Oksana Zmiyevska


"Like falling in love, painting a portrait is a concentration on one particular person and no one else will do."

Elaine de Kooning

For her first show at Galeria Pelaires, Oksana Zmiyevska created a portrait series of Leonardo DiCaprio, exhibited paired or grouped with self-portraits. Rendered in small format, against a plain background, the protagonists appear cut out of context, isolated, and draw thus all the attention to the relationship between them. They produce the space of intense communication where a young female artist engages 'the most wanted' pop icon in a dialogue.

Leonardo DiCaprio is much more than a famous actor and producer, for he has become a symbol ofmale beauty and advanced stage talent. His image epitomises the contemporary Hollywood industry and circulates on the abundant merchandise – it embodies the idea of sweet lover, mature elegance, and splendid success. A wonderfully marketed myth of a perfect man that is devoured by the audience craving 'a miracle'. This commodification of a personality was thoroughly researched by Andy Warhol; in his portraits, pop culture figures are represented as if they were powerful brands rather than individuals. Reproduced in multiple copies and cycles of repetition, they are manifested to perform an essential part of consumer society.

However, Zmiyevska develops a different approach to her subject. Absolutely aware of Leonardo DiCaprio's legend and delving into it, she juxtaposes that instantly recognisable face to her own –an unreachable, intangible one to the other that is of flesh and blood, the most real and the best known for the artist herself. Intentionally painted in a corresponded manner, the portraits do not show this conflict formally, but conceptually. Is it a dream of a real encounter and indulgence in potential romance? Is it an ambition of equally accomplished talents? Is it an admirer's fantasy about fulfilment of her secret passions? Or does the artist criticise the illusion comparing it to her authentic presence? Neither of these statements would prove relevant. Zmiyevska does a study on DiCaprio's diverse images to tell a story about herself – to share her personal experience of looking for a soul mate to love and to be loved by. Frustrated with a long and difficult search, ironically, she addresses the celebrity who personifies the idea of love in popular culture. Yet, by coupling self-portraits with the abstract surrogate, the artist bitterly acknowledges a failure to achieve that love she genuinely desires.

Still, considering the notorious private life of the star, the whole narrative becomes even more intricate, because the ideal lover on the screen – Jack, who is dying for love in icy waters, Gatsby who is throwing the most lavish parties to attract his only beloved one, modern Romeo in a Hawaiian shirt –is in fact working through a series of brief liaisons in real life. Zmiyevska exposes the phantasm of a love hero by putting it next to the actual struggle of two distant persons – herself and somebody who we know to be Leonardo. The person who never sat for these portraits was scrutinised on the numerous pictures available.

Formally, in her portraiture, Oksana Zmiyevska inherits the approach and artistic manner of Elaine de Kooning. It is temperamental, intuitive, and vigorous. Her brush strokes are vivid and fast, while her eye sharply grasps the character's posture and countenance. She shares with de Kooning not only artistic but also psychological interest in her sitters, and transfers the whole emotional spectrum around them into the canvas.

Liudmila Kirsanova

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03/02 - 20/03