09.05.2022, Art Interview

Ukrainian artists Masha Reva and Ivan Grabko come together in a charity exhibition UNDER THE OPEN SKY presented in Berlin, raising funds in order to support initiatives currently active in the territories affected by war. The exhibition brings together the vital sense of community and connection to the motherland while communicating it through a rough lens of war, proving how these things can go hand in hand.

Masha and Ivan are now living and working in Uzhgorod, Ukraine, displaced from their hometown Kyiv, in a temporary shelter studio collectively arranged by artists and architects. Ivan’s work captures struggle, resilience, faith hope, and strength, while Masha´ s communicates the Ukrainian spirit and unity. “The series of works created for this exhibition is an image diary that exposes an unacceptable presence of genocide and pain brought by russian invasion in Ukraine. But also, it is the invincible mystical power of nature, of our motherland, where seasons come no matter what, and people go out to welcome the spring in the fields.” – says Masha.
Both artists were born and raised in Ukraine, Odesa, and Zaporizhzhya, the two south-eastern cities carry a long history and great cultural importance for the country, also being shocked and numbed by war in the neighbouring regions of Donbas since 2014.

“War has permeated my whole life, I see it every morning on the tablecloth, inside my shoes, in the way a child plays with a cat, beyond the peaceful reality threshold, horror begins on every corner and surface. The image that I only knew about, came to live in front of me. It appears and sticks out of the darkness in which it lives, it feels good and comfortable there” – states Ivan.

The name UNDER THE OPEN SKY reflects the ultimate state of vulnerability to hostile artillery, in which unprotected Ukrainian bodies are being exposed to from above. Since the first days of war, desperate appeals to NATO to close the sky over Ukraine have been left unanswered. The exhibition welcomed visitors during the last weekend of April, inviting them to feel and interpret, connect, and be understood. The fundraising artwork sale aims to support independent initiatives in Ukraine with 60% of all sale proceeds. Organizations like Kyiv Angels, By Some People (Kharkiv), TU_Mariupol and others have been chosen as receivers.

Can you tell us about the spirit of Odesa that is so vital to Ukrainians?
Masha Reva: My native city of Odesa is situated by the sea which influenced my character a lot. Odesa people are warm, charismatic and charming. The city is multicultural, it’s a very special place on the map of Ukraine. 

How does the lively fashion landscape in Ukraine interact with your work? 
I have my background in fashion, I graduated from Central Saint Martins college in London back in 2015, however with time switched from fashion to art. I wouldn’t say fashion landscape in Ukraine influences my work practice anyhow, however my way of thinking when I work let’s say on installations are heavily influenced by all my experience studying fashion and working as a designer. I perceive myself as multidisciplinary artist. 

Color seems to be a prominent feature of your work. Has the war influenced your relationship to color?
I wouldn’t say so, but in Uzhgorod in an art supply store I’ve found a very nice new tool for me – a sponge pen, I’ve done almost all the artworks with it. Maybe because of that technique my new drawings looks somehow new to me and I love it. I make art to work explore how far I can go with exposing my feelings and each new discovery along the process gives me energy even in dark times. 

How do you connect to abstraction? Does it feel necessary in the torrents of war?
I don’t think I do, my works are quite figurative. 

How do you see your role as an artist changing after Ukraine’s victory?
I think it won’t change, the role of an artist in all times is to help others to analyze what surrounds us through the language of feelings.

Is art an outlet or an inspiration source for yourself?
Ivan Grabko: For me, it’s neither this nor that. It’s a place where I exist but in no physical form. It’s a place where everyone who wants can come. 

Your work evokes a feeling of discomfort in the viewer. Where do you find comfort amidst war?
It’s interesting why, it does not evoke such a feeling in me. I find comfort amidst war in everything where is love. In my relatives and close ones, in their deeds and thoughts. In kind people I’m meeting on my way. In nature, it is stronger than war, war is nothing to nature.

How is the theme of abandonment present in your work? 
There is no such a theme in my works. My works are about struggle, resilience, faith and hope. They are about strength, but not about abandonment.

How do your feelings about the current russian invasion differ or relate to the war in Donbass back in 2014? 
It’s still the same war for me. Only now this war affected everyone. In 2013 I was living in Luhansk, in summer of 2013 I moved to Kyiv. When the war started, I felt angry because of that silliness, which caused it. And I felt sad that there are people who are not against it. This time it’s all the same, but so much stronger, and there are no people left who are not against it. Everyone is against it now.

How do you see your role as an artist changing after Ukraine’s victory?
I think it’s already changing, with every new day, decision and action in this time. This role is forming now. Who we will be after, depends on what we are doing now. I want together with everyone to rebuild our country. After our victory, all of us will be doing everything we were planning to do “later”.

Interview Yuliya Maltseva
Picture courtesy of Masha Reva and Ivan Grabko/PR


Every year, the renowned champagne house Ruinart in …


Every year, the renowned champagne house Ruinart in …