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Looking for Happiness
Inna Panteleymonova is a versatile artist who works in various genres and styles but there’s something that is common to all of her works — it is the search for happiness.
“Inna Panteleymonova is an open-minded person full of light and of positive emotions,” says Yevhen BUDKO, Mizhnarodny Turyzm senior editor who interviewed the artist. The artist’s native town of Odesa on the Black Sea coast, known for its sparkling humor, a general easy-going atmosphere and the beauty of the surroundings could have been a considerable influence on her artistic ideas.
Her works can be found in the private collections of Germany, Mexico, the USA, Australia, Great Britain, Canada and Ukraine, as well as in some museums.
— Does the search is what you really pursue in your life?
— Yes, I think it is. As a matter of fact, it was only recently that I have come to a better understanding of what one’s attitude to life should be — and I am indeed seeking to try to get out of every moment of life as much happiness as possible. It does not mean that I ignore problems and worries and other challenges of life — they make your life vibrant and full.
When I create art, I want my creations carry positive energies, I want my art to be full of good cheer of happiness.
— But can you define happiness?
— The morning sun, the songs of birds, the voice of my mother and so many other things fill me with happiness. I know that my dreams usually come true — and that makes me happy. When I manage to render my emotions through the means of my art, that’s happiness too. And love is, of course, a great source of happiness as well.
— So — can one say that you are a happy person?
— Let’s say I am in constant search for happiness. One has to love life — it is the major prerequisite of happiness.
— One of the series of your works is called Krayina mriy (Country of Dreams). Do you remember your childhood dreams? Do you keep having them?
— If by dreams you mean ambitions, then my greatest ambition when I was a kid was to become an artist! As long as I remember myself, I was drawing or painting something with pencils and brushes. My parents encouraged my artistic inclinations.
I want to paint a picture which would be as magnetic for people as, say, (laughs) Mona Lisa is! At the age of seven I began to actually study art at an art school. Later I took part in competitions. One of my early works traveled as far as Japan and even won a prize. … At the age of twelve I had my first “one-girl” exhibition.
— Now, looking back, do you think it is worth teaching children to use various painting techniques?
— It’s not so much the techniques that are important — it’s giving children a possibility to express themselves in art freely that matters. Children see the world differently from the grown-ups. If by the age of puberty, the desire to create art has not died, then you can safely go on and try to become a true artist.
I used to teach at art schools for children and I just loved being with kids!
— So you combined being a teacher and an artist?I was trained to be a teacher of art. I taught art for some time and then moved on to become a full time artist.
— I was educated at the Department of Art and Graphics of the Pivdennoukrayinsky Teachers’ Training College. All through my student years I worked hard at my art and took part in all sorts of contests and exhibitions. And I realized that my art could be appreciated and that it sold! I could earn money by my art!
I moved to Kyiv where I had an additional training at the national Academy of Visual Arts and Architecture.
I was given a studio by the National Union of Artists — and that was a big boost for my work.
— One art critic wrote that you were both very careful, like a diligent student, in creating your art and at the same time you could let go and become an ambitious artist free of any constraints. Do you think it’s a correct observation?
— It’s not for me to judge. What I prize more than anything is the search for new ways in art. I keep changing and my art keeps changing. I feel sad when I visit an exhibition by an artist I know and see that he or she has changed nothing in their art since the time of his or her exhibition, say, five years ago.
— Is freedom of expression one of the ingredients of your happiness?
— It sure is. I want the people who look at my art to feel that they are encouraged to be free. I think that the two main things in life are love and freedom.
— Does this search for new ways in art apply to all your works created in various media, techniques and genres? To the dolls and painted decorative plates and chests as well?
— Yes, it does. It doesn’t matter whether I use oils, watercolors, pastels, pencil or create decorative art, my search goes on in everything I do. Ideally, I wish I could express what I want to express in one painting, but I realize it is impossible — that is why I use different techniques, media and styles. But it is the oils that offer the best possibilities for expression. There’s some sort of inner light in oils. I experiment and in a series of works created in one style I can try different approaches. But when I work in the open air, I prefer pastels and water colors — they convey my impressions better. However, I know that oils are easier to sell and they fetch better prices.
— When you work outdoors, what do you usually take with you?
— I pack my backpack with paints — about twenty pounds of them, some other personal things I might need, I carry the portable easel, paper or canvases to paint on. Yes, it’s heavy, but the moment I get down to work I forget my exertions in schlepping all those weights long distances — it is my art that matters.
— Are there any places in Ukraine which you favor as an artist?
— Yes — and they are the Crimea and the Carpathians, with preference given to the Crimea. I love the sea, you know, and I traveled across the Crimea as a tourist, not only as an artist.
— Are there things that you prefer to paint?
— Well, no — it can be anything. A rock can give me an inspiration to paint it. The main thing is to discover an image contained in what you paint. The Crimean mountains offer masculine images, and the Carpathian mountains look to me more feminine — I feel like embracing nature there, as one may want to embrace one’s mother.
Vinnychchyna, the land where my grandparents lived, is also among my favorites. I go there once in a while to paint low hills, huge trees, grasses and weeds that are of my height, all those wonderful small rivers, gardens and peasant huts.
— Do you travel for fun too — or only to find new places to paint?
— I do travel for relaxation, just as a regular tourist. I like Abkhazia in the Caucuses, I like Croatia in the Balkans, but the place I like to go best to is Odesa where my mom lives. I’ve realized what a nice town it is!
— Odesa is a city where most people speak Russian rather than Ukrainian — you speak very good Ukrainian and your art is very thoroughly Ukrainian in spirit. How come?
— When I was in high school, I used to spend my vacations at my grandma’s place in a village in the land of Vinnychyna, where Ukrainian is the only language used.
Also, when I began my search of new ways in art, I probed deep into myself and I heard what you may call “the call of my ancestors.” There’s so much gentle beauty in the Ukrainian countryside and in the people who live there.
A painted box.
Dolls. Cloth, acrylic. Height — 20 cm, 2007.
Confabulation. Oil on canvas, 70 x 70 cm, 2009.
Full of Love. Oil on canvas, 90 x 90 cm, 2006.
Christmas. Oil on canvas, 100 x 80 cm, 2008.
Joy. Oil on canvas, 90 x 90 cm, 2004.
Joy of Encounter. Oil on canvas, 70 x 80 cm, 2009.
The Feast of Makoviy. Oil on canvas, 80 x 90 cm, 2008.
Hot Fruit. Oil on canvas, 60 x 100 cm, 2008.
Universe for Two. Oil on canvas, 80 x 0 cm, 2010.