Born in Central Asia and now based in Ukraine, Oksana Okhapkina’s work is influenced by both Ukrainian and Asian culture. For more than 20 years she worked as an IT programer, but was always drawn to creativity. Now she fully embraces her art, inspired by her love of traveling.
How has your upbringing influenced you as an artist today?
I was born in Turkmenistan, where nature is both harsh and generous, and this taught me to enjoy amazing colors without halftones. Later I lived in Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, since my dad served as a border guard in the Central Asian border district of the former USSR, so the family moved frequently. In addition, I would spend summer with my grandmother in Ukraine. Everywhere I was struck by the amazing contrast and harmony of very bright colors, simplicity, brevity and the wonderful combination of rhythm, forms of clay items and elements of national clothing. As Antoine de Saint-Exupery said, “We are all from childhood… All adults were children once but only few remember this.” Therefore, all the brightness, saturation of colors, a splash of joy and emotions have come from our childhood. Hence, I try to deliver all this through my work and share it with my audience.
What is an essential item in your artist studio?
Music is an integral part of my studio and any place where I paint whether it is on the street or in the studio. Music makes me feel and plunge into the atmosphere of a particular country, or even an era. For example, when I was painting the cycle “Women of the World”, I listened to the music of the country I was investigating. I was listening to Irish music from slow instrumental melodies to fast fiery dances; while drawing African women, I listened to the sounds of desert, drums and unusual rhythms which helped me to feel and present African motives better; When I was creating the Portugal cycle, of course, the piercing and sensual Portuguese Fadu inspired me so much! I want to say that music sharpens our senses, allows us to learn and touch something that I call folk, national memory.
When I write abstraction, I listen mainly to jazz; amazingly, I have recently leant that jazz is the most inspiring music of New York abstractionists. Also, I listen to both Rap and Pop music, as well as classical one. So you see, I don’t have any special preferences, it’s just depends on my thoughts, ideas, feelings, mood, etc. When I start drawing, the picture dictates the music later itself.
What stories or messages do you wish to tell through your creations?
This is a difficult question and a simple one at the same time. Each picture is a story, first a thought appears, and then it takes a shape. Let’s consider the picture ‘Memory Cells. Travel to Portugal’. There as many as 13 stories are drawn, probably, one day I will write the book of stories on their motives since the illustrations are ready.
It’s a wonder, but almost all my pictures have true to life background. For example, there is a story about Dubai. Once upon a time, my mother made a wish to celebrate her golden wedding in Dubai. She had been living with that dream for many years saving money. And can you imagine how happy she was to make her dream come true?! In 2018 my mother and father, their children and grandchildren flew to Dubai and celebrated Christmas and the parents’ golden wedding there, since they got married on December 28, 1968. It was a fairy tale of 1000 and 1 nights that I read as a child! Having arrived to Dubai and seen a magnificent oasis created by people in the endless deserts, I got speechless! How large and exciting it is! Skyscrapers grow there like mushrooms after the rain. Where there was a desert six months ago, unique buildings are now sparkling. After what I have seen there, everything seems possible. This is how the paintings dedicated to Dubai and the Fairy Tale cast by it were born! I would like to say that you love and dream, and eventually the fairy tale becomes a reality.
What challenges have you found pursuing a creative career? How did you overcome them?
The main problem has been to put the paintings on public display. Actually, there are no many places to do this and it can be very expensive, too. If you participate in any international exhibition, it is costly for me to send a picture to another country. If an artist flies himself, it simplifies the bureaucracy, but it’s often not available for a budding artist.
Now, and especially during a pandemic, there is an opportunity to create virtual exhibitions of your own works yourself. I try to use this chance. For example, thanks to artsteps.com, I managed to show a virtual exhibition of the “Women of the World” series of paintings. Of course, nothing can replace the personal perception of the original, but we live in the wonderful era of new possibilities and challenges. So, why not to test yourself?
What project(s) are you currently working on?
I have a lot of ideas and plans but the overwhelming one is the “Memory Cells” project, which started in March 2020 during the quarantine when the whole world took a break. There were my travel memories that allowed me to start working on this series. I have always been interested in exploring memory markers. Memories are multifaceted: the first kiss, the smile of a baby, the taste of childhood, the smell, which remind us the certain moments in our life.
All these memories, good and bad, make us who we are. That is why we are so afraid of the diagnosis of amnesia. One has only to think for a minute to understand that the processes of memorization and recall rarely occur separately from everything else.
The memory of the child, that we were once, has not disappeared – it is fixed in our souls and minds. By analyzing our memories, we can understand how our past continues to influence us.
Memories help us better understand the present, return our own past and continue our story; they enrich, saturate and advance our personality.
Going in search of memories is like doing a general cleaning of your house. You wipe off the dust, get rid of unnecessary things – and sometimes suddenly you stumble upon a long-lost thing. Latent energy lurks in newfound memories. You just need to learn to accept them and give them meaning!
FRONTRUNNER online forum: @oksanaokhapkina_art