Right now is an incredibly difficult time for all Ukrainians. How does it feel creating art during a war in your home country?
The first three weeks were the most difficult time for me. I had absolutely no reason to create because what happened to all of us was so shocking. But then at some point, we figured out that we wanted to create this exhibition in Berlin, “Under The Open Sky”, which was a charity project, as we wanted to help somehow. We created a need to actually keep on making. I think every Ukrainian has their own battlefield. Art is ours. Art is a kind of meditation, a way of processing what is happening to us.
“My nature is really against having any kind of pressure, especially after I graduated from my MA at Central Saint Martins. I told myself I would never, ever put myself under so much pressure, again. ” – Masha Reva
As you mentioned, you recently organised the ‘Under the Open Sky’ exhibition in Berlin to support Ukrainian organisations and initiatives in their war effort. Did the event receive support from the international art world?
We arranged everything with the help of our friends. I introduced some friends who left Ukraine to my friends in Berlin and they all helped us to arrange everything, like finding a space. The German artist, Jonas Burgert provided us with a space, which is actually his art studio. We kind of created a gallery ourselves. PR agencies were helping us by writing to guests and potential collectors. The support was enormous. The only thing I’m sad about is that the exhibition only lasted for five days in Berlin. We had invitations in different cities, but we were so burned out, that we just didn’t have the capacity to move it.
Do you find power in creating right now or do you feel pressure to do so in any way?
My nature is really against having any kind of pressure, especially after I graduated from my MA at Central Saint Martins. I told myself I would never, ever put myself under so much pressure, again. Somehow, I’ve organised my work process in such a way that I only do what I want. I have to get some joy from my work, even in the current circumstances.
“For Ukrainian artists, it’s important to be close to Ukraine during these times. It’s the most sincere connection we can have in terms of art. ” – Masha Reva
What has the effect of instability and travelling so much been on you and your practice as an artist?
Before the war, I didn’t stop creating when travelling as I was feeling this urge to do that. But now, I have to admit that these difficult circumstances have an impact on my process because now, I don’t have a single moment to relax. This month, I moved house almost every week. I have approximately moved fifteen times since the beginning of the war. When you’re constantly moving, it’s hard to focus on work. In order to create, you have to concentrate. I’m looking forward to going back to Ukraine. For Ukrainian artists, it’s important to be close to Ukraine during these times. It’s the most sincere connection we can have in terms of art. Being somewhere else makes this connection more complex because you’re in a peaceful place and you’re reading the news and you don’t really get what is going on. When you’re at home, even if there are air raid alerts and it’s dangerous, we can have a connection with our soil, our people are around us, and we can eat our food. Art should be created in sincere circumstances.
“Before the war, I was working in different disciplines. When the war started, I chose the simplest materials I could find.” – Masha Reva
You began your creative career as a fashion designer and have been commenting on the Ukrainian Revolution in 2013 and the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2014 since your graduate collection as a MA Fashion student at Central Saint Martins. How did this inform your creative work at the time and now?
It’s interesting that the revolution happened when I was working on my collection. I took a year out of the MA and that was the year I came back to Ukraine and the revolution happened. For the first part of the MA, I was thinking about a completely different topic. But when I went to Kyiv, I saw all the protests and everything that was happening in the streets. That was a life-changing experience. I never thought that I would be so patriotic, but we had no choice. Everyone who happened to be there at the time was just naturally becoming a part of this huge wave that was changing everything. I liked what I saw, even though it was quite brutal. There were shootings at our central square where about 100 people were shot, and I heard the shots from my balcony. I was really glad that I had the chance to be there and feel it. It was an important point for Ukrainians. Kyiv became a free-spirited city. I wouldn’t say that my collection was strong or anything like that, but it was a way of documenting my feelings.