Елена Окунева
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VIRTUAL MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY UKRAINIAN ART: protection of the rights of stereotypes by Marina Skugareva

VIRTUAL MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY UKRAINIAN ART: protection of the rights of stereotypes by Marina Skugareva
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Photo: archive.pinchukartcentre.org


It is curious that in Ukrainian art the very fact of creativity created by a woman is often already presented as a feminist gesture. Despite the fact that in our country, compared to many others, women are not so much oppressed, sometimes we tend to interpret art in accordance with the world agenda, from which we desperately do not want to lag behind, and to see, for example, feminism where the artists did not mean it. So it was, in particular with Masha Shubina, and, now, it happens with Marina Skugareva.


In the case of Marina Skugareva, there really is a reason to think. Not knowing about her views and way of life, in some series of her works you can really see witty playing around with stereotypes about a woman’s place in society, “clicheized” models of behavior and, say, “purely female” occupations.

Her long-term project “Michaelis Constellation or Good Housewives” has become, perhaps, the most recognizable and significant in the artist’s work, it also personifies the discrepancy between the concept and the interpretation.


VIRTUAL MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY UKRAINIAN ART: protection of the rights of stereotypes by Marina Skugareva
From the series “Good Housewives”


Marina Skugareva printed screenshots of correspondence on thematic women’s forums, where visitors discussed relationships with men, issues of motherhood, everyday difficulties and other exciting topics.

On top of these prints, the artist drew naked female bodies, and the conclusions about the disclosure of Skugareva’s theme of objectification of the female body, stigmatization of motherhood and stereotyping of female roles really suggest themselves and seem, if not obvious, then at least logical [1].

Nevertheless, the artist is in no hurry to enroll in the ranks of feminists and claims that with these works, on the contrary, she tried to show the beauty and touchingness of simple everyday moments [2], to glorify them without dramatizing on this score.


VIRTUAL MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY UKRAINIAN ART: protection of the rights of stereotypes by Marina Skugareva
Portrait of Tistol


Another confusing aspect of Marina Skugareva’s art is embroidery. Often in contemporary art, such folk techniques, which have been considered feminine from time immemorial, are used precisely to emphasize gender issues and talk about the redistribution of roles, the time of which has long come.

In Britain, for example, Grayson Perry does this, on behalf of his female alter ego, creating tapestries traditional for his homeland, revealing the peculiarities of English society.

Skugareva’s technique is embroidery, which is more inherent in Ukraine, although tapestries are also present among her works. In 1996, the artist created a series of portraits of loved ones embroidered on pillowcases, and these embroideries are usually regarded as a kind of amulets and very intimate evidence of the creative atmosphere of Marina’s environment.

At the same time, embroidered pillowcases are also a tribute to the history and traditions of the Ukrainian village, where stacks of pillows are still considered a symbol of prosperity and abundance. Thus, the interpretation of Skugareva’s works with an emancipated accent is not exactly wrong (probably, there are no wrong interpretations in art), but at least not the only one.

Another possible interpretation of Marina Skugareva’s art may be that she entered the “fight for the beauty of the stereotype” – this is the name of the unwritten manifesto of the artist and also Marina’s husband Oleg Tistol and Vinny Reunov.

Within the framework of this “program”, the authors investigated the authentic, untranslatable details, virtues and vices, taste preferences of Ukrainian society and illuminated them in their art, like, by the way, the already mentioned Grayson Perry, only, of course, in a completely different manner.


VIRTUAL MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY UKRAINIAN ART: protection of the rights of stereotypes by Marina Skugareva
Still Life, 1998


It is not surprising that, constantly being in the company of her husband and his associates, Marina Skugareva absorbed Tistol’s ideas and they leaked into her work. Thus, thanks to her listening and watching, the artist managed to fit into the context of contemporary art, rethinking the original national symbols and traditions.

At the same time, according to Skugareva’s words, now she works mostly alone and creates her works rather intuitively, not relying on the concepts that today’s art market requires. Tistol deals with communications and strategy.

The results of his efforts, as they say, are obvious: they constantly write about him, interview him, and, in his own words, he lives only from the sale of paintings, which frankly few Ukrainian artists can boast of.

Meanwhile, such a departure from relevance unties Marina’s hands, because she has the opportunity not to meet some important criteria for today, but simply to create her art honestly and with pleasure.

And although, according to all the canons, Marina Skugareva is a professional artist, such a conscious alienation and intuition inherent in her work, reveal a kind, wonderful naive, in the best sense of the word, which manifests itself not in primitive technique and not in the absence of education, but in the instinctive approach to the process of creation, to the sincere impossibility not to create.



[1] Chervonik Elena. The right to self-construction [Introductory text for the catalog of the exhibition “Gender in IZOLYATSIA”], 2012

[2] Marina Skugareva. Summary. Researcher – Ekaterina Yakovlenko, 2017

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