Wake Up, the War Has Begun: Naïve Art by Anastasia Nekypila
A Ukrainian artist and photographer. She went to the Academy of Fine Arts in Kraków and took a graphics class. Her artwork was exhibited in the US, Italy, Poland and Ukraine.
— As it was for many Ukrainians, my February 24 morning started with a phrase of my close ones, ‘Wake up, the war has begun’. Then all was kind of a blur. I was in Kremenchuk, my hometown, it was quiet there for the first few days, but we decided to leave for Poland. My teacher from the Kraków Academy of Arts offered me to live with her straightaway. Now my mother and aunt stay in Kraków, and my father and grandmother stay in Kremenchuk. My sister and I are in England.
Up till 2014 I had been sure that the russians are our brotherly nation and a very similar one to the Ukrainians. While at school, I deemed the Ukrainian literature to be boring and way too negative to identify myself with its heroes. I wasn’t aware of the context of this centuries-old issue at all. I was even ashamed to say I was Ukrainian. Perhaps because the image of a Ukrainian woman was associated with poverty, constant suffering and the village. I was not interested in the history of Ukraine, and my art and attitude towards the world was “outside of politics”.
I experimented with my style a lot. Inspired by Gustav Klimt and Andy Warhol, I depicted fictional characters, abstractions, nudes, pop art, and fantasized about creating illustrations for Vogue. I was a teenager, and for me, there was a pure rebellion without any idea.
I was not interested in the history of Ukraine, and my art and attitude towards the world was “outside of politics”.
Everything changed in 2014 – that was the first time I realized who the Ukrainians are and what they are capable of for the sake of their country and freedom. A friend of our family, Ihor Serdyuk, died during the Maidan, and after I found out about his death and the annexation of Crimea, I painted several works in the “Art of the Maidan” series. After 2014, I stopped painting for about five years. It seemed I would not be able to create anything better than that.
While studying at the Kraków Academy of Arts, I became interested in photography. There I was taught about project thinking, that is, how to be very attentive and to observe. I discovered that stories can be told not only by people, but also with the objects that surround us.
Like a child, I have started to learn the world anew. Photography interests me in terms of doing typological projects, analysing and researching human behaviour through the visual anthropology, storytelling via objects, adding interviews and videos to it, and making photo books.
I returned to drawing first in digital format: this way I was less afraid of making a mistake and could see that I was still creating something important. In 2021, I became interested in art therapy and art coaching, which helped me finally get rid of an artist’s block. I invented the technique of art meditation, which involves a person drawing his self-portrait with eyes closed, and me helping him to do so. Then we decode and go over the pain through art.
I returned to drawing first in digital format: this way I was less afraid of making a mistake and could see that I was still creating something important.
In my new works, I let myself be a child and merely create. I became interested in Ukraine, its culture, history, struggles and life of the Ukrainian people in general. This is how the “Ukrainian Naive Soul” series of works was produced.
I was inspired both by individual artists — Maria Prymachenko, Masha Reva, Nadia Shapoval, Iryna Maksimova — as well as naive street art, “Housing Department art” [in post-soviet countries, there is a tradition to decorate the streets around building with tyres, glass bottles, soft toys etc. – translator’s note]. I liked to walk through the yards in cities and notice in what an unusual way people decorate them, their houses, entrances. These walks were sometimes more interesting than going to a modern art gallery. Unconscious art is the most incredible manifestation of creativity for me. Now I do everything possible to reach out to my inner child. It is in it that pure creativity is hidden, the one without fear of making mistakes, without the urge to please someone, without knowledge on “how to draw correctly”.
My art is my dialogue with the world. I believe that every artist should have a clear stance and create within the context of key events and never be “out of politics”. I also believe that the process of contemplation has a healing effect in itself. Art always interacts with the unconscious, it can be disgusting, painful or, on the contrary, pleasant. It is always a therapeutic experience for both the artist and the viewer.
Art always interacts with the unconscious, it can be disgusting, painful or, on the contrary, pleasant.
After February 24, my works started lacking colours, lightness, and naivety. Works from the series “Wake up, the war has begun” became a way to cope with the daily pain and grief.
For example, the paintings “Children get everything best” and “Military object” were created in response to my impotence and rage at the absurdity of russian propaganda. Their missiles kill innocent civilians and children, and they continue to call it all “military facilities”. I can’t accurately describe my emotions, but as an artist I can show how inappropriate, senseless and painful what is happening looks like. And I drew ‘From Ukraine to Nowhere’ when I read a story about some people leaving Mariupol by car. The russian military at the checkpoint gave the Ukrainian family 40 seconds to leave the city. Just for fun, they were told, “I’ll count to forty and then shoot”. They couldn’t make it. But the family survived: grandmother, grandfather, father, mother, son, and daughter.
I can’t accurately describe my emotions, but as an artist I can show how inappropriate, senseless and painful what is happening looks like.
Art has not yet turned to be my main source of income, but I finally realized that it is possible. I recently started selling my NFTs and getting paid for publications in media and participating in exhibitions.
I became interested in the topic of NFT at the end of 2021. I just wanted to try a new format, and there was a lot of hype about “quick cash”. But when I dived into this topic and became part of the NFT community, I was pleasantly surprised. After Facebook and Instagram, the NFT community on Twitter is a breath of fresh air. I also ruined the myth of “quick cash” for myself, because easy earning can only appear after the daily work on your personal brand, close communication with the audience and collectors.