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Friendship plays a central role in Sofiia Dubyna's imaginative work

  • Fine Art

Every year, magazine Metropolis M releases a Graduation Special, featuring work by several alumni who graduated as visual artists. Sofiia Dubyna, alumnus of Fine Art at the AKI ArtEZ Academy of Art & Design Enschede, is one of the artists featured in the special. Metropolis M asked the artist the question, "What is the story behind your work?"

Friendship plays a central role in Sofiia Dubyna's imaginative work

At first glance, you might think that Sofiia Dubyna (born 2000) has used watercolour and charcoal for her paintings. But, she reveals, actually they are leftover bits of make-up she got from her friends, mixed with a binder. Due to this unusual choice of materials, it is unlikely the paintings will stand the test of time, but Dubyna is not concerned that her representations might eventually disappear 'like a ghost'.

Dubyna hit on this working method after speaking with the artist Charlott Weise in her second year when the latter paid a visit to the academy of art. Looking at a black-and-white drawing that Dubyna made of her best friend, Weise suggested using a touch of rouge to add a bit of life to the portrait. Dubyna adds that she doesn't want to emphasise the use of make-up too much; he doesn't want her work to come across as gimmicky. Besides, it is a medium that she loves working with – it is not an end or a theme in itself.

For Dubyna it is more important that she portrays her friends using the leftover make-up they have given her. Friendship plays a central role in her work. Dubyna explains that she rarely draws inspiration from work by other artists, but that she does from conversations with her friends.

In one of the paintings in Dubyna’s graduation presentation, she has depicted herself with a monkey (Self -portrait 1, 2023). Actually it is a double self-portrait, prompted by a friend who always calls her ‘monkey’. Such inside jokes, nicknames and other personal rituals between two people are things she has visualised in other work. It gives her paintings something imaginative, without being fictionalised. At the same time, Dubyna is also aware of the distance between friends. If you haven't seen each other for a while, you have to get used to each other again, for example by means of rituals. Making a painting of someone using their own make-up, which literally has that person's DNA attached to it, is a way of keeping them close to you.

Author: Maarten Buser, poet and art critic