The Great Idea: An Interview with Painter Leanna Litvinenko

An Art World Expo Spotlight

by Alyssa Laube

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Before her attendance at Emily Carr, Leanna Litvinenko’s artwork was all about realism. During her high school years, she spent her time copying photographs “and getting them to look as realistic as possible.” This natural inclination sprouted from the presence of Classical Realism throughout her childhood and resulted in a colourful collection of oil paintings featuring bold, detailed faces. In fact, this practice was what initially brought Litvinenko to Emily Carr. Yet, strangely enough, it is also where her art strayed from the concrete and into the abstract. After some personal reflection at the university, Litvinenko began to focus on “a great idea behind something” for the first time. Today, it is a part of her everyday work.

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“I was asked to question everything, including myself, my intentions, and whether my art has the ability to impact the world in any way,” said Leanna, about how Emily Carr inspired her current pieces. “I see a lot of parallels between the way I live my life and the way I handle my abstract paintings. In my current work, there are many layers. The process is quite chaotic but the result is harmonious, kind of like my personality. That brings me satisfaction because it confirms that I am staying true to myself and, therefore, am on the right track.”

While her time in school did push Livinenko to ask the bigger questions, travelling abroad greatly influenced her artistry as well. After visiting Northern India in 2013, she was “taken by the culture, the vastness of Himalayan mountains, and the freedom [she] felt.” In Europe, she studied the great works of the Renaissance and improved her understanding of human anatomy. New York’s Museum of Modern Art introduced her to abstract impressionism and sent her on a “learning frenzy” about the genre. Finally, growing up in Ukraine, specifically, left its impression on the artist with its vibrant culture. Specifically, Leanna adored Ukrain’s many street artists. “Those artists are who I looked up to growing up, and I am still in awe of their technical abilities.,” she happily recalled. “I could not find a way to express the impact it all had on my psyche with realistic paintings,” said Litvinenko, about her globetrotting. Thus, her abstract work was born.

The work itself is multi-media; the paintings are created using a combination of chalk pastels, ink, watercolour, spray paint, acrylic paint, and gels. In terms of process, Leanna likes to demonstrate her “great idea” of chance. The work revolves around “lucky mistakes” or, as put by Litvenenko, “unexpected turning points in the process, conceived by the paint itself, that take the work in a whole new direction.” She sees herself as nothing more than a “necessary active agent”, despite constructing everything from the canvas to the piece itself.

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“Normally, I begin the painting near the centre by drawing with pastels and mixing it with liquefied acrylic, followed by a spill of water. After, I spray the wet surface with spray paint. The chemical reaction between these two mediums creates an interesting design. I repeat those actions until I see something I like,” Litvenko explained, about her artistic process. “I can’t get too attached to anything I make in the process, as the next layer might cover it completely. If I get too attached to something in the piece, I treat is as a precious object and the painting stays incomplete. One of my professors told me, ‘Don’t be afraid to kill your babies’, referring to the destruction of unsuccessful creations that inhibit the ability to move forward. Now, I work by that mantra, and it has been a wonderful ride so far.”

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Leanna will be exhibiting at this years Art World Expo in Vancouver.

Buy tickets to the event here or visit Leanna’s site to learn more about her or purchase a piece.

 

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