In conversation with Oleksandra Martson

The Art Unit's found Mariia talked to Oleksandra about inspiration, about her latest 'Sleeping' series and more.
July 6, 2023

1. First of all, how are you? 

I'm all right. Stronger then yesterday in every way.


2. Can you tell us more about your practice? What inspires you, how did you start your practice?


My practice is sourced and inspired from within. Almost always I find myself digesting an idea for a painting. 

I met a lot of inspiring people here in London, locals and refugees from Ukraine, they inspire me not to give up through out last year and a half. But in terms of creating, an idea just gets ripe within me sooner or later, regardless of me feeling down or inspired. 

 I came from a point when 20 years ago  I hated almost all of me works to a point where I am satisfied with almost everything I produce. Often when I finish a painting it suggests and inspires the next one.   


3. The works from your Sleeping series are absolutely magnetic, can you tell us more about the meaning behind the series? 


I started the Sleeping series in the autumn of 2021. Back then I was feeling anxious all the time, sensing the war in the air and I thought about death a lot. It stroke me that sleeping people are often indistinguishable from dead bodies - its the context that matters. My pre-war paintings explore the figures during sleep. Sheets with lines are a symbol of life for me and the distinction between sleeping and dead figures. Once the sheets are gone, the viewer will get the feeling that bodies on the canvas are dead. 

After the big war broke I have made a set of sketches and small-scaled works about sleeping with air defence alarms. Starting February 2022 all the people living in Ukraine sleep with the sound of air defence alarms. Almost every night they are waked by the sirens and must get up to take themselves, children, elderly ones, pets to bomb shelters. Some are so exhausted and used to the sirens that they just stay in their beds hoping missiles will not aim their house this time. My friends and relatives say that only in a sleep can they relax and forget about the war. Until the next alarm.

Now «sleeping» is my theme, its doesn’t let me go. I have changed and started to explore the stillness and peace (if you like) in sleep. It fascinates me. 



4. Can you share the process of creating an artwork with us? 


I usually fully construct the work in my head before I come to the stage of sketches, which are a more technical process of working on composition rather than looking for senses. I can make long breaks from painting - thinking future art work over, sometimes its two works being thought over simultaneously. If I don’t have an idea that sparks me at the moment I would rather produce no works.


5. What are you trying to say through your art? Is there a message you want the viewer to get?


My art does not send a direct message to the viewer. I`d rather say it can plant a seed of an idea in one’s mind. Both audience and the artist then nurture the message that can be articulated. Thoughts about the war and motherhood can often be traced in my work.

 I remember the feelings I had while creating each of my pieces, sometimes the audience is sensitive and catches it too.


6. You moved to London because of the start of the russian full scale invasion of Ukraine. How has it all affected you and your art?


For all Ukrainians there is a life before and after the 24th of February 2022. All of us have changed. While my life fell into pieces, my art evolved. I am more certain on themes and media I am ready to work with. I finally gave up to idea that my art is inseparable from the context of my life. I became more satisfied with the results of my work.

What I love about London is that living here gets you exposed to great art from different countries and eras.



You can browse works by Oleksandra at 

About the author

Mariia Kashchenko

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