The following is a Musea Artist Spotlight article about Olga Kovtun, a fine artist from Ukraine, written in a Question & Answer style format. We hope you enjoy learning about Olga and will consider joining us for our special LIVE Artist Interview with Olga, October 19 at 12 pm PT, hosted by Curator Shiloh Sophia! Click here to claim your complimentary ticket to the event.
1) What is your “Artist Origin” Story? When did you begin to paint and create, and at what age did you know you were an ‘artist’?
I’ve been drawing since the childhood. My mother is an architect by profession, so I was in touch with the beauty of art since a very young age. I loved drawing near my mom and I was always sure I would be an artist.
It is hard to say when exactly I started to feel like an artist. It is a state of mind for me, a way of life. I guess I’ve always felt like an “artist” but at the same time I understood that I needed to study, and now I continue to improve my skills and grow professionally, I do not stop at what I have achieved.
2) What are some of the key inspirations and influences behind your artwork and style?
I graduated from the National Academy of Fine arts and architecture in Kyiv. I studied in the department of painting, Studio of monumental painting and cathedral culture named after M. Storogenko. Studying icon painting of Byzantine Empire, and baroque was a part of my program. This foundation became an incitement to my future creativity.
I am excited about renaissance art, and Dutch art. I admire Dutch and Ukrainian baroque, but also I love the lightness of impressionists, Monet for example. But for me it’s different arts. While I am working on creation of a icon I am very focused and concentrated, and it becomes almost a meditation for me. The impressionism on the other hand is more about emotional expression, relief of the moment.
'Breath of the Wind' oil on canvas
3) Did you have any special teachers or mentors who supported and encouraged you in your journey to becoming an Artist? What are some key memorable moments in which you felt this person(s) helped you on your creative path?
At each stage of my development as an artist, starting from school, each of my teachers gave me certain bits of knowledge that were important to me at that moment. But of course, I consider Mykola Storozhenko to be my most important teacher. He was my professor at the academy. Artist and a teacher with a capital letter, a famous artist-monumentalist. He taught us first of all how to think, how to see deeper, and look for more. We spent hours in the circle in our workshop listening to his philosophical lectures. All this created a very creative and inspiring atmosphere. I really miss it now. In my fifth year, I felt that all my knowledge just clicked together. It was such a pleasure to work, during that year I made paintings that are emblematic of me. Even now it is interesting for me to look at them. Also, my husband greatly influenced my development as an artist. We finished one workshop, but he earlier. He always helps me, both physically and with advice. And now he is the first and only person whose advice on my art I seek. He and I are always on the same creative wavelength, which is quite rare for artists.
'Birds of Harmony' oil on canvas
4) What role does art play in Ukrainian culture? Has painting in this traditional style supported you in deepening your relationship with your cultural heritage?
I believe that art plays a very important role in Ukrainian culture and history in general. Maybe, at first glance, it doesn’t look like that, but if you think about it and do research it becomes clear. Ukrainian art, traditions, and language have always been threatened, tried to be destroyed, and hidden, which resulted in an inferiority complex imposed on us. But thanks to people whose love for Ukraine was unconditional, our culture was preserved at the cost of many lives. Little has changed in history. Now in the 21st century we are still dying for our independence, our language, and freedom!
My serious fascination with traditions first began with an interest in the Ukrainian icon and took root after a creative trip to the city of Baturyn, the Hetman capital of Ukraine. After this trip, I became interested in the history of the Cossacks and wrote my diploma, “The Intercession”, which is now exhibited in the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine.
'On Skates' oil on canvas
5) What folk art and stories have inspired you the most?
First of all, it is a folk and baroque icon, Ukrainian baroque in architecture, and, of course, Cossack embroidery and folk costume. This is a huge source of inspiration and creative ideas for me.
'Seasons - Spring' oil on canvas
6) How has being a mother impacted your artwork? What do you teach your children about creativity?
I began to value time very much. When a child appears, you ask yourself what did you do with your time before? I will honestly say that combining creativity with motherhood and keeping the household was the most difficult for me. It’s easier now that my daughter is older. I do not teach her deliberately, but she grows up in the creative atmosphere of our family. I take her to exhibitions, she is almost always around and sees how I work, sees the paintings on the walls of our house, sees how I surround myself with beauty, sees how I am constantly collecting flowers. Probably a personal example is the most important thing but I don’t want to impose a profession on her, so I don’t force her to do art. It should be her choice. I just want her to grow up with beauty around her and in her heart.
'Life Tree' oil on canvas
7) What are some of the challenges faced by Ukrainian artists, and how do you feel the current war in Ukraine will shape the art of the Ukrainian people?
Probably everyone has their own personal problems, and among the main and common ones for many are the workshops. It is tough because of the high prices for rent and heating.
The war cannot leave anyone indifferent, many artists are now making projects on the theme of war. Others avoid this topic or it is not so clearly reflected in their work, but it is clear that everyone is in pain. I think that the war will be a huge impetus for the creativity of many Ukrainian artists. These terrible emotions that we felt and continue to feel cannot disappear without a trace. I wish that all this horror would unite us even more. Now art plays a very important role, and not only painting but also music, literature, and theater. All of this will become a manifestation of our feelings, we should never forget about it.
8) What would you like people to know about you as an artist? Any special facts or stories? And what message do you hope to communicate to the world through your artwork?
For me, the main thing is my work and not myself, but it’s nice when people like my paintings and want to know more about me. It is always difficult to talk about myself. In short, in my normal life, I live and work in Kyiv where I haven’t been for half a year. As I already mentioned, I graduated from the National Academy of Arts in Kyiv. I’m a member of the Union of Artists of Ukraine, received a grant from the President of Ukraine for gifted youth, and laureate of the “Kyiv” Art Prize in the field of fine arts named after Serhiy Shyshko, and Honored Artist of Ukraine. I participated in many national and international projects and exhibitions. My works are in private collections of Ukraine, Georgia, Russia, Poland, Germany, France, USA, Iceland, and Spain.
I really want that when people see my work, they feel all the richness, beauty, and diversity of the culture of my Ukraine.
You can learn more about Olga and view her art on Instagram @Kovtun_Olga_Art!