Interview with Oksana Tanasiv

Recently I was interviewed by London Marketing Agency Favotell, who promotes emerging artists worldwide. I want to share with you the questions we have discussed.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into art?

1. I am Ukrainian- American contemporary artist, experimenting in a few different styles and personal techniques. 

I was born in a small Ukrainian town on the West of Ukraine. Since my early childhood I was dreaming to become an artist and often used paper pads, notebooks to express my drawing skills. I was inspired by my granddad, a craftsman and art teacher, as well as my dad who inherited excellent artistic skills from his dad. My parents, family members, friends encouraged my talent by multiple compliments and positive comments about my skills.  I remember at that moment I realized, art is something I do very good, and art gives me positive feelings and confidence.

Despite the fact I dedicated my formative years to the education in Psychology and Business, I never lost my wish to paint. I got Bachelor degrees in Science and Business Management, but it equipped me well with knowledge of marketing, science, PR and brand management. It helped me to bring my artist's career to higher level, and work on the branding and promotion of my image as an international contemporary artist.

I immigrated from Ukraine to the USA in 2004 and since then started to develop my professional career as an artist. As an immigrant i faced many problems first years but it didn’t stop my passion to work in art. Since then I created around 300 art works (at the moment of this blog post), and 15 collections exhibiting them in variety of galleries and events.

How did you develop your art skills?

2. I developed my art skills by everyday's painting throughout the years. Challenging yourself by practicing to paint different objects of surrounded world is, probably, one the best way to improve painting skills, on my opinion. I was testing different media (oil, watercolor, acrylic, fabric, Swarovski crystals, epoxy, beads, sequins, clue) and experimented different styles (realistic, surrealistic, pop-art, neo-folk). It was spent thousands of hours, many days and years of practicing in art but I only enjoyed with every single moment and with every single day more and more. I would call myself a self-taught artist because I never attended an art school and never got an education in art. And in this case, also, I have to deeply appreciate my dad and granddad who I inherited my love to art from. 

What was your initial inspiration behind an art work?

 3. My initial inspiration coming from many different sources. I may be inspired by beautiful landscape or flower, by amazing fashion design or celebrity's style, by art of other artists or visiting museums... For example, my biggest collection of Fashion art is a reflection of my passion to fashion; very often I find inspirations in runways by famous brands Galiano, Dior, Versace, Chanel, Valentino, Gucci, Dolce&Gabanna, or in the appearance by Hollywood celebrities. 


But, most important, my inspiration to create art comes from my inner strong emotional reaction on certain things of surrounded world. It's often my personal thoughts, my philosophical opinion on different objects, processes, events taking place in our society including political, economical, or social worlds. It is why I have created many collections that differentiate by object, message, style, and inspiration sources. 

What does "art" mean to you? 

 4. Art to me is a process, my personal way to express myself, my vision of the world, my feelings, thoughts, opinions, philosophy. It's my way to deliver a message and its an "unique voice to be heard" by people not only today, but tomorrow, and in the future. However, a few years ago, while i was going through a very difficult life situation, art was serving me as a healing therapy. It helped me to not lose myself, realize self-importance and to save my life.


The pieces in a Dollar Sign collection are very emotive. What was a motivation behind the collection?

 5.Dollar Art is my vision of social, political, economical world and the relation between people and money. Dollar Art conception is a surreal world where the surrounding objects - steps, chairs, umbrellas, doors, business suits, glasses, trees -are created of dollar bills with purpose to deliver a message about influence of banknotes on person's behavior and brain; to show an interconnection between  corruption and famine, ignorance and war, hardworking and achievement, abuse and protection, gender inequality, political manipulations, and economical issues. 

Can you tell us a bit about the “Code U” collection?

 6. “Code U” is my newest collection of abstract compositions created in neo-folk style. I just started my work on this series, but continue it and very soon going to present new art and installations. 

Before starting my work on “Code U”, i made a research about traditional ethnic compositions, patterns used by Ukrainians in fashion embroidering for many centuries. They have been decorating clothing and household items using geometrical, floral patterns, unique linear and color combinations and this tradition goes back by thousands of years ago.  As I learned, some patterns or symbols hold certain magical meaning. According to historical and ethnographical researches, they positively affecting the life of household, bringing good energy, love, and prosperity into house. I looked at this tradition a different way - from the side of abstract compositions and turned the traditional patterns into neo-folk abstract art. I twisted the antique symbols into abstract modern combinations and “Codes” by using new media and colors.

Besides delivery of energy links, I tried to create unique ethnic, neo-folk art that connects history and culture in lengths of few millenniums. 

Your work has been featured in a variety of notable places such as the New York Times. What would you say is your proudest achievement in your career.

7. Yes, I have many noticeable publications as well as TV interviews. Besides, I have been a featured artist of New York Fashion Week every season since 2012, exhibiting my collections on Times Square Manhattan, Waldorf Astoria, Wall Street and many other venues. But my proudest achievement is being an internationally recognized artist and my collaboration with the galleries not only in the USA, but in Europe and on other continents. So, a few weeks ago I started to work with a Flat Space Gallery based in London and now my art is presented and available for sale in Europe.

Who are your favorite artists? Have they influenced your work?

8. I love Picasso for his extraordinary talent, for his unique ability to work in different styles, techniques, and using different theories and ideas in art. I love Magritte for his mysterious philosophy and thought-provoking messages in art. I love Frida for her unique life story filled with pain and suffering, her role she played in feministic movement. There are many other incredible artists i would like to mention, and everyone of them is a successful life story and source of knowledge, experience for me. They, certainly, influence my art, and help me to build myself as artist, my unique story, position, and vision.

To someone who has never seen your work, how would you describe it?

 9. I would say, my art is an experiment. It’s multiple tests of different techniques, media, materials. It is work with different objects - fashion, celebrities, abstract folk compositions, surrealistic philosophical and political images.  And it is, certainly, experiments with new theories and conceptions. 


For those wanting a career in the arts industry, what would be your advise? 

10. My advise for those who want to be successful in art is never to give up. Be patient, work hard, improve your painting skills, develop more art so people would recognize your style. It is very important to build up your web-site as an effective online source of your artistic creations, your biography, exhibition list, press publications, TV interviews. You, like no one else, suppose to know how to build your brand and deliver it to the galleries and collectors. Good luck!

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

11. Ambitious. Goal-Directed. Emotional.