In the heart of Kyiv, amidst a country that, armed and resolute, defends its independence in a foreign war, Nataliya Bagatskaya paints. With strokes both vivid and somber, her artwork encapsulates her experience as both a Ukrainian and an artist. While the war’s clamor and uncertainty echo in the background, Nataliya has sought solace in the world of art, crafting stories that are deeply personal and undeniably universal.
The Artist Behind the Canvas
Born in October 1967, Nataliya celebrates her 55th year as a resident of Ukraine. Originally from the city of Smila in the Cherkasy Oblast, she now calls the capital, Kyiv, her home.
The Impact of War: An Introspective Lens
The war brought with it profound changes to Nataliya’s life, both as an individual and as an artist. Encountering the surreal transformation of her beloved city, she found herself thrust into a reality that felt akin to a Stephen King film, with Kyiv’s streets slowly emptying, and the air raid sirens ringing unfamiliar and haunting. In such trying times, art became Nataliya’s refuge. Her art began to echo the uncanny duality of reality and unreality she felt. This transition birthed ‘Lisa’ – an avatar Nataliya created, a representation of her visions grounded in the war’s realities.
Yet, the war’s trauma hasn’t pushed her art towards despair. Instead, she aims to fill her canvases with positivity, hope, and even light humor. “I don’t want any drama or tragedy in my works,” she shares. It’s this uplifting approach that evokes smiles from those who gaze upon her paintings.
A Glimpse into the Artistic Process
Nataliya is nothing if not dedicated. She dedicates an average of 50 hours to a single painting, working tirelessly both day and night. Her artistic vision is fueled by life’s candid moments, like the whimsical scene outside a supermarket where friends celebrated a birthday with a Big Mac and a song.
However, it’s not always a straightforward process. Nataliya goes through multiple drafts (sometimes up to six!) for a single artwork. Only when a narrative genuinely resonates with her does she proceed to paint.
Mona Lisa: The Timeless Muse
One of the most striking features of Nataliya’s recent works is the recurrent face of Mona Lisa. But why this iconic figure? To Nataliya, Mona Lisa isn’t merely a subject but an embodiment of several concepts. She represents the universal feminine soul and acts as a connecting symbol across cultures and eras. This juxtaposition of the ancient with the contemporary creates a unique vibration in Nataliya’s soul, a resonance that inspires her. Mona Lisa has, in many ways, become Nataliya’s artistic avatar, a medium to convey her life stories.
While before the war, Nataliya dabbled in hyperrealism, the current context has wedded her art inseparably to the Mona Lisa. “My art without this face is not possible in this context,” she emphasizes.
A Life Immersed in Art
Every moment, every brushstroke, every hue holds significance for Nataliya. She dedicates an astounding eight hours a day to her craft. With a heart that beats fervently for art, her favored hours for painting are between 8 pm to 3 am, where the tranquillity of the night allows her unbridled focus and creativity.
Intimate Portraits: Family and Personal Life
With a relationship spanning three decades, Nataliya shares her life with a cherished partner. Their union is strengthened by their mutual respect for their decision not to have children. Instead, their family circle is completed by their beloved feline companion.
Artistry, it seems, flows through Nataliya’s veins. Her great-grandfather’s gift for creating is a testament to the lineage of talent that runs deep within her family.
Tools of the Trade
Transitioning from the richness of oils, Nataliya has embraced acrylics in recent years, enabling her to channel even more vibrancy and emotion. She turns to the Dutch brand, Amsterdam from Royal Talens for paints, and relies on the Ukrainian brand Rosa for precision brushes. She typically opts for a high-quality Italian fine-grain cotton canvas from Unico.
Crafting her canvases from rolls, Nataliya takes pride in stretching them over wooden stretcher bars that she assembles herself. Her painting routine varies between her home and studio. While at home, she uses an easel, but in her studio, a wall-hung canvas awaits her magic touch.
Her studio, located in Kyiv’s heart, is a sanctuary of creativity. Comprising a workshop for her creations and an office where her husband—also her art agent—operates, the space encapsulates the essence of their artistic partnership.
Beliefs, Inspirations, and Artistic Drive
War has left an indelible mark on many aspects of Nataliya’s life, including her spirituality. The concept of God has faded from her life since the onset of the conflict. However, her belief system emphasizes the interconnectedness of her present emotional states and future events, influencing her artwork’s themes.
As for inspiration, her respect and admiration for her country’s President shine through. Drawn to his youthfulness, vision, humor, and boldness, she finds motivation in his every smile. From an artistic perspective, Ivan Marchuk holds a special place in her heart. The legendary artist’s boundless energy, despite his age, and his breathtaking artwork that brims with mystery, continue to fuel Nataliya’s passion and creativity.
Living Through Art
Art is not merely a passion for Nataliya; it’s her lifeblood. As she delves deep into its rich world, she doesn’t merely dabble; she dives, making it her sole means of sustenance. This devotion had its roots during her academic journey at the Kyiv University of Technology and Design. Projects and exhibitions further cemented her path in the realm of art.
