22 Mar Ilia Chychkan: “What I do is always schizophrenic”


One of the most famous Ukrainian artists likes making jokes and sudden performances. As he kept working on a new painting, he told us of how not serious he was.

Ilia, usually you go somewhere warm for the winter. So why did you stay in Kyiv this year?

The mild weather encouraged us to stay. This winter was as warm as in Western Europe. But when it got colder, we wanted to go away. You see, Masha and I got used to traveling in winter, we have a kind of immunity and just need to be in a warm place. When six years in a row you spend winter in another climatic zone, you begin to hibernate when it gets cold.

Most Ukrainian collectors have a couple of Chychkan-Shubina paintings, don’t they? And usually they hang these pieces in the middle of interior. It means that your artwork is highly appreciated, so it’s a certain responsibility. Is it hard for you to deliver expectations?

I don’t take my art seriously at all. I’m not a self-centered dude obsessed with own significance. What I do is always schizophrenic, and you don’t treat schizophrenics seriously, do you? Thank God I haven’t ever worked on my image. On the contrary, it’s getting easier for me [to be myself – ArtInUkraine].

Glamour party planners say it’s enough to invite Ilia Chychkan to make an event successful…

It’s true. Sometimes it crosses my mind that I chose the wrong way to make a living. You see, there are many dull people around that can’t entertain themselves. But why would I let myself get bored if I go out?

Your studio is situated at Vozdvyzhenka. Do you like Old Kyiv?

Yes, I do like Podil neighborhood. We live just next to my studio. Vozdvyzhenka is beautiful. It’s right in the city center, but it’s very quiet here. You must have noticed that there’s not a single bus stop around. You will find here quite a decent fellows, or just very emotional if not decent.

What do you think of artists and musicians that exchange art for politics? Have you ever considered becoming a politician?

I think that many of them regret such a quick decision. Even Sviatoslav Vakarchuk probably realizes now that it’s better not to butt into politics. Though, rumor has it that he’s working on his political skills in the USA now. Maybe he just decided to try it another way. And I am not a politician. I have no idea what they actually do. I can’t even properly pay my electricity bill. I just don’t want to be another freak of Ukrainian politics.

Has art already turned into something ordinary for you? Do you still have passion for it?

Brushwork is quite meditative, if we speak about painting. And considering art a conceptual life project – well, yes, the madness has dimmed a little.

Do you consider taking on an apprentice?

No! I don’t get along with people. Especially since being a master is a huge responsibility. I don’t take myself seriously as an artist, so how can I impose something on other person? I haven’t yet drawn my own conclusions about art. So I’d rather reflect on it, work at self-improvement.

So don’t you even want an assistant or a journeyman?

Of course, slave labor seems very appealing to me. But I can hardly accept even having a cleaning lady… I try to clean up a little before her visits, just for my conscience’ sake. Exploiting other people is not what I truly want, but what I can’t do without.

In your opinion, does the constant lack of money, especially with young artists, decrease creativity?

It’s not that tragic. Of course, when the price of a tube of paint is 160 UAH, it’s hard to be a young artist. But this situation is a challenge, i.e. one can look for an alternative. For example, one may work with wood, paint on sheets, or create new media.

But there’s another problem – an artist must be demanded. He/she can’t create only “for the desk drawer”!

If an artist keeps creating “for the desk drawer”, it means that he/she is a good artist! Such long-term groundwork may help you with tracing own evolution.

Do you have any ideas about the development of Ukrainian art market, of improving the gallery standards?

It’s a big problem of our art field. There’re some decent projects, but all in all, they are not full-fledged galleries that work with an artist, promote and sell his/her pieces and get 50% commission, issue catalogues and take an artist to various events… In Ukraine it’s not like that. There are institutions that re-sell artworks. But it’s some kind of profanation.

Speaking of other sides of life outside art, what books do you read, what films do you watch?

I’ve recently read a book written by Begbeder, and we take a Miller’s book everywhere with us. TV series have become popular again, but we don’t quite get them. I like something light, British – for example, about the Abbey. Lately I happened to watch a 1974 Bertrand Blier film “Going Places”. It’s an excellent film. You definitely should watch it. I like re-watching old films sometimes. Of the latest, Paolo Sorrentino’s “Youth” is also very good. I used to be a “Star Wars” fan, but this franchise turned into a harsh commerce. “Star Wars” used to have a charm, own philosophy and aesthetics, it used to be more than simple entertainment – it was a dramatic saga.

As to exhibiting abroad, do you have any plans for displaying your works in Europe or the USA?

Of course, I do have such plans. We used to exhibit abroad all the time. Now it’s not that often. I want to do something funny, enjoyable for myself. And I won’t even care if people don’t like it. With the passage of time many things turn into conventionalities, but I’m not the one who follows them.

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