“Put Spring on Hold”: An Interview with Marynka Dovhanych
See more of Marynka Dovhanych’s artwork in Vol. 40.2 here.
Marynka Dovhanych is an artist and filmmaker from Kaniv, Ukraine. She currently lives in a small city called Vyshhorod, bordering Kyiv from the north. At the time of this interview, she is twenty-eight.
Though she works in diverse mediums and even has an educational background in architecture, her main artistic medium is animation. For this issue of Southeast Review, our editors wanted to bring focus to eight of Marynka’s pieces completed as a practice of defiance, expression, and an attempt to cope during the first sixty days of the Russian invasion of Ukraine that began in late February 2022. Of her own recent work and artistic vision Marynka says:
Before 2022, I explored such themes as the body and athletic pursuit, Ukrainian domestic and mystic traditions, and the wonders and challenges of the human condition, expressed in a humorously adventurous manner.
Now my art is focused on honest and emotional documentation of the individual and societal changes we are undergoing in the ugly face of an unjust genocidal war, and also on reevaluating Ukrainian culture and history in general. At a time when Russia is trying to destroy our culture and statehood, everything else has lost its importance.
In the course of this interview, I ask Marynka to share her experiences of the invasion and to explain how this violence has impacted her life and her work.
Haley Laningham: If I may, let me preface this by explaining the dramatic conditions under which I first took greater focus on your work. To enrich my work at Southeast Review, I follow a great number of artists on Instagram. I try to follow along with what artists are up to, but I don’t always happen to memorize where everyone I follow exists in the world. In early 2021 your Instagram portfolio comprised fun GIFs of people on bikes, a tiger, and figures of women—my relationship to your account was, back then, one of simple enjoyment. However, in February 2022, I noticed a shift of tone in a new piece but didn’t think much of it. Sometime later I noticed this again and only then decided to dig in to the captions. It then hit me that this artist I had followed offhand was in fact Ukrainian, living in a city in the way of Russian fire, and actually documenting the invasion in daily art. Of course, in the United States, we were hearing a lot about it, but I felt that suddenly, through something so often unserious as Instagram, I was watching someone live the peril. It was a flooring experience for these dots to connect—and then immediately to feel great fear for you and a voracious interest in your story—for a voice coming from the ground in Ukraine.
In order to frame how we talk about your art and your experiences, I feel we ought to begin with the most obvious questions. How has your life changed between the beginning of the invasion and now?
Marynka Dovhanych: The initial change was instant. I felt a massive threat, not only to my own life but to the lives of generations of Ukrainians, to the existence of my country: a very real threat that was getting worse by the minute. It’s interesting that it changed most people in Ukraine in the same way; we all felt very similar things in the beginning and that helped us unite and take care of each other.