BY : ABSTRACT | May 15, 2023
Lviv. Ukraine.
Iryna Maksymova — style formation, war imprint, inspiration, the female body, animals, primitivism, materials experiments
Iryna Maksymova is a Ukrainian artist born and raised in the small town of Kolomyia in western Ukraine. She graduated in graphic design from Lviv Polytechnic National University in 2013. Still, she discovered her true vocation in art in 2020 when she had her first solo exhibition in Lviv.

She expresses her views on the problems of the contemporary world through figurative and naive works that convey the themes that concern her most. She experiments with new forms of visual art and continues developing Ukrainian primitivism techniques in her paintings.

Despite the war in Ukraine, Iryna continues to create in her studio in Lviv, giving viewers her unique perspective on the world and encouraging them to help solve social problems by participating in numerous exhibitions in Ukraine and worldwide.

You are one of the few artists who found your style at the beginning of your artistic way. Your followers didn't even notice the transformation journey of Iryna Maxymova's art.

What is the secret? How did it happen?

Actually, that's not true, and I didn't find my style from the beginning. Unfortunately, I didn't have a chance to devote all my time to art, although I always wanted to be an artist. I suddenly had more time to draw and experiment when I was laid off from my job during the pandemic.

I went through different phases. First, I did a lot of illustrations, and then I transferred them to canvas. Meanwhile, I looked for interesting forms of abstraction. And finally, it all completely captivated me and shaped my future. But to tell the truth, I have always loved the figurative style. When I was 20, I drew Pop Art and wanted to be like Andy Warhol. =)

Was your previous work before the pandemic in any way related to art? What kind of education did you have?

Before the pandemic, I worked as a graphic designer for an IT company, which has something to do with art. You work with different mediums and convey additional messages (usually more market-oriented), but you're still a creator of something new.

I graduated with a bachelor's degree in graphic design, and that education included many hours of drawing, painting, composition, and sculpture. Analyzing it now, the university gave me the necessary base and foundation for further studies.

Education is essential, and it gives you a lot of advantages and skills for the future.
"I want to shout to the world about what is happening now. People must know and remember!"
You work so much, and sometimes it feels like you create several paintings daily. What inspires you to paint so actively?

Yes, I work a lot, but "several paintings daily" it's physically impossible =)

At the moment, I want to create more paintings about the strength of the Ukrainian people, the victory of Ukraine, and the unbending spirit. I want to shout to the world about what is happening now. People must know and remember!

It's a difficult time for all Ukrainians; I feel responsible for my country, and the war makes me work more efficiently.
Have you ever felt burnout when you feel that you have exhausted all the possible ideas?

Sometimes I work like a machine without stopping, but after a few days or weeks like that, I feel burned out, which really scares me. Then I always take a break. Sometimes I can spend days in bed doing nothing. I call them "bed days"; I need them to reset.
"My work, painting, gives me a sense of control and inner relief"
Considering the tragedy the Ukrainian nation is going through, are there any moments that give you energy and make your day happy?

First of all, my family, friends, and my little doggie. They keep me present and give me love, which boosts my energy. Also, my work, painting, gives me a sense of control and inner relief. As well as, selling my work gives me funds to help others, especially our brave Ukrainian soldiers, which brings me the most joy. And the last thing is reading positive news, hoping the war is about to end.
"I often picture women in my paintings...I want them to be free and able to celebrate their unique qualities and contributions... to be seen and supported"
Let's go deeper into your works. What messages do you put into them?

Usually, my works are a reflection of my inner feelings or needs. Because of the war, many of my recent works focus on Ukraine, conveying a message of values, tradition, and belonging that one must have. These works are about brave, bright people who want to protect their homeland, to protect a place where all people can live with dignity and respect and where they can contribute to the common good.

Another subject that touches me profoundly - is animals. I have a dog, whom I love with all my heart, and I transfer this love to all animals. I can't bear to see other animals suffer. I believe that animals deserve to be treated kindly and with respect, and my paintings are meant to reflect that belief. I like to show happy, well-treated animals alongside people who care and have compassion for them, showing the positive impact we can have on each other's lives. Furthermore, I want to inspire others to appreciate and respect the animal world and take action to create a more compassionate and harmonious society for all creatures.

Last but not least, women are an essential topic. I often picture women in my paintings. They are all different and unique. They are all free. I want them to be free and able to celebrate their unique qualities and contributions. I want them to be seen and supported. Their naked bodies represent the vulnerability and openness that women often experience in a world that tends to objectify and sexualize them. This theme challenges the idea that women's bodies should be hidden or covered up, and instead embraces diversity and uniqueness.
Which artists have influenced your work? Can you give us some names?
Maria Prymachenko, Tom Hackney, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Dmytro Moldovanov, Anthony Cudahy, Henri Matisse, Paul Gauguin.
Using recycled fabrics as a canvas forces me to think outside the box and experiment with different techniques and approaches
In addition to painting, you also create textile canvases. Tell us about these works. Is it something of the media variety in your arsenal or something else?
It's a big project for me at the moment. The themes are the same, but the presentation is different. It started as an experiment, and it worked, which makes me very happy in different ways. I feel satisfaction using recycled clothes as a canvas because I can reuse materials that might otherwise end up in landfills. I also enjoy the challenge and creativity of working with non-traditional materials. Using recycled fabrics as a canvas forces me to think outside the box and experiment with different techniques and approaches. Finally, I love the process and the result.
Your studio is based in Lviv, Ukraine. What is it like to make art in a war?

Lviv is located in the western, safer part of Ukraine. But despite this, we still have several air raids a week, and critical infrastructure is regularly shelled. It's scary. Often there is no electricity or water, and it creates problems and inconveniences, so I can't work properly, but for any Ukrainian, such a raid could be a matter of life and death at any time.
Can you share with us your plans? When is the next exhibition?

On May 25th, my solo exhibition will open at Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery in London. Welcome!

There will also be some art fairs and a residency. More details will be soon on my Instagram page.