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Interview with Mariia Drachuk by Anne Ulrikke Bak    Every year Lademoen Kunstnerverksteder grants a studio space to a newly graduated artist. At the moment this spot belongs to the Ukraine-Born, Trondheim-based artist Mariia Drachuk. Holding a BA in cultural studies from Kiev, she finished her master’s degree at Trondheim Art Academy last year.  Between Matters Inside and Outside  is her first solo show. With painting as medium, she keeps theoretical focus on New Materialism and the theories of Karen Barad, Donna Haraway, Jane Bennett and Rosi Braidotti. What connects her scholarly interest with her practical approach is mainly attention to material and process. “I try to address the painting as something that is never complete” she explains when Babel catch up with her for an interview. “As something that is always part of the becoming. I examine the materials as a matter of concept, not as a tool. It’s not about me as a creator, using the tool as something passive. There’s no vertical hierarchy between performer and performed; the idea is, that it’s only within our intra-action that we both can fully convey our agency, the materials and I.”  The concepts of intra-action and becoming originate from Karen Barad, her theory on Agential Realism and the denial of strong dichotomies, Drachuk elaborates. “Barad argues that we have to stop placing the observer, in this situation the human actor, in an isolated place, and I agree with her 100 percent” the artist states. “It’s kind of easy to make ecological art that calculates the destructive effects humans cause non-human actors. But first, we have to realise that we’re part of it, not analysing, but  feeling  that we’re also part of this becoming. That we consist of all these different bodies. There’s a quote by Jane Bennett, that ends like this ‘The task at hand is to understand ourselves as walking and talking minerals’. I love that.”  Understanding that we’re all part of the becoming is, in light of today’s bio-political state, a first step towards a better, more responsible behaviour, Mariia Drachuk suggests. Based on the thoughts of New Materialism she discusses the importance of formulating what she explains as a new, sensual approach to responsibility. “Our perception of mind and body as separated entities is one of the reasons we can’t have a horizontal, non-hierarchical positioning. This division makes in a way the human superior. At least subconsciously. Subconsciously, we think only we have this mind, and that it might even be powered by God. We have to understand that the dualities between mind and matter, active and passive, doesn’t make sense. If we manage to change these concepts it will be easier to understand that we’re part of the ecological situation instead of looking at it from the outside.” Asked what she thinks it takes to actually change these concepts she answers: “I guess the thing one can do is to elaborate in projects that focus on this. People tend to start thinking about things when they’ve had them in their face for many, many years. There are still people who think climate change isn’t real. It takes time.”  To challenge the normative composition of things plays an important role in Drachuk’s practice. The complex theories she examines seek to question established thought systems, but within her practical approach is also an aim to break with rigid systems. “I went to a ridiculously conservative art school for ten years, and with conservative I mean really old fashioned” she explains. “I went from I was seven till I was seventeen, three days a week, I was basically living there in my after school hours. The compositions are now so deep within me, they’re almost impossible to hack. Every time I’m in front of just one canvas my biggest problem is to hack this composition of things. But you know, it’s hard to teach an old dog.. Drachuk notes and adds, “I still do it, no matter how hard I try, I still begin from the same point. I can never start painting in the centre, I can’t put my hand in there. I have to start two thirds up or in some kind of compositional part. And then I think ‘no, now it has this compositional structure’, and I put some elements in the middle that will sort of break it. But I can’t start it there, I can’t start in the middle.”  Having until now primarily worked with pastels, Drachuk recently started painting with oil. It’s not a conceptual change, she emphasises, but rather an interest for new materials. Always working on more paintings at a time and with canvases 360 degrees around her, the spacious studio at LKV has provided the room she needs to carry out her work. “It sounds banal, but I really need a big space in order to move in there, to paint all the pieces at once” she notes. She perceives her paintings as connected rather than isolated works. “When I paint, it’s sort of a landscape that builds itself. If I work with only one canvas I will paint a pretty picture, but it will just be a pretty picture. It won’t be interesting. When I have more, it becomes a movement. And that’s important for me in order to break the composition of things.”  If the conventional teachings gave her something she can use in her practice today, she’s not so sure about: “People always say ‘of course it gave you something’. And maybe it gave me a sense of composition, a sense of colour. Understanding of technique, anatomy, those kinds of things. But I think the damage it made was a little bit worse. I don’t think such schools should exist anymore. Maybe for those who are interested in realistic art or hyper-realism or hyper formalistic art, sure. But for someone who tries to go into different directions.. I have a lot of struggles coming from that time” she says. It was soon after Drachuk finished art school she realised that she wanted to do things differently. She had time on her own and made a studio on her balcony. “Finally no one was telling me ‘here is a lack of movement’ or ‘this is way too dirty’ or ‘this colour is way to grey’. I had freedom and energy from not spending all the bloody time in there, and I could discover what it was, that I wanted. At first there were so many trials and I was doing weird things. It took some time to discover what was mine, what was my medium. It took an enormous amount of time actually, and of course it’s something I’m still proceeding with.”  Commenting on what the studio space at Lademoen Kunstnerverksteder has meant to her, she emphasises how especially being a part of a community has been important. Stating that exhibition openings usually makes her want to go home and come back another day for the art, what LKV offers is the possibility of an everyday life with other artists. “The community there is crucial for me, it feels very important to be part of something, not to be excluded. That’s the best thing about LKV. You’re a little unsure about an exhibition or this and that, and then someone will say ‘oh can we pass by now?’. They come to your studio and you get feedback that wasn’t planned. At the end of the day your purpose is to exhibit, and so seeing how people react to your work is amazing.”

