One to Watch

The Wild and Wonderful Paintings of Iryna Maksymova

Ukrainian artist Iryna Maksymova has always used painting as a vehicle for self-expression, but she began her practice in earnest during the isolation of COVID-19. In a short but concentrated period of time, she has developed a distinct style and lexicon of symbols that transport viewers to whimsical, playful, at times satirical and magical worlds that comment on our own. Guided by her thoughts and feelings in the moment, Iryna hashes out matters ranging from feminism to animal rights on the canvas, yielding characters and visual narratives that are expressive, honest, and relatable.

In 2021 alone, Iryna has participated in solo and group exhibitions in Kyiv, Berlin, and Los Angeles. Her work is held in private collections across the US, Europe, and Australia.

Tell us about who you are and what you do. What’s your background?

My name is Iryna Maksymova. I am an artist from Ukraine currently working in Lviv city. I studied graphic design, but all my life I have reached out for expressing my thoughts on the canvas. 

What does your work aim to say? What are the major themes you pursue in your work? 

My paintings are my thoughts, experiences, positive or negative emotions. Each work is a manifestation of my feelings controlling me at that moment, that captivate my brain and create plots in my head.

I am very concerned about feminism and sexism. In my own experience I repeatedly feel injustice, inferiority, and negligence of women’s words. Eve’s apple  reflects the idea that a modern woman does not need … to agree to less. It is about fighting inferiority. We are able to conquer any “dinosaur” on the planet.

Can you walk us through your process for creating a work from beginning to end?

My processes of creating paintings always differ. Usually the scheme is as follows: First of all, I take my sketchbook and create brisk sketches of stories on a particular topic. The number of sketches does not matter. When I get the result I need, I just feel it. Then I transfer the idea on the canvas. I never copy my sketch a hundred-per-cent, I always add or remove some details. When creating canvases, the idea can grow, complement, develop and migrate to completely new and unexpected scales. 

Sometimes it happens that I paint only driven by my feelings, without any sketches, on the spot. I love this impulse very much, but it does not happen often. 

Who are your biggest influences and why?

The World itself has the greatest influence on me. Why is that? Because everything that happens in the World makes me think, feel, experience, and therefore create.

Are there any particular artists, art movements or visual traditions that influence your work?

I can’t really say that I am under the influence of any specific artists. I am affected by the World and everything that is going on around. People’s moods and life situations influence my art. Nowadays, we all have unlimited access to hundreds, thousands of surpassing artists with their unique styles. No doubt that keeping watching over other artists has also had an impact on me.

How do you hope viewers respond to your works? What do you want them to feel?

Each of my works reflects my senses, emotions and ideas. Sometimes they are positive, sometimes negative. Some of them are very frisky or vice versa, very sad. I hope my characters have enough strength to pass along my messages. I really want my whimsical, sometime frightening beasts to ask people a question. I want every person who sees them to have the opportunity to find their own meaning. 

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About the Author

Bethany Fincher is a curator at Saatchi Art. Need help finding art? Contact her via our free Art Advisory service at saatchiart.com/artadvisory.