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Meet The Maker: Olesya Dzhurayeva

Meet The Maker: Olesya Dzhurayeva

I am Olesya Dzhurayeva, Ukrainian artist. I was born in Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan, but I moved to Ukraine as a child. Now I live in Kyiv. Despite the war, I am staying in Ukraine and continue to work.

I am an active member of the international printmaking community, participant and winner of many international exhibitions and competitions dedicated to printmaking.

Last year, the Victoria and Albert Museum acquired three of my works for its graphic collection, which was a big surprise and encouragement for me. Since 2023 I am an Associate Member of the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers.

My creative life is quite rich and exciting – exhibitions, travels, friends from all around the world, etc. I'm happy because I'm doing what I truly love and this gives me strength even in these difficult times. 

 Photo Credit: Yurii Stefanyak

 Describe your printmaking process.

For the last 10 years, I have been working with relief printing, namely linocut. At first glance, this is one of the simplest and most understandable techniques, but in fact it hides enormous possibilities. Most of my artworks are ordinary black and white linocut, printed in the usual way.

The peculiarity of my engravings is that I use old linoleum, which has served its time as a floor covering. Naturally, there are traces of life and time on it. So when I start a new artwork, I don’t start it from scratch, and this internally already gives me a certain creative freedom.

 When it comes to a still life, I love working from life - but when it comes to landscapes, my photographs serve as nature. A photo helps to freeze the moment and allows me to immerse myself in the painstaking task of carving for a long time. The process of carving large artworks (50cm x 70cm) takes me 2-4 months on average. I can never predict how exactly the work will finally look.

And for me, it is an important creative component of the process, which takes me far from being bored, and which I use to open new horizons. Unplanned things always happen, but my knowledge of the technique allows me to influence them: to remove some of them, stop or, conversely, intensify. I also print a lot when I work with the block. In this way I control everything happening and do not lose the necessary condition in the final image and mood of work. 

How and where did you learn to print?

 I studied graphic design at the Kyiv State Institute of Decorative and Applied Art and Design, named after Mykhailo Boychuk, and was preparing to become a designer. In the second year we started to take a subject that introduced us to classical printing techniques. I fell in love with printmaking and when finishing the academy, I knew for sure that I would be an artist. 

“Keep Walking” 27.5cm x 40cm. Linocut. 2019.  

Why printmaking?

Making prints always implies the presence of a matrix, which then leaves its mark on paper or other surface. And each print is unique and inimitable. To me, it's like human life - we leave our mark as we live our lives. Some traces are more noticeable, some less, but they all remain. There is a certain magic in this. This is exciting for me.

I like the multi-step process in every printmaking medium. Each stage of creating a print can be very creative. I love paper and the possibilities that come with it. Like, for example, books, paper sculptures, collages of ready-made prints, etc. 

“Hear Yourself Through the Noise III” 60cm x 80cm. Linocut. 2023.

Where do you work?

I live and work in Kyiv. I love to travel, but for me there is no more comfortable place of work than in my studio. I'm used to working in solitude, I need my own space to immerse myself in the creative process. That’s why I don’t go to creative residencies and don’t go to plein air events. My studio is located in the centre of Kyiv, a 20-minute walk from my home. I spend a lot of time here, so I can safely call it my second home.

Describe a typical day in your studio.

My day in the studio starts at 10am or 11am and ends at 5pm. It always starts with a cup of coffee and checking emails and instant messages. If I don’t have any urgent administrative work related to exhibitions or something else, I do creative work.

This is, of course, my favourite part of the job. Normally, I cannot work creatively for more than 4-5 hours per day. After this, I lose concentration and can make mistakes. The rest of the time in the studio, I devote to things related to my creativity; such as social networks, correspondence with colleagues and friends, international competitions and exhibitions, sales, etc.

How long have you been printmaking?

Since it was printmaking that influenced my decision to be an artist, my entire creative path is connected with it. Today, I have been flying for more than 20 years.

“On the Edge of Light” 27.5cm x 40cm. Linocut. 2024.

 What inspires you?

Life is inspiration. All of my plots are related to my life. Well, and the light, of course! Since light creates a picture of the world and makes ordinary things and moments unique.

 “Immersion in the Landscape” 50.5cm x 77.5cm. Linocut. 2022. 

What is your favourite printmaking product?

There are not many things that are needed for linocut, but among them there are really important ones, on which the quality of work depends. Cutters are very important tools. I used to use handmade tools that were made for me by a local craftsman. And I can say that they suited me perfectly. But over time, I had to switch to Pfeil cutters. They are of sufficient quality and allow me to work in the way I want. The most important thing is to monitor the sharpness of any instrument and sharpen it in a timely manner. I print with Korean-made offset ink - CoMax.
“Just a Glass of Water” 40cm x 30cm. Linocut. 2022 

What have you made that you are most proud of?

This series of woodcuts “Window of Hope” was created in the first two months of the full-scale russian invasion of Ukraine and was hand printed with Ukrainian chernozem (Ukrainian black soil). These works are completely different from my linocuts and all previous works. They were created in difficult circumstances, when I was deprived of my usual tools and my usual life. But these are precisely the works that helped me survive that time and gave me strength and hope.

“Window of Hope” 12.5cm x 24.5cm. Woodcut printed by Ukrainian black soil. 15th March 2022

 Where can we see your work? Where do you sell?

Most of my work can be seen and purchased on my website:

Artworks can always be purchased from Mesh Art Gallery and Savchenko Gallery. Since last year my artworks can often be seen and purchased in the Bankside Gallery

You can follow my process on Facebook and Instagram.

“Somewhere in Paris” 50.5cm x 77.5cm. Linocut. 2020. 

What will we be seeing from you next?

I've just started work on my next big cityscape. It will be dedicated to the eternal city - Rome.

“Spring Day in Berlin” 50.5cm x 77.5cm. Linocut. 2019. 

Do you have any advice for other printmakers and creatives?

We must remember that the path of each artist is unique. First of all, you need to stay true to yourself, believe in yourself and work no matter what.

“I Will Remember” 18cm x 18cm. Linocut. 2020. 

You can follow Olesya on Facebook and Instagram, or visit her website for more of her work. 

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