Melodies and Musings
Music, an integral part of her soul, complements her artistic side. With a penchant for classic hard rock bands like Deep Purple and Rainbow, she also cherishes the works of the Soviet band, Kino. The symphonies of Beethoven and Tchaikovsky frequently resonate with her. However, during her painting sessions, silence reigns supreme, occasionally disrupted by a stray melody echoing in her mind.
Education, Rules, and Rhythms
A formal education in art is a cornerstone of her journey. Graduating as an artist-designer, Nataliya acknowledges art’s formal rules and principles. The interplay of diverse elements, the meticulous avoidance of repetitive forms, the delicate balance, contrast, and harmony, all combine to birth her masterpieces. The golden ratio often guides her, and the careful selection of canvas format ensures that her artistic vision is optimally conveyed.
Whiskers and Brushes
Avesalom, her gray striped feline companion, often serves as a silent observer, a muse of sorts, during her creative endeavors. Having been a guardian to various pets over the years, Avesalom’s presence lends a unique charm to her workspace. However, there are boundaries even this beloved cat must respect: no one, save for her husband, is allowed a sneak peek into her unfinished masterpieces. This personal rule, combined with pre-painting meditations, forms the quirks and rituals that fuel her artistic journey.
Off the Canvas
When not painting, Nataliya is an aficionado of real-case detective series, often immersing herself in their intricate tales. Simple pleasures, like sipping coffee in open-air cafes and observing the passersby, or spending quality moments with Avesalom, also find a special place in her heart.
Origins of an Artist
While Nataliya’s love for drawing and creativity was evident in her childhood, societal expectations and familial beliefs pushed her away from pursuing it as a profession. But fate, it seems, has its designs. A trip to a village in the Carpathian Mountains when she was 40 became a watershed moment. Her spontaneous decision to paint a large Carpathian landscape on her apartment wall became the spark that ignited her artistic career.
Art in the Age of Machines
In an era where technology touches every aspect of our lives, art is not left untouched. AI art, which Nataliya acknowledges for its value, is for her a testament to the possibilities and limitations of algorithms. For Nataliya, the essence of art lies in its unpredictability and its ability to channel the artist’s unique perspective. Machines might replicate styles, but the soul and emotions that an artist brings to the canvas remain unparalleled.
Colors, Seasons, and Personal Preferences
Black, a color often associated with mystery and depth, holds a special place in Nataliya’s heart. This fondness for depth and warmth extends to her choice of seasons, with summer symbolizing freedom and endless possibilities.
Courage, Regrets, and Hopes
Life, in its myriad forms, offers moments of courage and introspection. For Nataliya, the leap from a towering cliff in Crimea wasn’t just an adrenaline rush; it became emblematic of her willingness to embrace life’s challenges head-on. Yet, like all of us, she too harbors fears and regrets. The fear of solitude looms large, and the missed opportunity of a transformative financial investment in Bitcoin lingers as a ‘what if’.
Yet, Nataliya’s overarching hope is rooted in her art. She wishes for her work to be a beacon of positivity, urging viewers to take a momentary pause from the rigors of daily life to reflect on the deeper nuances of existence.
Achievements and the Path Ahead
Being inducted into the National Union of Artists of Ukraine stands as a monumental achievement in Nataliya’s illustrious career. A testament to her dedication, skills, and relentless pursuit of her craft, this recognition is a dream realized.
As for the future, the events of February 24, 2022, have instilled in her a deep appreciation for the present. While she doesn’t delve into detailed long-term planning, her focus remains unwavering: to evolve as an artist, to connect deeper with her audience, and to continue being a beacon of inspiration.
In our time with Nataliya Bagatskaya, we’ve traversed a vivid tapestry of experiences, beliefs, and dreams. Each response, meticulously crafted, unveils a facet of her life, offering a panoramic view of a soul deeply connected with art and the world around her.
Nataliya’s journey begins with her early memories of creation and a sense of destiny intertwined with art. Through her academic pursuits at the Kyiv University of Technology and Design and her deep reverence for classic hard rock, her multifaceted nature becomes evident. Her bond with her cat, Avesalom, her meditative practices, and her penchant for detective series give us glimpses of the person behind the paintings – someone who is as complex and intriguing as her art.
As the landscape of the art world evolves, with AI posing both challenges and opportunities, Nataliya remains rooted in her belief that the human touch in art is irreplaceable. Her fears, regrets, hopes, and dreams, while deeply personal, resonate with many of us, bridging the divide between the artist and the audience.
Her achievements, particularly her induction into the National Union of Artists of Ukraine, stand as a testament to her talent and determination. Yet, her aspirations remain firmly grounded, focusing on the present moment and the immediate connection with her audience.
In sum, our conversation with Nataliya Bagatskaya wasn’t just an interview; it was an exploration of a life lived with passion, purpose, and an undying love for art. Her story is a testament to the idea that art isn’t just about creating; it’s about living, feeling, and sharing one’s essence with the world.