My family left Kiev to come to the U.S. when I was only 5 years old. I remember seeing old photos and hearing fond recollections of my parent’s childhoods wandering the city’s various neighborhoods. It’s a place I’ve always wanted to come back to and I finally had the chance shortly after I moved to Europe in 2012.
Since then, I’ve been back two more times. I always find myself wandering through my favorite places – the Podol neighborhood, the Volodymyrska Hill park, and Andriyivskyy Descent. The one thing that all of these places have in common is that they are filled with street art and with local artists displaying and selling their works. I always purchase a piece to take home with me whenever I visit.
When the concept of R. Culturi was starting to crystallize, I remembered the various artists I had come across in Kiev – and that’s where I wanted to concentrate our initial search. This led us to the brilliantly talented Ksenia Selianko. Her vivid, dream-like paintings speak of her passion for and attentiveness to beauty in the world around her. Every work is a personal experience captured with a paintbrush. The final result of our collaboration became the Wave of Modernity scarf, done entirely in watercolor on canvas.
I have a hard time using words to describe Ksenia’s work so I wanted to share this interview to better acquaint you with her work and her inspiration.
“In the creation of this design, I was inspired by the style of Art Nouveau with its natural, curved lines and ornate rhythm. The emphasis of this movement was to celebrate individuality and dynamism all the while maintaining a recognizable grace.”
– Ksenia Selianko
Why did you decide to pursue a career in art? Why did you choose to be an artist?
This wasn’t a specific decision. I’m told I’ve always loved to draw. Watercolor also chose me by itself. Regardless of how many techniques I’ve tried, I always come back to watercolor. Most likely I made the conscious decision to do what brings me the most joy and what I’m best at, and to focus my time and energy on this.
How would you describe your style/direction?
‘Pure’ watercolor interests me most – the wet, washed English Method, its softness of contours and brightness of colors. I like the speed of watercolor. It doesn’t require the long preparation time of other techniques such as oil painting. Thus, I’m able to quickly capture a first impression or emotion, which is very important to me. If I had to name my style I would call it watercolor impressionism.
What inspires your work?
This might not be the expected answer but my inspiration is the whole world’s inspiration – life itself. Scenes and subjects often develop from things I may accidentally see, hear, or experience. Whether it’s a combination of colors or textures, interesting silhouettes and shadows, or part of a spoken phrase, everything can become an initial stimulation or idea. It’s important not to delay inspiration for later. Emotions fade with time and it’s difficult to bring back the brilliance of a first impression.
What other artists, current or past, have been your biggest influences?
There are many such people. In terms of modern watercolor artists, I very much like, and am influenced by, the works of Atanas Matsoureff, Elena Bazanova, and Lev Kaplan. However, tomorrow I would probably name other names. I’m inspired and influenced not only by painting. The list of my biggest influences is extensive and contains many categories of art – architecture, photography, music, cinema, literature. It’s best not to limit yourself to only your own field. By and large, all art speaks about the same idea.
Can you describe the brightest moment of your life or career thus far?
For me, each project is special, especially right at the beginning. When you have nothing but an idea, this idea burns inside of you and you envision a lot of interesting work. Then gradually the idea crystallizes, takes shape, and turns into a finished object of the material world – a picture or a handkerchief, for example. This is also a wonderful and exciting moment – to see the end result and people’s reaction to it. Every new project is remarkable.
Tell us about your personal goals and/or professional plans.
Speaking about plans isn’t particularly interesting. It’s better to show results. My plans, I think, are like everyone else’s – continue to search, try, grow, and draw!
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
When you do what you love then there is no such thing as “free time”. Everything is somehow intertwined with drawing and creating. When I’m not making works for a particular, commercial purpose, I like to draw for myself. I try new subjects and work on my technique. I like to wander city streets, most often those of my native Kiev, look at buildings, and make architectural sketches. Every building has its own story, real or fictional. I like to retell them on paper with vivid watercolor spots and brush strokes.
What are the most interesting, or your personal favorite, places in Kiev? Tell us about them.
I love walking around the historic parts of Kiev with my paints, brushes, and paper – Podol, Pechersk, Saksahanskoho Street, Taras Shevchenko Boulevard. There is a lot of old and beautiful architecture. I especially love the architectural work of Gorodetsky, which can be found throughout the city – St. Nicholas Roman Catholic Cathedral, House with Chimaeras, and the Karaite Kenesa of Kiev.
What do you like best about Kiev?
I like the diversity of Kiev, because this represents its openness and receptiveness to the best aspects of other cultures. Perhaps this is typical of all cities, but since I am a Kievan I notice it especially clearly here.
What does it mean to be an artist in Kiev?
Being an artist in Kiev is wonderful. It means not only living in an amazing, historically and culturally rich city, but also having the opportunity to show this city to others and being, in some way, part of its culture and history. This is an immense source of motivation and inspiration.
What, in your opinion, does it mean to be a resident of Kiev?
Being a resident of Kiev means helping to shape its story everyday. Some Kievans were born here, some consciously chose the city, but we must all be united by a common desire to make it better – cleaner, greener, and more cultured. The appearance and perception of our city depends on each one of us. I would very much like if tourists want to not only visit Kiev but also to live here, even if only in their dreams.