Local Person: Anna Mykhalchuk
by Stephanie Williams
For Ukrainian artist Anna Mykhalchuk, Ukraine and Kyiv are never far from her heart. Anna keeps her connection to her homeland alive through her practice of Ukrainian folk Samchykivka painting which she proudly shares with the Tasmanian community.
Where did you grow up and where do you live now? My heart and thoughts will always be with Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, where my parents live, where I grew up and studied. I have been living in Hobart since March 2022. My husband and I chose Tasmania as the safest place to live and plan the future for our son.
Tell us a little about your work. My work is connected with Ukrainian folk Samchykivka painting, with which I feel free to create – from creating miniature original paintings to creating murals. You can see my mural ‘Optimism’ in Esteem Coffee, North Hobart. I published a Ukrainian-English book for children Forest Adventures/Лісові Пригоди, which is already available in Chinese and French. I also created a coloring book Samchykivka Garden for children and adults. Last year, I felt the urge and started holding workshops in Hobart for people who have little or no experience of painting at all, but want to express themselves through colours. Also I started taking part in social art projects. At the end of last year, together with A Piano of Tasmania, we organised an event to draw attention to the situation in Ukraine through art. You could see my Samchykivka paintings in Hobart at several group exhibitions and at Salamanca Market, where I have the opportunity to be present and share my art almost every Saturday. I’m currently working on preparing for a group exhibition with Outlier Artist Studio, which will be coming up in March at Moonah Art Centre. I am also looking forward to my first solo exhibition in June this year.
How long have you been an artist? I have been painting using various techniques since childhood. In my teenage years, I repeatedly took part in art competitions and won prizes. I was happy about this success, but I didn’t consider myself an artist and didn’t make any efforts to develop my talent. But I had a feeling that I was losing something. Everything changed in 2020. During the COVID time, I learned to create paintings using the Samchykivka art, which I fell in love with at first sight – since then I have not stopped painting, experimenting and learning this style.
What is Samchykivka art? Samchykivka Art is a floral style folk art from Samchyky (about 300 kms west of Kyiv) and abounds in vibrant, uplifting color with hidden fauna that entices the imagination. Houses, wooden heaters, chests, carpets and ceramics were decorated in the Samchykivka style, as the imaginative floral ornamentation was considered to be talisman, bringing good luck and good health to the owner. The tradition of decorative painting of the village of Samchyky’ is included in the National list of elements of intangible cultural heritage of Ukraine.You’ve illustrated a children’s book that combines Ukrainian folk art with illustrations of Australian animals. How did that book come to life? I was inspired to create this book by my son, or rather by his rapid learning of English. I imagined the number of children who moved to Australia after the war in Ukraine, and I wanted to create a book that they could read in two languages. On the same day, I invited illustrator Anastasia Ananieva and co-author Iryna Bohlscheid to join me in this idea. It took us six months from the idea to the publication of the printed book. And to be honest, during this time we learnt a lot of new things and gained a lot of experience, sometimes working through the night.
Iryna is the main author, she created poems based on facts about animals and made them easy to understand. Anastasia created cute children’s illustrations in vector style, which passed my and Iryna’s comments) I was the project manager and prepared the bulk of the illustrations in the Samchykivka style. Iryna arranged it all into a book design. The feedback we are receiving now about the poems and the book’s design is very positive. Children and adults are delighted to look at the pages and look for hidden animals and birds. So I think we will publish a series of books in this style. I am grateful to everyone who has supported this project.
What do you love doing outside of work? When I have free time, I like to mix with active ones – swimming, rollerblading, hiking, baking, travelling and the quiet activities, such as writing poetry, coming up with quotes, observing nature, reading, dreaming.
Who do you admire? It’s a long list of great people but first in this list will always be my mom Svetlana Gaeva and my dad Sergey Gredyushko.
Favourite podcast or TV show? Honestly, I don’t watch TV. Artcurios, Start with This, 177 Nations of Tasmania are podcasts that I like to listen to.
Secret vice? Oysters are my culinary passion!
What are you reading now? I am reading two books: Sacred and Profane: A Novel of the Life and Times of Mozart by Davis Weiss and The End of Eternity by Isaac Asimov.
What was your first job? I started working early, as I believe that the best knowledge is gained by doing. That’s why when I was in college, I worked half shifts as a freelancer and created web design.
What are your daily news/social media habits? I don’t have a habit of staying on social media for a long time, because I know that I can spend a lot of time there, but I actively use messengers mainly for communication and online calls with family and friends via Facebook or Instagram. News from Ukraine and Australia I received from trusted channels via Telegram or Twitter.
Your favourite place for…
Lunch: Esteem Coffee
Dinner: Drunken Admiral.
Favourite team? The JackJumpers!
Favourite Tasmanian secret? Tasmania’s bays have many inspirational secrets, but for me the Honeymoon Bay is a special place with relaxing feelings and new ideas every time I visit that place. Plus a wilderness place in Southwest National Park where you can swim in warm water.
Parting words? This world needs more kindness, love, and care, gratitude for good and forgiveness for bad. Enjoyment, mercy, harmony, smile, optimism, shine, boldness, self-acceptance, belief. Wake up with a grateful smile, live the day enjoying the moments, go to bed with inner harmony.