Friday, September 5, 2014

In Conversation: Stanislava Pinchuk (MISO)

Stanislava Pinchuk works in Melbourne and Tokyo, and is somewhat of an itinerant artist, moving from place to place while maintaining a prolific output of work. Her artworks have been bought up by the NGV and the National Gallery of Australia, and she has recently tattooed fellow artists Del Kathryn Barton and Miranda Skoczek, among others. Stanislava is well known to those in the Melbourne art scene, and to street art aficionados, as MISO - purveyor of finely crafted paper paste-ups. Quietly spoken and diligently productive, Stanislava makes work that is both light and heavy in equal measure.

Generously taking time out from her work, and conducting the interview across both Melbourne and Tokyo, Stanislava opens up about the ideas in her work, the terrain she covers and the nature of her labour.

Stanislava Pinchuk in her studio_photo by Alex Mitchell
THG: Your work is incredibly delicate, with its hundreds of tiny little holes in paper making up the imagery.  And yet, at counterpoint to that is the sheer weight of geography present in your work - mountains, pathways taken by protesters in Kiev. What led you to this way of working with paper, to this method of drawing?

Stanislava Pinchuk: Well, anything pedantic, time consuming and difficult… I’m there! I've been wondering lately why I’m drawn to any medium that takes it out of me. I suppose it’s just something in my character, but I also really love works that have really been lived with, you can tell they've taken up the artist’s life while they've been created.

I like the subtlety of the process, the aesthetic - it feels really considerate to me. Basically, just paring back, paring back until you get to the bare minimum of what you need to make an impression on a surface.… also, maybe I’m just afraid of my own shadow!

Stanislava Pinchuk, Mountain (Tokyo Forming) 1 (left) and (right) (2014)
THG: We've also got a series of polaroid photographs in this exhibition, taken of tattoos that you have given people. There’s a connection with the pin-prick drawings in the process there, as you use a stick and poke technique for your tattooing. And a simplicity, as you mention, in imparting something really significant to that person with a minimum of expression. How do you see your tattooing in relation to your drawings, and the relationship with the personal nature of tattoos and the public nature of ‘gallery’ works?

Stanislava Pinchuk: This is what I really, really love about the process. For me, both are hammered - dot by dot. Working on paper is incredibly physically demanding for me, whereas tattooing is a little more painful for the subject - ! So they are both very much about the tension between physical pain in creating something beautiful.

I think the reference point for me has been historically considered “womens’ work”; things like embroidery and lace-making, that are so subtle and beautiful, but are incredibly technical and require incredible physical stamina to make. They look effortless, and I think they are often dismissed as being decorative, a bit vain. But I really do love the tension of those objects and that history - that’s something I really hope my work carries.

And that’s exactly what I see with tattooing. In most cultures that ritually practice tattooing, like Moroccan Berbers for example - it’s considered “women’s work”, and it really is women tattooing other women within the community. While it carries the decorative extension of their jewellery and textile work, it’s also a huge rite of passage - the way people see themselves and their bodies within bigger belief systems and their community. Especially with the Berbers, so much is putting the landscape, the future, aspiration and superstition back onto the body. Also, the physical pain aspect is really up there!

Stanislava Pinchuk, Karlee_Highline (2013)
So both mediums are for me about putting more contemporary ideas, very different content, my own mapping - into something that’s valued as decorative, and a nice nod to the history of “women’s work”, that really particular delicacy and aesthetic.

What I also love is the difference between the two mediums. The paper work is archival, and will have a long time after me - it will travel between museums, countries, homes. It’ll stay in the world, it has a public life, which is such a cool thing. I’m so grateful to have that.  But the tattooing is a lot more private - it’s carried with the owner, they live attached to the artwork, and then it’s over. And that’s such a nice contrast to me.

It’s also becoming a way to give my friends really nice artworks, who couldn't always afford the paper works - so it’s something created especially with them. It’s a very cool way to make artwork, to have a bunch of drinks and meet halfway with someone and have them live with it. It’s not something collectors want, you know?! It’s really putting your money where your mouth is! Whereas the studio work, that’s really just mine - it’s not compromised by anyone else’s input. So it’s a really nice balance that I have in my life lately, I feel like both challenge me so much and make me think, but for different reasons - and bits of both end up crossing over. Maybe the contrast keeps me sane! I think I’d feel a bit crazy if I had to do just one thing.

