"Art is not supposed to be beautiful, it supposed to make you feel something".
The artist was born in southern Ukraine, in Mykolaiv, where Komaha began his artistic journey.
"For me, drawing is a personal, intimate language that I am still learning and making sure that my paintings are more eloquent than I am." Komaha depicts the human body, nature inspired by the native landscapes of the south,
combining the conscious and the imaginary.
"Sometimes I would like to say that my paintings are not painted in oil but in feelings, each canvas captures my emotions, the pictures are a kind of chronicle of my life and everyone can read them if they allow themselves."
The artist has never received an academic education and says he learned to draw by himself.
"I don't believe in talent, my only 'talent' is my thirst for the craft,
my sincere desire to continue to paint and seek myself in art."
- text from UA world art fund
Art as a weapon - for Hope.
An early morning before coffee, I was struck with a painting of a woman running naked through a field, her face pale blue and behind her a blood red cloud. The painting titled The Escape - The viewer is left with the horror of not knowing whether or not it is her last step, or her escape from enemy fire. It is a ferosious and vivid picture of life and death. Portraying the cruel hopelessness and meaninglessness of war.
Also of the present reality of every Ukrainian and the comfortable fictive distance a screen creates for the viewers,
the stand byers and silent witnesses of the west.
Painter under pseudonym Komaha, currently resides in Lviv, had to escape his hometown Mykolaiv as the Russian invasion and full scale war in Ukraine begun.
We crossed paths on social media and I fell in love with his way of painting and the colors he choose for motifs in apparent danger and suffering, using soft warm colors made the pain even more striking and palpable.
After some investigation, I could reach Komaha directly, and a conversation begun.
For the love of art.
Since our letter correspondence begun Komaha´s hometown Mykolaiv have been under attack by Russian missiles killing friends of his family. Also Vinnitsia mention in the text was struck by Russian bombs.
Our conversation spanns from his current situation, life itself, art and the rules we make as artist
to survive in this world, becoming the foundation to stand on - even in the midst of war.
Artists are Golden cohcroaches, we hold on to what keeps up hope. Art.
I am touched to the core by your words about my art, for years I found no support and no response to what I was doing. And now more than ever I know that I should continue as long as I hear voices like yours.
Art to me is something ethereal, something that is bigger than the human being himself, but at the same time - it is contained within us. I'm always searching, but not for answers, I'll never find them. For me, it's about the journey, not the goal.
For the moment I am safe in Lviv. And not going back to the capital or my hometown in the south - I just can't.
The war undermined all my foundations, turned my life upside down, stripped it down and left me in the middle of the road. As I mentioned earlier, the only thing that cannot be taken away from me is my art. It ignited something inside me when everything went out. The fact is that there is a war going on not only in the country but also inside each of us - we don't know how to go on living and what to do next. I talk to myself and people through my paintings, painting is my language, intimate, complex, incredibly beautiful and moving. I'm finally feeling life coming back.
I think I've experienced the peak of this waking nightmare. I feel like I really want to live now, once you almost lose your life - you start to appreciate it, value your freedom, yourself and the ability to just breathe.
The most important thing for me now is to build the foundations for a new life and let go of the past, no matter how good it was.
It's hard to plan anything while a war is going on - it takes away guarantees and keeps you perplexed. Until it is over, life will only seem like an imitation of life. And I certainly don't want to run anymore, I may have to - that's true, but I want to stay in my homeland. When I lost my home in my native Mykolaiv and Kyiv , which was the beginning of my full life, where I was free, the whole country became my home, everywhere and nowhere - I am not my own, but home, as strange as it may sound. I look for hope and support in myself. No matter what happens I will always have myself.
For two years before the war I lived in the capital, I escaped to Kyiv by going to university in order to have my first attachment to that city. It was there that I first called myself happy, and I am very careful with that word and do not say it for nothing. Of course it was hard, I was 17, then 18, but I found a home, friends, a job that I liked so much, started to understand myself and what I was worth. And in an instant all that was taken away from you, the morning of February 24th divided my life into before and after and threw me into a maelstrom of misunderstanding, pain and hopelessness. I wasn't scared, I heard explosions, I saw rockets and destruction, I was so close to it, but the only thing I could feel was pain. Letting go of the past is hard, especially when it is burning in ruins. I won't go back to my old self the same way I won't go back to the very places where my childhood passed, but the point is that I am still there and it is in my hands to build something new. I will forever mourn what I lost, what was so cruelly taken away not only from me but from all Ukrainians. But we will live.
About the memories of the beginning of the war.
On the evening of February 23rd, I was alone in my rented flat, my roommates were out, and for some reason I sat by the window and smoked anxiously, as if anticipating something. I didn't understand where the feeling was coming from, so I went to bed, blaming it on fatigue. I woke up at 8 a.m. I didn't hear any sirens, but I saw dozens of missed calls on my phone. And at that moment I realised that the war had started, and then the silence inside. Selective memory maybe - I'm trying to forget that. The first one to call was my mother, picking up the phone I heard her crying, "It's really started, they bombed the airport this morning, it's so scary". I cried with her. From then on, my family lived for another two months in Mykolaiv, which was bombarded every day. Then they had to leave their apartments and go to Vinnitsa, where they are safe to this day.
Together with my roommate we left the flat and went to the left bank of Kyiv to wait out the first two weeks there. I will never forget the empty eyes of the people in the subway that morning, suitcases in their hands, it was so quiet just to hear the underground train roaring.
("the eyes of people in the underground on the morning of February 24" - writing these words makes me think of a new painting, inspiration is so unpredictable)."
Thank you so much for your art, your words and sharing a cut of life with me.
"The Escape" - now standing in my Studio, waiting for its right place on a wall, it keeps me awake to the present moment and reminds me why I do what I do, one day at a time.
Chrysantherium is made as a memorial after the killing of dear friends of Komaha´s family.