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“I wanted to relate the point that a balance of social and flexible work/exhibition space is key. It is super valuable for someone developing their practice and there’s not much of that great balance going around in the city at the moment.”

-Olha Pryymak

Olha Pryymak is a painter and multidisciplinary artist. One facet of her practice involves participation which includes staging encounters around herbal tea drinking. These tea session performances stem from her Ukrainian herbalist family history and borrows from traditional Japanese tea ceremony. Her recent bodies of work contain painted collages of these encounters, framed by contemporary wellness trends, animated by the voices of the women who participated in them. []

What is your definition of studio space?

Studio is a space that is predominantly dedicated to developing work. There’s different aspects that go into it: the actual physical space and, for me as a painter, it’s the light that’s important. Wall space in particular, for the work to spread out. Equally as important as physical space it is that it has to be a social environment to a point – it has to be, how do you say, open to social encounters type of space. I’ve gone through a phase of having my own room in one of those office-turned-into-studio buildingswhere you just close the door where you get on with your work. Some people like that, it’s individual, but then I had a residency in a space that was completely open with just a few walls to hold your paintings on, but basically, there were no doors and people were passing by and that was hypersocial and I found that suited me better. Normally painter’s work is quite insular so it’s important for people to have, not necessarily full-on conversations, but once in a while have other people’s eyes on your work-in-progress. That helps me get ideas out of my mind and see them through the eyes of others, artists, especially those from other disciplines.

My current studio is in the ideal space that I have ever had and that’s why I was keen to respond to your request. I wanted to relate the point that a balance of social and flexible work/exhibition space is key. It is super valuable for someone developing their practice and there’s not much of that great balance going around in the city at the moment.

The collaborative/communal spaces are on the rise, do you believe this formula can work?

Yes, absolutely. My current studio semi-open layout really suits me now. There is part of the studio unit which offers more privacy – useful for meetings and phone calls. Also there is a possibility to hang curtains so there is that flexibility if someone needs more of that privacy for a longer period of time within their own space.

Because my current studio is in Shoreditch, it is quite competitively priced. The location is convenient, yet it has to stay affordable. One way to address it is to keep the studio rental flexible in a way that it would allow for movement and cost sharing: i. e. so it would be possible to sublet your space during the summer when you are off on a residency or to allow people sublet for a day or two to hold meetings, photoshoots, etc.

And then also, my studio is not necessarily an exhibition space but it is a very inviting environment, it lends itself to participatory events, which are at the core of my current practice. Now I can have comfortably over up to ten people at a time. The only thing that could possibly make the studio better if there would be a communal exhibition space where studio residents could have the opportunity to show their work-in-progress occasionally, hold performances, exhibitions, screenings, etc.

Do you believe London has an impact on your art?

By all means, it has nothing to do with London itself, but with the people that London attracts. In that diverse social environment, you never know who comes through your door the next day. And that’s very enriching if you are open to that. The more accessible geographically the better too, because obviously, people want to come to visit you, so travel time within reason is key, like if it takes an hour and half to travel to do a studio visit, that would not attract the same footfall. That’s why, at least for the moment, I feel like I would prioritise location over the amount of space that I get.

Would you consider moving out of London?

Not until I can afford it. But yeah, you never know how it turns out later.

Do you think it would impact your work if you were to move out of London?

It depends. People have different needs at different stages of their careers and the needs of the practice at the time. There are a few painters that I know that are quite established and chose to move out to the countryside or abroad.

What do you think the future of studio space looks like?

I am so happy with mine now I would not want to change much. Except for maybe if I could get a bit more wall space, it’s ideal otherwise.

How can we ensure artists remain in London in the future?

Give them work. Paid work.

How do you think artists can collaborate/ communicate with developers to try to maintain that cultural community the city is known for?

You’re making an effort already, that’s a good start.


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