipro because there are factories in other cities, and historical and zoological museums were created in Soviet times according to a specific template? What is unique about Dnipro?

Yehor: It is not about exclusivity. It is about exploring the city’s Landscape.

Lucy: Until 1987, Dnipropetrovsk was a closed city. Anton Kariuk says that he can identify a person from the Dnipro anywhere in the world by his/hers tightness and his/hers own boundaries setting. He did work on this topic, creating an image of an insulating tape from his children’s mirror, which can be crossed by visiting the exhibition. And for us, this topic became a clue that we developed in observations and discussions.

We raised the issue of searching for some Dniprovist, what is the peculiarity of this city. However, a standard view of the city for all has not been worked out.

Yehor: The previously mentioned Zhenia Korshunov wanted to work with the theme of Oleh Holosii in Dnipro. And for this purpose, we asked Leonid Afanasiiovych Antoniuk, Holosii’s teacher at the Dnipro Art College, to walk around the city with us and tell us about specific places, people, and that time in general.

We recorded this walk, and Zhenia painted a large painting for the exhibition called Landscape around the Dnipropetrovsk Art School in the 1980s.

I want to return to the Dnipro school of painting, which includes Holosii with his expressive painting. What did you come to in the process of this exploration? What is the Dnipro school of painting?

Lucy: This is when you grab a significant rag like this; dip it into the palette, run past the canvas, and splat-splat! Whoosh! Moreover, you add a highlight with the final touch… Just kidding, but all this is about a specific painting’s sweeping and expressiveness.

We must first define the concept of what a school is. If this includes the place of a teacher and his students, who have one approach – either more philosophical or more mannered – then we can talk about two Dnipro schools of painting at once. One comes from Leonid Afanasiiovych Antoniuk and the second from Volodymyr Bublyk. These are two creative methods that I can see in their followers.

Yehor: The Dnipropetrovsk school of painting concept appeared from academic discourse. We first heard about a Dnipropetrovsk school, an Odesa school, and a Kharkiv school already at the Kyiv Academy. This is such a purely educational concept.

Yevhen Korshunov, The great Ukrainian artist Oleh Holosiі never lived in this house. However, he may have passed by more than once (from the Memorial series). Photo courtesy of the Artsvit Gallery

It seems to me quite symptomatic for a post-Soviet art history that the Dnipro school in the visual arts of Ukraine is defined precisely through the pictorial tradition. It is also given that reminiscences that could be not only on the Holosii art-centricity but also on the conceptuality of Illia Kabakov.

Lucy: Yes, Kabakov lived in Dnipro for less than ten years in his early childhood, but our city had little influence on his development as an artist, and neither every viewer nor every artistic environment is still ready for conceptualism.

Anyway, the manner of writing recognizes the Dnipro people. For example, at the academy in Kyiv, they say that artists from Dnipro know how to knead the silver scale and masterfully spread it – write broadly, take a spot, and gather colours deliciously. In my opinion, the Dnipro school of painting is about savouring the material, pictorial ambitiousness and eccentricity. But these characteristics apply only to those who follow this particular movement. In addition to the notorious Dnipro school of painting, some quite exciting artists were not taken by this tradition (laughs).

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