“I find myself coming back to London because I always say I was born artistically in London, so I will always feel the need to return back.”
– Alina Zamanova
Artist and fashion illustrator since 2012, after studying Fashion Illustration in London.
In 2015 Alina moved back to Kyiv, Ukraine and is currently travelling around different European cities to create her art, with her base remaining in Kyiv.
What does studio space mean to you?
I was in the middle of deciding when I moved to Ukraine, either I have a studio as a separate place that I use or I work from home. I started to work from home and it was okay, but the room was very small and unlike in London, I realised that I could afford a real big room, a big studio in Kyiv. My work started to go more into exhibitions and sales and I realised that I could afford a studio and I could go bigger in size.
I still have different thoughts about this process, sometimes I find that staying at home works for me so I have materials at home and I can sketch or even make small paintings at home when I want, but its my third studio in the last year and it took me a while to realise what kind of studio I needed. It is currently in the historical centre of Kyiv, in a really old building with really high ceilings and the balcony with a beautiful entrance, its super romantic. When you go in its a flat, but I share three rooms with other people.
What aspects are most important to you when choosing a studio space?
For me, the most important is at the moment that its near my home because, then I can jump to my studio straight away. I would feel a lot of pressure if it was too far, going for a job and if I don’t have inspiration then I struggle myself into “I didn’t work enough today”, which makes you put pressure on yourself. So its very important to me, the last studio I found is very near my home and I can walk with my dog to it, and there are a lot of local art stores surrounding the studio. Everything is available in the area, good coffee, art shops.
So would you say that location is the most important feature of a studio, for yourself?
I would say yes, location is the first thing and then the second point is the lighting and the ceilings. Low ceilings and low light really does not give me much inspiration.
Do you believe in some form of collaboration within studio spaces? Such as an area of the building that would allow access to different facilities that the artists would be free to share?
I think that a collaborative space could be fun, for example, you tae a group of artists at the same time you put up an open call and everyone from different areas can come to work within the studio and then you give the opportunity to have an exhibition at the end. Working in the same way as aa residency. I think a residency for, say four months and then at the end of those four months they can have an exhibition within the collaborative space.
An artist I know of through social media who really enjoys the residency scheme, she’s from Toronto and she travels around the USA, to many different cities. The change of space can be very cool for your inspiration and opening your mind to meet new creatives.
In my previous space, I had some experience with sharing. My first studio was a very big room, I shared with a designer and with a sales woman. Everybody had one third of the room, and it always smelt of paint on the left, then with stationary in the centre then a woman sewing things on the right. I decided to leave because we had some issues with supporting ourselves for the space and for our budget, we always had to find a third person to fill the space because people were often dropping out. It was extremely painful because I found that I was the one that was continuously trying to find the third person and I felt like I’m spending too much time thinking about this rather than on my work. The space was very lovely, it was an old Ukrainian building. Everything was old, the lift and the maintenance lady was even about 90 years old and she was still running around.
Would you say having a common interest in art form important when it comes to space sharing, or do you believe that this could be left open?
It was a little bit distracting for me to share my first studio, because some of the girls would have meetings and fittings during fashion week, which meant that they were often talking and had other visitors within the studio. I struggled to focus 100% on my art at this time.
I believe if it was a collaborative space I would be very interested in being involved, its a great opportunity. Coming for a couple of months, you create work, you explore the area, maybe give some lectures and have a critique. There is an artist based in London who did a programme this summer that I applied to but unfortunately I didn’t get through, it was an open call for artists and he was giving away space in his studio for free, for three people per month. A very interesting programme.
Do you think that collaborating could be the solution to the lack of studio spaces problem, collaborating?
Collaboration is very good. For myself, all of the artist may work better when they’re alone but they feel very lonely. We never talk to people, we sit we stand up and its already night, its evening and we didn’t speak to anyone for 8 hours, so it is cool to have this space where you can go an just exchange information and energy.
To talk with different friends and I started to do live drawing class within my studio, I would invite a friend who is very comfortable posing naked and it went really well. For three hours we were chatting and I was painting her, so it was great to have the space to be able to do this.
Do you think the rising costs of rent will affect the art community in London, and impact London a a city?
I know that a lot of my friends that are artists in London, work part time elsewhere and the part time within their studio because they have to support themselves and at this point I feel very lucky to be working from Ukraine, the studio space is so much cheaper. Something needs to be done in London to stop the prices rising for artists, otherwise they will all just leave.
At some point there will be dividing groups. There will be one group that will say “I’m going to stay and work hard 24/7” because of the opportunity that London gives you. But there will be some people with the attitude of “I’m too tired for this, I want to just focus on my art” and there may even be another group that will try the 24/7 working part time in a job then part time in their studio but now I need to focus more on my art. A friend of mine works from London and she goes to her office part time, then goes home and paints but she is getting there, she wants to work full time so that she has a goal in mind. I think, being in that environment in the London’s creative environment gives you opportunity to meet people, to communicate, to exchange energy and information, finding new curators, new galleries and anything that you may need.
Do you feel like you’re not a part of that, now you’re not based in London?
I feel this lack of communication. Its very good that I lived in London for four years because it allowed me to meet a lot of people, I established some contacts there, I just need to continue reminding those individuals of myself because I can imagine their life is moving forward so fast. For me its most important to stay active and to progress in my art, put the progression out there, to keep in contact with the right people. I started to work a lot more on the communications side since moving away, without that I would just be sitting in my studio painting some paintings.
I was in London in June, and I like to come back to see friends and to do collaborations and then come back.
I find myself coming back to London because I always say I was born artistically in London, so I will always feel the need to return back.
What do you believe will be the future of studio spaces within London?
Most people are really wanting to have their own spaces, any artist would eventually find a suitable one for them. It is just the matter of self support and budget.
I think a lot of artists get very lucky with the industrial buildings that and to have tall walls.
I think if someone is willing to open space for artists, they must either be very enthusiastic about art and artists and be very generous individuals. Benefiting from artists is a lot broader than just having galleries.
I think a key part of this is we have the costs on top of just our studio spaces with things such as materials, exhibitions and transportation of the works.