Giant goddess-like figures and hybrid creatures emerge from a colourful patchwork of patterned fabrics and bold lines of stitching. These are the latest works by Ukrainian artist Iryna Maksymova who draws on references from art history and her own imagination to create startlingly original compositions that are imbued with messages of hope and resistance. Pieces, Maksymova’s second solo exhibition with Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery, sees the artist translate her bold painted visions into textiles, using recycled fabrics to create richly textured surfaces that explore weaving as a form of healing and regeneration.
The Resistance of the Arts
Maksymova’s work bears a deep relationship to the land and culture of her home country. The red berries of Kalyna, a flowering tree native to Ukraine, appear throughout her works – hanging off branches, around her figure’s necks or staining their skin – as a symbol of the strength of the Ukrainian people but also as a reminder of the violence of the ongoing war. Her female figures, though nude, are by no means passive; rather they dominate the space in powerful, assertive poses.
In one work, for example, the figure appears with her arms raised brazenly behind her head, while in another she sits with hands on her hips and shoots the viewer a self-assured, sideways glance. Elsewhere, we encounter abstract landscapes in which it’s possible to just glimpse the outline of a horizon and the glowing orb of a rising and setting sun. Bursting with colour, patterns and fluid, shifting forms, these are Maksymova’s visions of the future or as she puts it, ‘a free, independent Ukraine.’
Little Pieces of whats left
Many of the works also depict animals – dolphins, dogs, horses – and hybrid creatures, sometimes as the sole subject of the work or otherwise interacting with the figures. In Little Prices, Maksymova disrupts the typical hierarchy between the animal and human kingdom by envisioning the figure seated in the lap of a giant, red bear-like creature with a golden halo around its head.
Maksymova strongly believes in art as a tool for social and political change, and in the power of intention or put more simply: the idea that our thoughts can materialise into real-world actions. As such, she attempts to infuse each piece she makes with ‘as many positive thoughts as possible.’ In some, the positivity comes through the imagery and colour palette while others also incorporate boldly-lettered messages or ‘mantras’ stitched into the composition.
Written in a combination of Ukrainian and English, these read: ‘freedom’, ‘love’ and ‘strength.’ The soft, tactile quality of the recycled fabrics further adds to the talismanic quality of the work – each piece weaves together stories from the past with hope for the future.