Hanna Shumska in her studio
Interview

‘From frescoes to video projections and post-graffiti’ In the conversation with Hanna Shumska

Hanna Shumska is a Ukrainian artist living and working in Poland. She graduated with honors from the Faculty of Painting and Drawing at the University of the Arts in Poznań under the tutelage of prof. dr hab. Dominik Lejman in 2020. Her project “Temporary Map of Temporary Places” granted her a Grand Prix in the 40th edition of The Maria Dokowicz Competition for the Best Diploma of the University, for which she received a special recognition from the editors of Contemporary Lynx. The artist also graduated from the Faculty of Monumental Painting at the Lviv National Academy of Arts in 2017. Currently, she is enrolled at the Doctoral School of the Academy of Fine Arts in Gdańsk. Hanna is a beneficiary of the “Gaude Polonia” Program run out by the Polish Minister of Culture in 2021. She received many awards from Polish artistic and cultural institutions and magazines.

Hanna Shumska in her studio
Hanna Shumska in her studio

Hanna Shumska participated in over 40 exhibitions, residencies, and art projects in Poland, Germany, and Ukraine. In her art, she takes on the issue of codependency between physical and virtual realities, the meaning of borders, maps, and territories. Her artworks include paintings, drawings, collages, installations, and new media projects. 

Hanna’s pieces are now available to see during the exhibition “Great Patriotic” at the Galeria Miejska BWA in Bydgoszcz.

Maria Brzosko: When did you first realize that you wanted to be an artist?

Hanna Shumska: From an early age I loved to draw. I was inspired by paintings which hung in our homes, art albums from the home library. Despite the fact that I was born in a family of artists, no one ever forced me to follow in the footsteps of my family. I consciously realized that I wanted to be an artist at the age of 11, when I had a choice whether to continue my studies at a regular school or enter an art school in Kyiv, and I chose the latter. That’s how my professional career began.

Hanna Shumska, Temporary map of temporary places
Hanna Shumska, Temporary map of temporary places

MB: In your artworks, you combine pictures, objects, and many diverse forms of representation. What made you choose them all over one, specific medium?

HS: Combining different artistic strategies and mediums in one intermedia project is for me an organic reflection of the present. After all, in the post-digital era it is almost impossible to talk about a certain purity of the medium, which existed before the advent of photography. In addition, using in art the practice of a single, specific medium almost always limits the viewer’s perception of the work. Intermediateness, on the other hand, allows me to focus not on the chosen medium or technique, but on the concept of the project, which is undoubtedly more important to me. At the same time, the combination of different forms of representation allows me to layer the meaning of different contexts, to cover the widest possible and without restrictions.

MB: Your diploma at the University of Arts in Poznań is built on a connection between traditional wall painting and the new media; you highlighted the impact of the virtual media on people. What drew you into this approach?

HS: I made my Master’s diploma in the studio of Professor Dominik Lejman. At the same time, I wrote the theoretical part of the diploma on the subject of redefinition of the medium of wall painting in the works of contemporary artists from Poland and Ukraine. I was interested in how the medium of wall painting is transformed into new artistic strategies: from frescoes to video projections and post-graffiti. The implementation of the diploma project “Temporary Map of Temporary Places” was carried out in such a way as to combine theoretical research with my own artistic practice. I would like to add that my interest in this topic arose due to the fact that I graduated from the Department of Monumental Painting in Lviv; I wanted to find a connection between academic, post-Soviet art education and contemporary art. The diploma combines not only wall painting and new media, there is also a collage and a drawing. The abstract mural on the wall represents a fictional, cosmic landscape, and in addition to the small icons there are hidden GIF animations that need to be activated using an application with augmented reality (AR). The wall of the real gallery space became the personification of the material territory, and the animations and projections became the personification of the representation of conflicts in cyberspace.

Hanna Shumska, Garden of virtual colonizers I, 190x130cm, 2019
Hanna Shumska, Garden of virtual colonizers I, 190x130cm, 2019

MB: In this project, you visualize the sphere of war and confront the meaning of the border on a map; this can be read in various thought-provoking aspects. What are the main messages that you wanted to convey in this work? 

HS: Borders were defined to delineate the affiliation of the territory, for self-defense and protection from outside aggression. At the same time, the borders on the map remain very conditional, as in practice they are not able to deter military aggression, rocket fire or the use of chemical weapons. Borders cannot protect humanity from climate change, they cannot ensure a stable well-being for the whole population, they cannot restrain global migration movements. For military strategists and political dictators, borders on the map are only strategic goals, and the deaths of thousands of people remain statistics for them. It is dangerous to perceive borders without realizing the real people living in the area, just as dangerous is the perception of information in the virtual world without realizing reality. In the 21st century, most people face war, terrorism and aggression from an observer’s point of view, and manipulating sources of conflict in the media and news is becoming a tool of hybrid warfare. In my project, I draw attention to the interaction of real territories and borders on the maps, and to the fact that these two concepts cannot exist separately from one another. Since 2018, I have been working on the issue of borders, maps and territories; unfortunately, this topic is becoming more painful and relevant.

MB: You graduated from the University of Arts in Poznań and from the Lviv National Academy of Art. What was the most valuable lesson that you learned from these experiences?

HS: After studying in Poland, I understand how many changes need to be introduced in academic education in Ukraine. However, I believe that the experience gained in Lviv is also interesting for my future work. The most valuable lesson is to do what you like, not be afraid to experiment and be different.

Hanna Shumska, Postcsrd
Hanna Shumska, Postcsrd

MB: You participated in many exhibitions and art residencies, your artworks are unique and eye-catching. How would you like your art to be seen? 

HS: I want the audience to be ready for a critical dialogue with reality through the perception of aesthetic, visual projects. Also, I want new opportunities to appear for the implementation of new projects, so that cooperation with the audience continues, perhaps in an even more interactive direction.

MB: Your works seem to be inspired by many different styles and you often make bold choices. Are there any artists that inspire you the most? 

HS: It is difficult to determine which artist inspires me the most now, it all depends on the period of life and mood. I like the post-modernist approach, where Bosch, Max Ernst, Juan Miró, Tony Oussler, Terry Guillaume and memes on Instagram can inspire at the same time.

MB: Thank you for the conversation.

About The Author

Maria
Brzosko

Maria Brzosko holds two degrees in American Studies attained at the University of Warsaw. She began her journey as an enthusiast of immigrant culture. Now, she proudly speaks of her research on American comics, films, and sound effects in filmmaking. Pop culture geek and sensible music lover.

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