Nika Kupyrova: Creating myths of home and demons that hide within
Nika Kupyrova has traversed Europe from East to West and back. Born in Ukraine and having grown up in Prague, she went on to study art in Edinburgh and Iceland. Now Nika lives and works in Vienna, and partly in Prague, creating installations and photographs of dream-like creatures and spaces. Currently, the young artist has an installation at the Windows Gallery in Vienna - the new art space of the Czech Center in Austria.
“I work a lot with found materials – old furniture, old objects – objects that come from our general surroundings, often household objects, things that you would probably recognize, but some of them you may be seeing for the first time. So I take the things that we know and put them together in a different way and try to bring out their hidden qualities and hidden associations.
“My recent inspiration come from mythology and contemporary mythology. I’ve tried to re-create traditional mythological characters using contemporary materials and associations.
“In terms of technique, I combine photography and sculpture. I create sort of photo-sculptures. They are compositions created specifically to be photographed and they are taken apart after the photo shoot. So, the final artwork is a photograph. I also do sculpture and other types of objects. When I work with space, I like to create an all-around experience that allows you to walk in the space and build your own narrative with the hints that I leave around.”
“Originally I created this work for another exhibition, but I usually create installations in a way that they can be adapted to different places. The [Windows Gallery] space is very specific. It is kind of like a window display, but it is also closed from the back, so it gives a display cabinet of sorts that you see from the outside.
“The series, which is called Head Hunter, is made of small objects that are hanging from branches from the forest, which seem to be growing out of the wall. I was working here with mythology and the boundary between living and non-living and trying to create a new kind of being.
“The title of the series is a wordplay, similar to the way that my sculptures are a play with objects. I tried to take this expression, which became quite contemporary, to mean a person who recruits people for jobs. But at the same time I look at the other meaning as someone who actually hunts for heads.
“ I took this word from its usual context and put it into a new context, and asked who really is this headhunter. Is it a person? Is it a creature? And this led me to the creatures I created. They look a bit like heads, but it’s really hard to say, because they don’t necessary look like body parts, but more like simple creatures living their simple existence. “
“I was born in Ukraine and my family moved to Prague when I was eight years old. And it was never the same as the place where I was born, I took it as just another place where I lived. And after living in Prague, I just kept going. I moved to Scotland, and I thought ‘Why not? Why not go somewhere else?’ I just got so used to it. After Scotland, I started exhibiting more and I had a show in Vienna. And I really liked it here and I met my boyfriend here as well. So I thought ‘maybe this is a place where I would like to be for a while’. And I’ve been here since 2009.”
Do you think the movements in your life – geographically and even culturally speaking – inform your art in any way?
“I think it does. Probably not in a way that has anything to do with specific countries. For me it is more about the experience of the traveler, who doesn’t have a particular home. I kind of see this idea of home as a conservative idea of something permanent, that it is somewhere where you are born and where you live. But this concept adapts to the life of a traveler, who makes a home in different places.
If we go back a little bit, you started talking about mythology and said that it plays a big role in your work. Given you diverse background, how do the different mythologies from the different places you have been combine in your work?
“I guess my interest in mythology comes from this living space and from the experience of living in a lot of different places – flats, hotels, different countries, spaces and habits. And I came to see the living space as a sort of safer, more controllable version of the outdoors.
“And this brought me to the idea of mythology that we create. There are there elements that we create in the living space – light, water, heat – but at the same time, even though they are much more controllable, they still make the shadows in the dark corners and the spaces under the bed and all those places that phobias and demons can hide.”
The episode featured today was first broadcast on April 5, 2013.