Interview with Mariia Drachuk
by Anne Ulrikke Bak

Every year Lademoen Kunstnerverksteder grants a studio space to a newly graduated artist. At the moment this spot belongs to the Ukraine-Born, Trondheim-based artist Mariia Drachuk. Holding a BA in cultural studies from Kiev, she finished her master’s degree at Trondheim Art Academy last year. Between Matters Inside and Outside is her first solo show. With painting as medium, she keeps theoretical focus on New Materialism and the theories of Karen Barad, Donna Haraway, Jane Bennett and Rosi Braidotti. What connects her scholarly interest with her practical approach is mainly attention to material and process. “I try to address the painting as something that is never complete” she explains when Babel catch up with her for an interview. “As something that is always part of the becoming. I examine the materials as a matter of concept, not as a tool. It’s not about me as a creator, using the tool as something passive. There’s no vertical hierarchy between performer and performed; the idea is, that it’s only within our intra-action that we both can fully convey our agency, the materials and I.”

The concepts of intra-action and becoming originate from Karen Barad, her theory on Agential Realism and the denial of strong dichotomies, Drachuk elaborates. “Barad argues that we have to stop placing the observer, in this situation the human actor, in an isolated place, and I agree with her 100 percent” the artist states. “It’s kind of easy to make ecological art that calculates the destructive effects humans cause non-human actors. But first, we have to realise that we’re part of it, not analysing, but feeling that we’re also part of this becoming. That we consist of all these different bodies. There’s a quote by Jane Bennett, that ends like this ‘The task at hand is to understand ourselves as walking and talking minerals’. I love that.”

Understanding that we’re all part of the becoming is, in light of today’s bio-political state, a first step towards a better, more responsible behaviour, Mariia Drachuk suggests. Based on the thoughts of New Materialism she discusses the importance of formulating what she explains as a new, sensual approach to responsibility. “Our perception of mind and body as separated entities is one of the reasons we can’t have a horizontal, non-hierarchical positioning. This division makes in a way the human superior. At least subconsciously. Subconsciously, we think only we have this mind, and that it might even be powered by God. We have to understand that the dualities between mind and matter, active and passive, doesn’t make sense. If we manage to change these concepts it will be easier to understand that we’re part of the ecological situation instead of looking at it from the outside.” Asked what she thinks it takes to actually change these concepts she answers: “I guess the thing one can do is to elaborate in projects that focus on this. People tend to start thinking about things when they’ve had them in their face for many, many years. There are still people who think climate change isn’t real. It takes time.”

To challenge the normative composition of things plays an important role in Drachuk’s practice. The complex theories she examines seek to question established thought systems, but within her practical approach is also an aim to break with rigid systems. “I went to a ridiculously conservative art school for ten years, and with conservative I mean really old fashioned” she explains. “I went from I was seven till I was seventeen, three days a week, I was basically living there in my after school hours. The compositions are now so deep within me, they’re almost impossible to hack. Every time I’m in front of just one canvas my biggest problem is to hack this composition of things. But you know, it’s hard to teach an old dog.. Drachuk notes and adds, “I still do it, no matter how hard I try, I still begin from the same point. I can never start painting in the centre, I can’t put my hand in there. I have to start two thirds up or in some kind of compositional part. And then I think ‘no, now it has this compositional structure’, and I put some elements in the middle that will sort of break it. But I can’t start it there, I can’t start in the middle.”

Having until now primarily worked with pastels, Drachuk recently started painting with oil. It’s not a conceptual change, she emphasises, but rather an interest for new materials. Always working on more paintings at a time and with canvases 360 degrees around her, the spacious studio at LKV has provided the room she needs to carry out her work. “It sounds banal, but I really need a big space in order to move in there, to paint all the pieces at once” she notes. She perceives her paintings as connected rather than isolated works. “When I paint, it’s sort of a landscape that builds itself. If I work with only one canvas I will paint a pretty picture, but it will just be a pretty picture. It won’t be interesting. When I have more, it becomes a movement. And that’s important for me in order to break the composition of things.”

If the conventional teachings gave her something she can use in her practice today, she’s not so sure about: “People always say ‘of course it gave you something’. And maybe it gave me a sense of composition, a sense of colour. Understanding of technique, anatomy, those kinds of things. But I think the damage it made was a little bit worse. I don’t think such schools should exist anymore. Maybe for those who are interested in realistic art or hyper-realism or hyper formalistic art, sure. But for someone who tries to go into different directions.. I have a lot of struggles coming from that time” she says. It was soon after Drachuk finished art school she realised that she wanted to do things differently. She had time on her own and made a studio on her balcony. “Finally no one was telling me ‘here is a lack of movement’ or ‘this is way too dirty’ or ‘this colour is way to grey’. I had freedom and energy from not spending all the bloody time in there, and I could discover what it was, that I wanted. At first there were so many trials and I was doing weird things. It took some time to discover what was mine, what was my medium. It took an enormous amount of time actually, and of course it’s something I’m still proceeding with.”

Commenting on what the studio space at Lademoen Kunstnerverksteder has meant to her, she emphasises how especially being a part of a community has been important. Stating that exhibition openings usually makes her want to go home and come back another day for the art, what LKV offers is the possibility of an everyday life with other artists. “The community there is crucial for me, it feels very important to be part of something, not to be excluded. That’s the best thing about LKV. You’re a little unsure about an exhibition or this and that, and then someone will say ‘oh can we pass by now?’. They come to your studio and you get feedback that wasn’t planned. At the end of the day your purpose is to exhibit, and so seeing how people react to your work is amazing.”

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