THG: Your work integrates the human with the landscape in a very beautiful way. How do you see the relationship between humans and their environment, are we just another element in a big soup of the universe?

Stanislava Pinchuk: Yes, totally a speck of dust! But I am really interested in the way we navigate and ingest experience in cities, and the blocks of memory we create. Like a mix of emotional and city landscape.

Stanislava Pinchuk, Mountain (Tokyo Forming) 2 (2014), detail

The last five years or so, I’ve been a bit displaced and travel for a really good majority of the year. I’m not home much at all, and kind of between two cities - so it’s been on my mind a lot, something I’m constantly getting thrown into the mix of. And sometimes it can be really wonderful - it really suits me, but sometimes it can be really difficult. But it’s been really good to sit down and map everything, geographically and emotionally, and digest it all in my work. Above all, I’m just really fascinated at how we attribute huge meaning to cities, from incredibly particular and hazy memory blocks, and very particular and niche experiences that are unique to us, as part of the city - to a bigger idea of the place.

So I suppose that’s the ‘psychogeography’ of it. But more particularly with the last works I made - one of which is in your show, I have begun mapping a bigger landscape. The big white galaxy - it’s actually a map of all reported and documented instances of violence in the Maidan during the protests that led to the Ukrainian civil war. It was made between January and May of this year, updated every day from the BBC and Guardian live coverage, all possible video and news reports. So every day, another few dots in the right place - some days, too many dots.

Being Ukrainian - and particularly, from the East, it’s been incredibly difficult seeing civil war in my home - and given the time difference Melbourne and Tokyo have, this year I've been waking up pretty much every morning to bad news, text messages, new reports. And every morning, it’s been the first thing I've done, is to add to these maps. So it’s been on my mind every morning, it’s how I've started my day. Really angry, really sad. But I still wanted them to be really beautiful to look at, but to also explain, more poetically, about what civil war and militias forming might look like. So these are the layers of the landscape for me, lately - a personal psychogeography, a public psychogeography, a feeling of distance, and still wanting to make something really beautiful to communicate a very ugly and sad thing.

Stanislava Pinchuk, Galaxy (Aerial map of violence in the Maidan) (2014), detail
THG: Your practice has navigated some interesting terrain in its own right, from paste-ups around Melbourne to commissions for Chanel and recently you’ve had your art acquired by the National Gallery of Australian and the National Gallery of Victoria. How do you find dealing with these different aspects to your work?

Stanislava Pinchuk: To be honest - it’s not something I really think about. But it’s something other people always ask me about. I really just love making. I’m such an avid fan of anything creative, and am interested in so many disparate things and just follow my feet with what feels right, for my ideas at the time. The right medium for the right idea. So it’s all a part of me and the bigger ideas that I’m interested in.

And I really love making different things for different audiences, making those cross overs - it’s such a cool thing to be able to do, and it gives me so much inspiration. Working with fashion and architecture has inspired my art work more than anything, to be honest. The restraint, pattern and plan making in creating even the most basic structural form, the intense consideration and precision - it really changed and still inspires how I work.
So I don’t like to be a ‘purist’ about art - I think it makes you miss out on a lot, culturally.  I think that mentality is still really pervasive in the fine art world, and to be honest, it seems really counter-productive and a bit embarrassing to me.

THG: Your studio is right in the heart of Melbourne, with views down over the main arterial street of the CBD - Swanston Street. And you’re inside a building with a great history of creative studios. How do you find being in that environment influences your work, whether it’s the processes or outcomes of it?

Stanislava Pinchuk: I really love The Nicholas - I feel really lucky to have found such a great space there, with so much light. I love being in there, and I love the community in the building - it’s such a special place.  And some of the friends I’ve made that are also tenants… we’ve begun working together, which is really cool.  But I don’t think it really influences the content of my own work particularly. I can work anywhere, really! 

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