"I painted, attended art clubs, and participated in school performances since I was a kid. My dad loved art: he used to collect old icons, buy paintings of various artists and books on art. We had an extensive book collection at home. One of the most striking artistic impressions for me was a book about the work of Salvador Dali. His style, so bright and expressive, crawled into my subconsciousness. I think this played an essential part in my visual and artistic language formation.
I was born not far from Kyiv, in Bohdanivka town, where my father ran a poultry farm. Then he was transferred to the Iahotyn poultry farm, so we moved to Iahotyn and then to Kyiv later in 1995. We used to live on Sichnevoho Povstannia street (now Ivan Mazepa st) near Arsenalna metro station, there used to be a tram route, and many large trees grew.
In my school years, I loved roller skating. I even was a member of a roller club. The club organizers also started a graffiti school, where I met Oleksii (Aes).
And that's how our tandem journey started, which later became known as Interesni Kazki. We painted graffiti on the streets of the city center, near my university's buildings, and on train cars.
One night, Oleksii and I left the house with paint canisters. We had not yet reached the wall, which we chose beforehand when a police patrol stopped us. At that time, graffiti was a new phenomenon and caused a rather violent reaction among the citizens. There used to be a stereotype that people who paint graffiti look and dress brightly and stand out from the crowd. Therefore, for conspiracy and to blend in the crowd as much as possible, we dressed modestly, like poor students, and walked with a plastic bag with paint in it. I entered the Kyiv Agricultural University for an organization manager specialty and completed four years of study. From the first years, I understood that I would not do this for a living. I never planned to work at an office or anybody else.
In 2004, after winning the graffiti festival in Yalta city, Liosha (short for Oleksii, editor's note) and I found an exciting location in the town. We painted our first "non-graffiti" – a mural of heroes with no font compositions. It was the first mural in Ukraine and throughout the post-Soviet countries.
We are considered muralists of the first wave. Back then, the mural movement (contemporary muralism, exactly as post-graffiti) only originated and became famous thanks to Latin American artists.
The first major exhibition of our works in France was called "Paranoia and Strokes." We thought that the more absurd the plot is, the cooler it would be, so we called our plots paranoia.
There is a stereotypical idea of the artist that he is a dreamer, a philosopher who necessarily puts a deep meaning like "this topic is deeply experienced and suffered by me" into his works. However, all this is marketing and a far-fetched concept. There's one part of our brain responsible for logic and another for creativity, and during the creative process, they do not act together. Not everything has to make sense. I've been studying the nature of this phenomenon all my life. David Lynch best answered this question in one of his interviews and more detail in his book "Catching the Big Fish." In addition to his story, and the practice of transcendental meditation, he describes the nature of the human mind.
The creative process should look like the unconscious state of the stream.
There are certain algorithms where an idea is born, then the next one, and a chain of images flows out of it. I immediately make a sketch in my sketchbook, then duplicate and enlarge it in scale, work out the shape and details, collect the composition from various elements.
The mural boom in Kyiv began after our project with Oleksii: a work of mine on Striletska street and one of his on Velyka Zhytomyrska street. The mural on Striletska is iconic for me. I painted it immediately after the Maidan happenings when the war in Donbas was starting. Back in 2008, we came up with a seven-wall project in Kyiv, and we had a partner ready to support it financially. When we came for permission to implement work to officials, one of the offices said: "If you give me half of the budget, then you will have all the permits." We declined.
Over the next few years, we were invited to work around the world, and we did that because all this time, there was a period of stagnation in Ukraine. Only in 2012, thanks to the curatorship of Oleh Sosnov, I painted a mural in Kyiv in cooperation with a French artist Seth.
A recent story with the Osokorky metro station showed that bureaucracy and corruption remained the main problems of this area.
How can you paint that monstrosity for a good budget (150 thousand euros)? They let money down the drain. But the quality of the work doesn't cost so much. I would paint over half of the murals in Kyiv, but Osokorky is probably my biggest pain today.
Last year I was offered a social project: to paint a mural for a Ukrainian-language lyceum on the liberated territory in Kramatorsk. There is an unwritten law: when you are not paid any money, they don't have the right to influence the sketch. I drew a sketch, but some director, during sketch approval, commented, "What are these Mexican junkies? We need Cossacks." After that, I decided not to work for free anymore. As a result, I painted what I had in mind at a school in Romania, where people were satisfied and happy. For 15 years of my work, I have participated in many social and low-budget projects worldwide.
For a few months a year, Kyiv is one of the best places on earth for me, and for the other few months, it's one of the worst.
Both the best people and the worst live here. It is a city of contrasts. I don't own a car, and I don't need it. I understand that 90 percent of the time, a car would be just parked, and I will think all the time about the way it's parked. I want the city to pay more attention to pedestrians and pedestrian areas. For me, a resident of Kyiv is no different from a resident of another town. First of all, it is a human being. I have friends who used to live in Kyiv and now moved to the States, but they haven't changed in any way, and they've remained the people I knew."
Waone Interesni Kazki, mural artist