Interview by Mariia Kashchenko
Published in January 2023
Margo Sarkisova with her artwork.
How did your life change in the last 8 months?
My life completely changed; I think, that no one will be the same after 24th February 2022.
It feels like quantum leap in some way. When the full scale war started, I was in Kharkiv with my mom and sister. It was a very complex moment, and my first reaction was very radical: I said that I was not going to leave Kharkiv, that I will not run for the second time in my life, like in 2014 from Donetsk.
But then I decided to try and save part of my artwork from my studio. And only after this I decided to move to the next city, Dnipro. My journey was very long and my priority was to be safe and to move with my art to a better place to stay. Since then a lot of things have changed, currently I am based in Graz, Austria, and I found the possibility to deliver my artwork here, to save it from being destroyed or lost forever.
SOLDIER, collagraphy, 2021
What gives you the strength to keep working?
My main goal is to create art, express my personal experience through visual language. And this requires me to always look for ways to make it in the moment. It’s a question of adaptation.
I lost my home and place to work for the second time in my life. But surprisingly, I didn’t lose the ability and desire to continue creating art! From the very beginning of the full scale war, I started to make pages in a sketchbook only for myself. It was the start of my ongoing project “war diary”, that I am still working on. It transforms with time and with me, and I found it very therapeutic for me and for the people who looked at it personally…so I can say that making art is the only way to continue to stay human in this uncertainty of life.
How did life abroad influence your art?
I can say that I have still not fully adapted to being abroad. Also, my art practice has still not yet stabilised because I dont have my own place to create, which is very important for the art process like mine.
From the very beginning of the war in February I felt that my life and career was over. I was in full acceptance of this fact, and the most important task was to save the artworks that I took with me from Kharkiv, to act as an archive.
I didn’t expect that it was the new beginning. What a strange paradox of life. In the beginning I was in a state, when I wanted to document all my thoughts and feelings, just for myself. It was a pure act of art. And for the next few months, locations were changed, but I stayed with the format of the diary - a portable way to express my feelings in the moment.
I can say that with the war and my experience of being a refugee twice in my life, I learned how to concentrate my practice and make art very quickly, because you don’t know when it’ll be possible to draw in the next time.
Margo Sarkisova within her installation.
What is your art about, what are you trying to say with it?
Concepts of my art have different layers and change with me, it's a never ending process. For a few years now, I have been researching an ongoing project. “6769” - a project about my national identity, that consists of being Ukrainian and born Assyrian. For me it’s the most important topic that goes through my life with the red line. I am researching my subjective experience of socialisation as a woman in a very ancient culture with their authentic traditions and mentality, whichisn’t always positive, but can be very traumatising. At the same time, Assyrians don’t have their own land. So the question of internal and external migration, searching for “home” and language, are the questions that were in my mind for a long time. Now with the war, these topics became even wider than before. I tell my own truth, how to be an Assyrian Ukrainian woman artist in the modern reality.
CIRCLE, monotype on vintage paper, 2019
What does the art community mean to you?
I’m an individualist by nature. I love to make art and projects all by myself! But in the last few months everything has changed. With the help of the community of artists from Ukraine I was able to find a place to live in Lviv for a few months and a place to save my works that were displaced with me from Kharkiv. With the help of the community I moved to Austria as a resident to create a project for the Rotor contemporary gallery in Graz.
I also need to say that now everything is possible because of the support of the art community! And now, I surely believe that we can make more great projects if artists stand together, because unity and solidarity can change our world.
Margo Sarkisova is a Ukrainian artist living and working in Graz, Austria.
Mariia Kashchenko is the founder of The Art Unit, online curated platform selling works by emerging artists, including works by Bohdan.
If you like this why not read our interview with Isabelle van Zeijl.
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