From the Ukraine to the US, everyone seems to be in agreement that Ilona Sochynsky is a great painter. With an extensive career involving both countries – from a commissioned mural in Atlantic City, to the State Museum of Lviv in Ukraine – Sochynsky has quite a bit of experience in the art world. Read on to see what she had to say about the evolution of her career, her hobbies, and what has influenced her along the way.
You’ve certainly been in the art world for a while; your career spans more than two decades. How has your art changed over time?
Over the 20-year span that you reference, my artwork has progressed from hyperrealism to abstraction. Influenced by Pop Art of the late 70’s and early 80’s I used my own photographs as source materials to create paintings. Very soon I started to split the images into large fragments, recombining the sections and thereby creating a new painting. This deconstruction process continued over the years and resulted in compositions (often kaleidoscopic) where the fragments were no longer recognizable.
You obviously have experience in painting, and you’ve taught graphic design at a
college level. Do those two mediums ever intersect?
I studied and worked as a graphic designer before resuming and dedicating myself to painting. Both professions deal with visual communication and the formal elements of art and design such as composition, form, color, texture space, etc. The graphic designer’s goal is to please the client. As a painter I have only myself to please, unless the artwork is a commissioned one, such as the large mural I painted in Atlantic City.
The idea that as a painter you only have yourself to please is an interesting point. Do you ever paint with an audience in mind?
I didn’t mean to imply that pleasing oneself as a painter is an easy task.
The creative process can be a struggle, internal as well as external, as one strives to achieve an object of beauty. Once that is accomplished the painting is ready to be shared with and enjoyed by the audience.
Do you have a favorite artist?
I checked my bookshelf for this question! There are a multitude of artists I have admired at different times and for different reasons. They range from Francis Bacon, Howard Hodgkin, Fra Angelico, Giotto, Giorgio de Chirico, Sophia Vari, Brancusi, Giacometti and Archipenko. I could go on…….
Do you have a favorite color or color scheme to use in your work? What is it and why?
My color palette is pretty intense because I have always been stimulated by color. Textiles and fabrics excite me. As a child I remember being fascinated by looking at shelves of embroidery threads.
What artists have influenced you? Any kind of artist, musician, poet, etc.
Well, my very early paintings have been compared to the work of James Rosenquist, but that influence diminished as my personal journey progressed. Generally speaking, I was fortunate to grow up in a cultural environment and to have parents who exposed me to the creative and performing arts. I was encouraged to pursue whatever interest I had, be it piano, ballet and photography. My very first art lessons were as a child at the Brooklyn Museum.
Has the work of Kazimir Malevich had any influence on you?
Not directly, but of course I am aware of his groundbreaking work. I would certainly aspire to his mastery of geometric abstraction as I would to the mysticism of Wassily Kandinsky, another artist who is one of my favorites.
When and why did you start using shaped canvases?
I started experimenting with shaped canvases because I was curious to see what “energy” existed beyond the (mostly) square format of my paintings. At the same time I was striving to give dimension to my work. Elizabeth Murray’s retrospective at MoMA was truly inspiring and certainly planted a seed in that direction. I turned to my colleague, Roman Hrab, who is now Director of Operations of Studio Arts at Bard College. He constructed the shaped canvases based on my templates.
Do you have any other hobbies, or is painting your only focus?
As a result of my parents’ encouragement, although painting continues to be my primary focus, I also enjoy opera, ballet, recitals and theater.
What’s your favorite TV show?
That’s a fun question. My favorite show used to be the Barefoot Contessa. I would watch her show not especially for the food preparations, but to get a glimpse of her gorgeous house in the Hamptons!
Ilona’s exhibition, “Fugues,” will be on display at the Kaaterskill Fine Arts & Crafts Gallery from June 24th to August 7th, with an opening reception on July 2nd at 1PM. Stop by and see it for yourself! The gallery is open Friday, Saturday, and Monday from 10AM – 4PM, and Sunday from 10AM – 3PM.