Interview: Stanislava Pinchuk
It’s not an exaggeration to suggest Stanislava Pinchuk is one of those artists who represents Melbourne as we love to imagine the city to be: daring, cultured, intelligent, interesting and wholly unique. The woman who began as a graffiti artist gracing the city with her ethereal, large-scale illustrations pasted to brick walls and doorways has moved on, while retaining (at least in spirit) the tag that informed her earlier work – M-I-S-O.
Makers of Melbourne catches her on a sunny weekday morning just as news of the worsening crisis in her familial homeland of Ukraine hits the wires. It seems a world away from the quiet green of her plant-filled, seventh-floor studio within the iconic Nicholas building.
But Stanislava knows the falsity of geographic distance: the world is an increasingly small space and it is artists like her who transcend language and culture through their art that help make us aware of our connectedness.
She is broad in her reach, travelling frequently, spending months at a time in Tokyo and soon to fly to Paris to work on a book project with likeminded ‘creatives’. At 25 she is an artist on the make, a figure to watch who is breaking ground right in the heart of our city. In the midst of this busy schedule, she took time out to have a brief chat.
Can you talk us through a little bit of your progression as an artist: the development of you from a graffiti artist to the place where you now find yourself?
I'm not sure if it was really like that – I always drew and did a lot of things in between. Graffiti was just one thing I did between many others, so it wasn't such a linear progression. Unfortunately, it was just something that had to drop off after a few really gross legal experiences. One day I'll come back to working in public and, hopefully, illegally – just at the right time and place.
You also take a very freehand approach to tattooing, doing it by hand: it seems there is a really strong marriage between this arm of your art and the pin prick works you are increasingly becoming known for.
Yes, absolutely – it's pretty much the same technique, hammering holes in one by one. Both require the same fastidiousness and precision, so both are unforgiving if you make a mistake. It's just a question of wearing one with you wherever you go, as opposed to having it housed in a museum or home.
To me, both mediums are very much a reference to what is historically understood as 'women's work' – things like embroidery or lacemaking. Like the pinhole works, they are technically difficult and physically demanding mediums that work to produce something quite subtle and beautiful. I think as skills that they are pretty undervalued.
Tattooing to me has always been a really similar idea: in most cultures with ritual tattoo it is most often women tattooing other women within the community. To me, it plays so much with the tension between physical pain, technical demand, and decoration and beauty.
The Nicholas building is such an iconic space in the city's arts scene - what is it like for you to have a studio in that space as an artist? How does it fuel your inspiration?
I really, really love the Nicholas – it feels like a beehive, and you never know who you will bump into in here. It's a pretty special place, and it's got some really amazing, weird tenants. I'm pretty versatile, and can work anywhere – so I'm not sure if it fuels any inspiration directly – but it's definitely good to bump into the friends I have in this building and visit each others' studios, swap tools and talk shop.
Tell us about the relationships you have with some of the past and present artists in the building - you mentioned that your studio once belonged to Vali Myers?
Yes, my studio once belonged to Vali. I never knew her, but I'm a huge, huge fan. It sort of ended up mine by accident. But it's so wonderful and I get the best visitors – Vali's friends coming up and just hanging out and telling me stories. Funny, smart, totally free people: the best company. It's the greatest thing to inherit with a studio. I feel pretty lucky.
Where do you spend your downtime in Melbourne - which parts of the city do you most relate to?
Fitzroy! To be honest, I barely get any downtime, so when I do it happens in my own neighbourhood. I've lived here for a really long time, and it's hard to imagine ever moving. Usually it's drinks and chess at my friend Andre's studio, or at The Napier pub; it's a real gem, and I hope it never changes.