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Oleksandr Grekhov, illustrator

"I was born in Postdam, and right before Chornobyl, my parents and I moved to Kyiv. All my life, I’ve been living in the Darnitsky district. We moved here and there, but I am back here anyway. I spent my childhood in the blocks of the flats jungle. It was pretty far from the city center, “Osokorky” was the closest metro station, where I got by marshrutka. I don’t feel any particular love for this area. It just happened that I am here, I am used to it, and I’m fine. Sometimes on weekdays, I run away to the Park of Partisan Glory, surrounded only by moms with kids. Barbecue gatherings usually happen on weekends.

Kyiv is like an ex with whom we had a bad breakup. Endless shop signs, massive real estate development, eye-catching ads. Some pleasant moments still exist, you can remember them like the first date, special places, common friends. But it really hurts when you’re looking at the ex. I don’t even know what to love him for today. Maybe with closed eyes only, the annoying text is everywhere around.

I love the city's places and its people, not the city itself.

If I created an illustration about Kyiv — I have unfinished series about balconies btw — I would certainly include the notary signs and the currency exchanges. Can we take everything down and build from scratch?))

I think that the city truly influences the visual aesthetics of people and everything we see and hear. If I were born in Paris, I would create different illustrations. Or maybe I would be eating baguettes instead and just enjoy life. Kyiv truly develops survival skills in its population, in my opinion. We won’t suffer anywhere, as we are used to everything already.

Why do we stop loving the city? We don’t care. People don’t know the city as they don’t explore further than their district and the workplace. We live in small apartments, and people have an intense obsession with their territories - no one thinks more broadly.

People stopped being interested in their neighbors. They don’t care about the condition of the hall between the apartments. Then this attitude gets spread to the streets and the city.

Maybe it also happens because the city is not like a home place for many, as they come here for work. That’s sad.

I have been illustrating for the last four years - for me, it’s about reflections placed on the image, self-expression, for which I got paid as well. More people have been following my work lately, so I somehow got a chance to influence my audience. I want to deliver the meanings.

If there are some smaller social problems and I can help gather a thousand votes to sign a petition to liquidate the Kyiv District Administrative Court, for example, why not? The easiest activism is the lazy one: you just lay on the couch and press the button. That’s why I started reacting to the various social problems with my work more often. I follow all the news channels and constantly watch them. Sometimes I can post a picture on social networks an hour after reading the news. Politics always resonates more in publications because our society is politicized.

To be heard in your creative work, you just need to think. If there is a topic you want to cover, you are on the way to success. You can just create an exciting project - it's good when it sticks. Or you cover a well-known topic in a new way, like my project with portraits of Shevchenko, for example. Now I am entirely focused on Ukraine in my work - one of the few illustrators who is "closed" on his country. I'm interested in working on topics that can be stirred up. It is interesting to "dig" here without going beyond any limits.

I discovered a different Kyiv around eight years ago, being quite an adult already. Before that, I followed the "home - work - home" routine, and then something clicked, and I started exploring the city, walking in the new yards and reading. That's how I found a yard with pheasants near the "Kyivan Rus" cinema and an old wooden church (Macarius Church), where a rabbit lives in the yard, which I sometimes come to feed with carrots. The yard with pheasants has belonged to the current owner's family for 100 years already. Several generations have lived in this house. He is suing the new buildings because they surrounded him, and the house started to crack. And the new buildings sue him as they are disturbed by the roosters signing.

My favorite route for a walk includes the Golden Gate, Reytarska str., Striletska str. around "Kosatka," Lvivska Square, the Academy of Arts.

Tatarka district shows me the city that has been frozen since the 80s and 90s. You can still breathe here, and there is little advertising, relatively less transport, and quiet streets. During the quarantine, my friend and I went to Shchekavytsia, watched movies on a laptop - had movie nights. I do not go to the Maidan. Photos with Pokemon? No, thank you."

Oleksandr Grekhov, illustrator


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