Olha Pryymak, A Painting a Day
At Leila’s Shop, Calvert Avenue, November 17th 2010
When Olha Pryymak arrived to meet me in Spitalfields on her bicycle, once she had dropped off her son at Columbia Rd Nursery, she was ready and eager to talk about her practice of painting a picture every day. And I recognised an imperative to make the interview brief – because she had to paint her next picture and post it on the internet before getting back to the school gates again at three. Yet Olha herself was sublimely comfortable with the situation, and more than happy to sit with her ipad scrolling through the online gallery of hundreds of her paintings, because she was in her own time.
“This was not my idea,” she declared, clasping her delicate hands and folding her pianist’s fingers with a modest candour, admitting her debt to the international movement of daily painters who show their work on the internet and in particular to Edward B. Gordon. Olha chose to embrace this singular endeavour in 2006, upon her return to her native Ukraine, when she became pregnant after nine years in Washington D.C. where she had done a Communication & Business Degree before landing a job in Financial Statistics at the World Bank. “It was fun, a great working environment,” Olha said, moving on with disarming levity, while also revealing an admirable strength of mind.
“I badly wanted to have the baby in the Ukraine, and to get back to what I always wanted to do. So I did a painting a day for year solid and it sharpened my painting skills. I was busy painting what was in front of me. And it gave me feedback and kept me in touch with the international painting community too. I think being under pressure helped me to make better paintings, because now I am able to keep focus on one or two things at once.” Olha has the self-respecting confidence of a woman who has made her own way in the world and yet she is quick to acknowledge the support she has received too, “It was possible because of my hardworking husband, who didn’t move to the Ukraine, he moved to London. He flew back and forth until 2008 when we were reunited here, living in a flat in Cheshire St.”
Olha’s pictures demonstrate the spontaneity and endearing lack of pretension that is characteristic of the daily painters’ movement which has blossomed on the internet. “Although it’s addictive and I wouldn’t do anything else now, I have a family, so that dictates.” she explained, “I take vacations and I usually paint about five pictures each week. I’m doing really well, I have been accepted for the Royal Academy twice. What I love is that I can do this instead of having to get a job. Though there are limits to it, because people are unlikely to buy something big over the internet unless you have a reputation, that’s why my pictures are all sized fifteen centimetres by fifteen centimetres.” Over time, Olha has embraced these limitations of time and of scale, defining a form as distinctive as the Elizabethan miniaturists. Now she chooses to forgo larger pictures in favour of the dynamic possibilities of her chosen canvas, and prefers posting work online and getting immediate responses over the impersonal environment of the gallery.
Looking back over Olha’s archive of work, I began to see that it has a lot in common with a diary, recording the fleeting impressions of the passing days, created in the moment rather composed retrospectively into something more self-conscious. “I eyeball what’s going to be a good composition and I carry it in mind,” she revealed to me, raising her brows and casting her eyes suspiciously to the looming sky over Spitalfields.“You just can’t paint ‘en pleine aire’ in London, the weather changes too much and it almost always rains.” she declared, from personal experience exemplified in the all-enveloping raincoat she was wearing that day.“I do work from photographs and I am not ashamed of it,” she continued brightly, confident in her own aesthetic,“It’s a visual cue, but it’s the experience I want to capture.” When I asked Olha if she has a studio, “I have a paint box,” was her dignified reply.
Until Olha was five years old, she lived in the forest because her father worked as a woodman, and then the family moved to Lutska, a small town in the North of Ukraine when she started school. “It was fascinating in 1989, with both Chernobyl and Perestroika in the same year,” she admitted with considerable understatement, widening her eyes, before adding,“And when I discovered what had happened in Western Culture since the nineteen sixties, I had quite a culture shock!”
There is a warm celebratory quality to these paintings, appreciating the inconsequential delights that Londoners often ignore, and reflecting Olha’s own affection for this city which brings her pleasure to depict. I can only admire the courage and tenacity of Olha Pryymak, pursuing such an ingenious way to earn her own money and retain an independent creative spirit. She had risen at five that day in order to make time to speak with me about her work, which she has spliced so elegantly into her life.
The Broadgate Tower viewed from Folgate St.
Sunday roast in Spitalfields.
In Gun St.
Three on Dray Walk.
Face hunting in Brick Lane.
The kitchen at Dennis Severs’ House.
A bedroom at Dennis Severs’ House.
Mick Pedroli at the door, Dennis Severs’ House.
At Leila’s Shop.
At Leila’s Shop looking out to Calvert Avenue
At Franze & Evans, Redchurch St
In Dray Walk
At Columbia Rd
Christ Church, Spitalfields, February 2010