Inspiration

Imprints of the War: Albina Yaloza’s Digital Linocuts

The Ukrainian artist Albina Yaloza has worked in a linorite technique for many years. After the full-scale invasion, she fled to Lviv with just a graphic tablet in her bag, so she started replicating her linocuts in the form of digital posters, accompanying them with small rhymed texts. This was her way to explain horrendous reality to herself.

The linocut technique originated at the beginning of the XX century, right after linoleum was invented. Unlike woodcut, it allowed artists and etchers to work with bigger formats. The process of creating a linocut begins with drawing a sketch on a piece of paper and copying it to linoleum. After that, an artist uses chisels to cut lines and strokes on the linoleum surface. Then the carved outline of the drawing is covered with paint. An artist places it on a canvas and puts it through a printing press, creating a linorite.

Albina Yaloza

An artist. Finished Kharkiv national art college and Kharkiv national art and design academy, specializing in painting and graphics. Moved to Lviv after the beginning of the full-scale invasion. She has now returned to Kyiv and continued to work.

— The war started on Thursday. And on Wednesday, we came back from our friends’ house with an empty tank. Actually, I insisted on always keeping the tank full, but missed out on checking it that day. So when the full-scale invasion started and our friends urged us to come to Lviv, we knew we had little chance of getting there. But miraculously, we found a working gas station with no queue. “It must be a sign”, we thought and set off.

Once in Lviv, I started calling all my friends and museums, asking them if they needed any volunteer help. But they would all say to me: “We don’t need anything, go on and keep drawing”. It made no sense to me. How could I draw in times like that? But I had a tablet with me, so eventually, I started to doodle. It brought me back to life — when I drew, I could eat.

I started calling all my friends, asking them if they needed any volunteer help. But they would all say to me: “We don’t need anything, go on and keep drawing”.

I want to take military armor off and never put it on
I’m not gone, just looking at the stars
It’s hard to hold on but I won’t give up
Dawn is breaking, sowing is coming
Every time russia deports people, the body aches again
Russia’s atrocities are pinned to memory

I’m not new to digital drawing. I’ve been creating sketches on a tablet since 2019. But my usual technique, linorite, is very different from digital art. I fell in love with linocut a long time ago. I’m always saying that I enjoy piercing and cutting just like Edward Scissors Hands. Linocut is a very concise technique, which at the same time offers room for experimentation. You can come up with printing tricks, swipe printing materials, using clothes, wood, canvases, etc. Canvases are becoming more and more popular among young artists, by the way. They can create bigger illustrations on canvases.

I enjoy piercing and cutting just like Edward Scissors Hands.

It seems to me that linocut, as well as woodcut and etching, are becoming more widespread in Ukraine. There are so many great etchers and artists in Europe — I love watching their work. But I also enjoy the works of Ukrainian artists, for instance, Oleh Hryshchenko. He works brilliantly with lines and spots, creating laconic, playful, and weightless illustrations.

Making a linocut is a laborious process. One wrong move — and you need to start it all over again. It’s not like with oil or digital art, where you can re-paint or re-make everything. You can’t undo the line that went the wrong way. Sometimes, you can even hurt yourself. I remember getting so completely absorbed in the work and then suddenly seeing something red — that would be a deep cut on my hand, which I didn’t even notice. That’s why I always have sanitizer around. But I don’t have a printing press, though. I make imprints by gently walking over them. It facilitates the process greatly and allows me to work almost anywhere.

The Ukrainian Army is winning, uniting people around
My body used to have wings, now it’s wretched by the war
I used to breathe deeply, now I’m shaking all over
I don’t like this rotation, please, protect our nation
Heavy weapons are coming, the victory is coming
The Ukrainian people united together and strangled the enemy

But when I was in Lviv, I didn’t feel like making linocuts. I started creating digital posters instead, using my previous works. For me, it’s easier to come up with a visual image first, and find the right words later. But the process varies a great deal. I enjoy drawing hands. It’s my way of meditating. Sometimes they give me new ideas. That’s how I created images where the hands put on a wedding ring or sow fields with wheat.

I work with topics that mean something to me. But I try to act softly and not to talk blatantly about death — we’ve got enough of that. Take, for example, my drawing with five raped women — I put roses in their mouths instead of gags. It’s not because I wanted to spare the viewers from horrible images. It’s my way of expressing my tenderness and love for the victims of this war and their pain.

I try to act softly and not to talk blatantly about death — we’ve got enough of that.

I have always been interested in the sacred topic and I still am. Now it’s mostly connected to the war. I talk about faith and despair in my works. I think that it is easier to live through the war, having faith in our army, in good, and in God. One of my drawings shows seven hands that hold seven flaming swords. They symbolize seven archangels, who light a fire in our weapons and in the hearts of our defenders. Our war is a holy war, however pompous it sounds.

My heart sinks when I hear thunder
I knew that my heart was on the left side, now it’s beating terribly
Mariupol, Chernihiv, Kharkiv, Kherson, Izium, Sumy, Bucha, Irpin, Vorzel, Hostomel, Vasylivka, Energodar, Borodianka, Volovakha
Air raid sirens go off, pulling me down to the ground
Little angels go to sleep, clutching their hearts
Azov is standing, while death approaches

This work with flames is quite bright, which is unusual for my other military works. Not long before the war, I had this weird craving for color — as though I felt the urge to live faster and brighter. Not it all went quiet. My posters are now colored in yellow and blue sometimes, rarely in red.

Not long before the war, I had this weird craving for color — as though I felt the urge to live faster and brighter.

I don’t think about projects and exhibitions at the moment. I just live on and support my country. I make these illustrations for myself, to unleash and process my emotions. But I still receive invitations to take part in exhibitions, for instance, in the War Poster exhibition at the Ukrainian House. And I say ‘yes’ to them. After all, it’s good to know that there are people out there who feel the same way as I do and who find something important in my work.

Those who enroach on us, should get ready to suffer
We had three days left and a foil wedding ring
How to live peacefully when your heart aches for Ukraine
I’m sleeping, it was just a nightmare

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