Lelya Boriseko is one of the most creative painters around in the recent years. Using mostly traditional method of oil painting on canvas or wood, Lelya’s art involves drawing, animation, mixed media sculpture, installation and digital art. Raised in the 70′s while Ukraine was part of the USSR, Borisenko draws inspirations from folklore fairytales, children book illustrations, imaginative soviet animation films and supernaturally realistic classical painting while also using the western pop culture images that were rare, forbidden and surrounded by mysterious almost religious atmosphere for the soviet children. We talked with Borisenko to find out more about her creative process, growing up in Ukraine, influences and much more.
How did you initially got into art?
I was born in 1973 in Shostka, Ukraine, a republic, which at that time was part of the USSR. For as long as I can remember I have always been drawing, and art has always been natural and necessary for me. I remember an episode from early childhood when I was 3 years old; Dad and I were going home by bus. A sticker with a lion cub near the driver’s cab attracted my attention. I froze, trying to remember his form, his mouth, eyes, and head. I closed my eyes and imagined how I would paint my lion cub on paper. We ran home, from the bus stop. I had to get to a pencils as fast as possible. That was the moment of that I realized my ability to be creative.
Who were your main influences when you started painting?
When I was eleven, I began to study at an art school. I was very lucky to get into a class of with a great painting teacher. She was a wonderful person that really believed in me. She did not only give us lessons in classical painting, but also talked about new trends in contemporary art. She taught us to be liberated and not to be afraid of experimenting. After graduating from the art school, I entered College. I was lucky again; I had excellent teachers in painting and art history.
During my studies, I was inspired by masters of painting such as Rubens, Rembrandt, Repin, Serov. Once I copied one of Repin’s work on my bag and was very pleased with the result, I really liked the portraits of Saskia by Rembrandt. However, my favorite painting was Rubens’ portrait of Helena Fourment. Later I used this image in my painting for the series “The Moved Values”.
After the art college, I studied in the Academy of Arts, where for 6 years I was engaged not only in painting, but also in other types of Arts, in particular easel graphics: engraving, etching, linocut, woodcut etc.
What is the message you’re hoping to convey with your artwork?
The main focus of my work is the internal space and state of a human search for new contemporary images and their interaction with the old values: soul, dreams, longing, love, pain. My art strives to show how valuable our peace is. The fact that without the past, we are nothing. The old images are combined with the realities of our days. Our commitment to practicality and our desire to make our life easier in everything, leads to indifference. We are not surprised any more. We are not surprised even by beautiful art. More simple and practical things surprise us now. The true values always support life and they lead us to freedom and evolution. Knowledge and experience is what gives us the opportunity to freely express our thoughts and emotions. If you have knowledge and skills, you always want to do more and know more. This process is endless. Creativity makes us free and does not allow us to stop, encouraging us to move on.
How do you capture both the realism of the portrait, and surreal quality of the painting all at once? Could you walk us through yourprocess a bit?
Great question. This is a very important and interesting element in what I do. I try to literally combine painting with graphics. However, this combination of different techniques is not an end in itself. An idea is the most important aspect, the method of embodiment is chosen for it. Therefore, the process of creating a work begins with an underpainting and ends with an emphasis on the most important details and accents.
What is your workspace like? Do you have any painting rituals or methods to get you inspired?
My artistic space is my life. This is what happens to me and around me. Looking at my life through art is natural for me. I memorize and record ideas, lights, and colors. I have some rituals: Before work, I’m building up. I sit and think for a long time. Then there comes a time of confidence. I start to prepare the canvas. After I finish and sign the work, I do not touch it again.
Your art has a distinctive style that incorporates a wide variety of influences, themes and techniques. How would you describe your artwork?
I put in my work all my experience, knowledge, skills and interest in what I do, trying to convey this with my own style, which I’m constantly developing. In my work, I often use surrealistic stories, with encrypted images, which are not easy to see sometimes. In addition, I like to introduce flashes of light using an open color palette and the synthesis of graphic elements. Well actually, I prefer to express everything on canvas, and not to do it with words.
In your paintings, you often blend pop-culture references with unexpected and unique elements, how did you first come up with this concept?
I have always had a desire to do something new. My inspirations for work are as diverse as folklore fairytales, children book illustrations, imaginative soviet animation films and supernaturally realistic classical painting but I also use western pop culture images which were rare, forbidden and surrounded by mysterious almost religious atmosphere for the soviet children. I always look for new ideas and methods. This is often a difficult and sometimes painful process. My concept is original technique for original ideas. It is not a spontaneous insight or discovery. This is all my experience, knowledge and daily work. But it’s always cool, because I’m doing the thing that I love doing! And that’s what matters!
How has living in Ukraine and Russia shaped you as an artist?
I moved to Moscow in 2001. I was definitely inspired by living in Ukraine and Russia. In addition, I would like to note the impact on me as an artist of such countries as England, Germany, Italy, Holland, Austria, China, and Taiwan where I happened to stay and work. I feel connected with the world and it gives me additional opportunities and prospects.
Any upcoming projects, curatorial or personal work you’re looking forward to?
I have a great desire to create and realize myself. I work with pleasure and enthusiasm every day. This is not only painting, but also graphics, illustration, sculpture. New projects, new faces, new countries – that’s what motivate me.
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