My letters to the future. Olesya Dzhurayeva, 2021

My linocuts are my personal visual diary. In a no-rush manner and alone with myself, I concentrate on the world around to later have my works reflect the emotions generated by just one experienced moment. I always lacked patience and words to write or speak. It is much easier and more meaningful to “speak” with visual images: art is my medium to share my feelings and my vision.

What vision do I mean? I look closely at seemingly ordinary things. Previously, those were still-lives, various everyday life stories I used to see at home, in my studio or at my friends’. Later, I turned my preference towards urban landscapes and people’s living in cities. I also looked closely at various textures of nature: from the skies looking through the tree crowns to the floating and fancy outlines of the clouds.

To catch the necessary moment, I need to fix it on the photo. In just a second, the light will definitely change, people will continue to go their ways, and vehicles will keep moving in a loud traffic stream. But the unique moment I was excited about will remain on the photo. This is what gives the start to my creation process: I catch a specific emotion, which I am going to work with for a very long time and very slowly — sometimes for 3-4 months.

In fact, all this time, I am living just this one moment. I sit in my studio for hours, thinking about this one moment, trying to understand my feelings from what I have experienced with this moment. Finally, I get so much close with this moment that I fall in love with it, perceive it in detail — and bring it into a carving. Even though this work is very scrupulous, I do not try to be a perfectionist. My lines are not immaculate, my dots are not ideally round. I do not measure the distance between the lines as precisely as to a single millimeter. This is what helps me render the reality — not immaculate, but wonderful. The world, same as me, is not ideal; but this is what hides the harmony in itself.

Sometimes I fail to achieve what I wanted. If that is the case, I start it all over again, with due consideration of what I was not satisfied with in my previous experience. This allows me to develop, because every new work is a challenge. It is always exciting to enter an unknown territory with just a hypothetical idea of what to do. I cannot say it is easy for me, but the key is to start the battle.

Same is about the inspiration. It does exist, but I only have it during working process. One can imagine and plan the final result as many times as possible, but there is nothing magical about it. Sometimes I do not want to do anything — and then I force myself to start working. In half an hour, I forget about everything around, overwhelmed by the process. This is the very feeling of creating something new.
Still, to be able to express oneself and achieve the result, it is essential to master the technique — a “craft”, so much unpopular in the contemporary art. Technique proficiency will not make you an artist, but it will allow you to implement the most complex ideas. It should be considered as a tool or language of your creation. The level, at which the artist can use the technique, defines the accuracy and genuineness of a final artistic image. This will also make it possible to experiment and to be not afraid of mistakes.

I have been for as long as 10 years in linocuts — it is my major and most favorite technique, with which I am still not bored. But before them, I had to try and learn a lot to finally understand what exactly I needed for artistic creation. When a student, I studied graphic design, but then I understood that I did not want my job to be related to computers. Simultaneously, I was improving my skills of painting, drawing, composition, and most important — of printmaking. So when I graduated, I had already had an experience of my first personal exhibition.

I tried myself in etching and dry-point techniques, and my first significant series was cardboard engravings. It made me feel free and self-confident. But cardboard engravings took a lot of time to experiment during printing. In my case, printing of one copy took a whole day; on top of that, the result was often at variance with what I planned initially. One copy was usually very different from the other.

It could well be that I would kept on working with this technique, but the things went differently: my children were born. The time I could spend for work got very much limited, so I decided to change the technique. I was ready to spend a lot more hours working with the block — but to have the print result I expected. Linocut was quite the technique I needed. Although linocut may seem simple, but it implies amazing opportunities. To me it somewhat resembles mezzotint, the so-called queen of techniques of printmaking. Everything starts with black, and then continue to work by white and create a visual image.

Certainly, even when it is a linocut, one can never predict how exactly the work will finally look like. And for me, it is an important creative component of the process, which takes me far from being bored and which I use to open new horizons. Unplanned things always happen, but my knowledge of the technique allows me to influence them: to remove some of them, stop or, conversely, intensify. I also print a lot when I work with the block. This way I control everything happening and do not lose the necessary condition in the final image and mood of work.

I take the material for linocuts (linoleum) from old buildings; my friends also provide me with some. An old covering is a better choice for my work, and it also becomes essential for the whole creation process: as I remove the old layers, I make way to new images, feelings and ideas.
The central element of my engravings is a line. By pressing or interrupting the line, I make the tone and the shape. This way I render the fluctuation of reality and the flow of light. I follow the light, that is why the tone defines and details everything in my works. When I cut lines in the process of engraving, I do not draw every dot or line but rather think of what this fragment will look like during printing itself.

It is clear even from a brief description of what a graphic artist is doing how desperately this process needs solitude and slowed lifestyle — which is totally contradicting to what today’s world dictates. There is an opinion that artists need to be in the heart of action, to communicate extensively with the artistic environment and to respond quickly to all relevant agendas. Well, this is all not about me. I rarely join my colleagues and I do not like loud parties. I spend a lot of my time alone or with my family. My work place is mostly my studio, because it is difficult for me to concentrate and get deep into the process at any other place. For me, my studio has become a place of power and a zone of artistic comfort.

Mainstream in arts is not attractive for me too. Both in subjects and in the technique (as etching is more popular in Ukraine), I have never been driven by others’ opinions or market requirements. Rather, I do what I am excited about, and confident in my own genuineness.

At that, I take my art as international one. I was born in Dushanbe, the capital city of Tajikistan, but I moved to Ukraine as early as a child. Now, I am pleased that my work enjoys international success — in the recent years, I have got quite a few awards. For example, in 2019, I was awarded the Grand Prix “Prix Félix Bracquemond” in the printmaking section at 158th Salon of the Société Nationale des Beaux Arts in Paris. In 2020, I got an Award for Technical Excellence at 4th International Printmaking Biennial Cacak in Serbia. The excellence award is really an honor for me, because I work hard under technique. Furthermore, it is a pleasant reward for long years of my assiduous work.

Still, awards are not really my goals — it seems that I have no specific goal at all. There is a way of artistic creation, which I follow and enjoy. Who else but me? No one can “wear someone else’s shoes”, because our lives are unique — and I am satisfied with the time I am living in. My works become letters to the future where I tell about my today. These letters (or a visual diary) tell about not some special moments, but about absolutely ordinary ones. Because it is the ordinary moments that ultimately make up our lives — and only a special vision and attitude can make them unforgettable.

Olesya Dzhurayeva
Kyiv, 12.05.2021