Since childhood, I have been fascinated by flowers. I remember how, back in the day, my grandmother’s garden was full of flowering plants. I could smell them as I ran by. I will never forget their beauty.
Oksana Vinnichenko is a self-taught Ukrainian artist based in Gdansk, Poland. She discovered her talent only in 2019 and quickly developed a true-to-life painting style in which she showcases an incredible eye for detail. Her floral subjects seem to come alive and almost protrude from the canvas, while an intricate play of light and shadow adds an air of mystery to her works. Highlighting the fragility and delicate uniqueness of each petal, the artist aims to convey the beauty that can be found in nature as well as everyday life.
INTERVIEW WITH THE ARTIST
Q. You started painting relatively recently, what made you decide to delve into this medium?
A. I was very creative since childhood. I was fond of dancing, music, and I loved to do handicrafts, but I was not professionally taught to draw in any academic institution. At one point, I decided to create two abstract paintings to decorate my living room. It felt amazing, the process was so exciting, and after finishing a couple of such paintings it became a relentless passion. Art got me hooked so I started to learn more and more about oil painting techniques, and eventually, it became more than a hobby - it became a purpose.
Q. Would you say that your work encapsulates (childhood) memories to an extent?
A. My childhood memories are very warm and pleasant. I feel like I’ve always tried to see and surround myself with beautiful things. I know that life is not only full of happy moments. I always try to be positive about things. Yes, it sounds naive, but it’s only the way I get inspiration, the desire to create, to keep going and to move on.
Q. What made you deviate from the abstract and pursue hyperrealism?
A. Everything started with two abstract works that I painted for the interior of my dining room. I enjoyed the process so much that I started to experiment. After creating a couple of artworks, I realized I wanted to try something completely different. So, I started to paint flowers. I saw how every new painting got more sophisticated and better than the previous one, which means I am growing as an artist.
Q. What is your background and at what point did you start to consider yourself a professional artist?
A. As an engineering graduate, I was always very attentive to details, shapes, and perspectives. My vision of the subject was deeper than its immediate surface; I was drawn to colours, shades, the beauty in certain details that not everyone notices. As I was starting to develop my painting skills I strived to always get better, to develop this talent, and to not settle for mediocre. From the beginning, it was my dream to create highly realistic art - to make it look like the flowers were coming out of the canvas. And when finally, I could see the beauty of my own paintings, I understood why people are often asking me to teach them to paint flowers - my works already show that I am a professional artist.
Q. How did you manage this rapid artistic development as well as the business aspects that are part of a professional artistic practice?
A. I had a strong desire to become a full-time artist. That’s why I kept on improving as a painter, worked on my social media, and tried to stay active. I knocked on closed doors and wasn’t afraid to be rejected as I know that the path to open these doors is always complex, but if you really love what you’re doing you won’t give up.
Q. In your latest series, you have some pieces in a rather new style for you, that have just one floating single petal as their subject matter. What would you like these works to evoke?
Did you know that every petal, like a fingerprint, is different and unique?
This series of works stems from vivid emotion. The petals themselves are lonely, but they are unique. Every petal is floating in the air. When I created these works, I wanted to make the viewer feel like they were watching a flying petal, supported by an invisible structure.
Q. The single petals look particularly delicate and fragile - do these concepts play a role in your work?
A. Yes, this is the basic concept. My single petals symbolize tenderness and fragility, sincere kindness and love. Every petal is like a soul blossoming in nature. I can share all my happiness in these beautiful particles of nature.
Q. Where does your fascination with elements of nature come from?
A. I was inspired by nature from early childhood. Growing up in a small village I had countless possibilities to encounter nature. I loved collecting herbs and was inspecting the leaves for hours, just taking in all the details.
Q. In many of your pieces there is a strong contrast between light and dark, flower and background. Why do you choose to render your subjects this way, set against a dark background and isolated, as it were, from their environment?
Swelling from tender bud to full bloom, flowers are associated with youth, beauty, and pleasure.
My artworks showcase the tenderness of a flower. I use the black background color to create striking contrast and depth.
Q. As flowers, especially single petals, often only exist for a short moment - do the notions of time and decay play a role for you? Do you try to capture in paint what will inevitably wilt?
A. Yes, I try to capture the beauty of flowers in my paintings. Each petal is unique and inimitable. It’s like a memory you don't want to forget. It’s like a beautiful life moment, which reminds you to live life fully, every single second of every single day.
Q. What impact has pursuing an artistic career had on your life?
A. I started painting during the first weeks of the pandemic. This strange time provided a great chance to start something new that can be done while sitting at home. At the beginning of my journey, I still tried to combine drawing with my main job. Whenever I had some time on my hands, I would spend it drawing. Today, I am a full-time artist. I am happy about the fact that I am on the right path.
Q. You have stated that you create to convey your personal emotions, in what way do you infuse your artworks with these intangible aspects?
A. I'm a very sincere and happy person. When I start to paint - I play my favorite playlist, grab a cup of tasty latte and start humming to the song - and drawing of course. Sunny weather boosts my mood, that’s why you can frequently observe the strong play of summer light and shadow in my paintings. To me, flowers were always a source of feminine energy, elegance, and grace. They are a real-life example of magnetizing beauty and evoke feelings that are bright, elegant, and passionate. That’s why, to me, flowers are a way to project my emotions.
Q. What do you think the key is to being able to create hyperrealistic works with such a level of detail?
A. I believe that the key is the will and desire to get better. I will never stop developing my skills, and new works always pose a new challenge. Sometimes, I stand by the blank canvas and can’t even imagine how to create what I have in my mind, but I don’t allow myself to give up, because I know the first steps are the hardest. Only after taking them, and after looking at those first results, the work will evolve into the biggest pleasure.
Q. Could you describe your artistic process? Do you work from real life, photographs, or memory? How do you go about creating one of your flower works?
A. The process of creation is always long and interesting. You can find dozens of pictures of flowers on my phone. I just love taking pictures of them. I choose the ones that fit my painting out of the best ones and edit them, changing the color, background, and thus already diving into the visualization process. Only after finding the perfect model - I start to paint it.
Q. What, do you think, are challenges facing emerging artists today?
A. Many artists feel that they are not good enough when comparing their work to that of others. While it is very important for artists to learn to appreciate their own work and to not be afraid to show it to the world. You don’t have to fear perfection, because it has no face.
Another challenge is finding inspiration. Sometimes, artists lack inspiration or start to feel burnt out. Finding your target audience can also be challenging for artists. We’re always afraid of not getting the response we want, grappling with expectations that might not be met. Feedback is very important, especially in the early stages of ones career.
Q. Your latest series of works has seen a rather radical development - what led you to start incorporating the picture frame into your paintings?
A. One day I visited my favorite art store and noticed two old vintage frames. They were so beautiful that I could not pass by, so I bought them. The main idea of that day was: “Let’s treat everything as a canvas”, so I painted over these frames too. Now these two paintings live in their forever homes and I’m so happy with the result!
Q. What does it mean to you when the subject matter extends beyond the usual pictorial surface? When the flower almost seems to break free of the frame?
A. Let’s have fun! With that thought I started to create these new artworks. I wanted to create the illusion of a flower coming out of the canvas - to make it more realistic and three dimensional. I think this symbolizes a new trend in my personal growth as an artist.
Q. What would you like to achieve as an artist?
A. Being able to move people intellectually or emotionally with something I’ve made. Seeing that what I’ve done has made someone happy. Providing a new perspective. Living in a world where everything is an idea or possibility for new art. Endlessly being able to learn and grow.
Q: Could you describe your work in three words?
A. Elegant - Tender - Passionate