Stanislava Pinchuk, also known as Miso, is an artist based in Melbourne and Tokyo. Her work may seem delicate and embellished in its visual qualities, but the deep-seated stories behind each work are rather emotive. We’ve asked her a few questions about her work, inspirations, and her next steps as an artist.
Can you tell us a bit about your background?
I grew up in Kharkov, in Ukraine, and currently live between Melbourne & Tokyo. I’m an artist, mainly making works with pin-holes on paper and installations, tattooing and publishing books once in a while. Most of the works are currently data maps of the Ukrainian civil war, of changing topographies and sonic scores of conflict.
Having studied Art History and Philosophy, how did you develop interest in producing your own work as an artist? Has your studies influenced your approach to work at all?
I think it was a very conscious decision at the time, to study something a little broader, that would make me a stronger artist on the whole. I still think it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done. It sounds funny to say, but I think that it really taught me how to read and write about art, and a solid foundation of conceptual touch-points. I feel like it set some great chains in motion, that I’m still following, referring back to. So I really do feel indebted to doing that, and I’m very glad that I made that call when I was eighteen, because it did seem a little counterintuitive at the time.
Your work has a very particular kind of presence. There isn’t a bold element asking for attention, but it rather draws you in with its quietness. How would you describe your own work?
Thank you! That means a lot. I’m making a big show at the moment, and it’s really been on my mind. I think there’s a real power in making beautiful things, quiet things, that knock you over the head a little when you look at them closely – when you realise they are about war, about longing, or displacement. I think there’s a huge potential for a really resonant experience, when a work has a very beautiful access point that invites you in. It’s more of an invitation than a statement, like treading softly with a big stick – which I think is just a good modus operandi on the whole. There’s a tremendous amount of power in that.
There are recurring themes of maps, cities, and constellations in your work. What about these themes are important to you?
More than anything, it serves as a personal diary. It really began as a way to document myself, feeling like I was constantly travelling, making work and selling it, that nothing felt very permanent. I felt like I didn’t have anything to show for it, at the end of the day. So I began to make physical maps and representations of my movements, the experiences of cities and gaps in memory, to make something physical and real from feeling a little fragmented. From there, I think it turned into a bigger idea of mapping cities and topographies, and now to the personal and political topographies of the civil war in Ukraine, which has been a huge part of my life in the last year and a half. So right now, it feels like it’s treading a really nice line between hard war data and a deeply personal, emotional mapping, which I really like. Alternative, private perspectives of war – the small things, the mundane things, I think it’s something we don’t see enough of.
You’ve been commissioned by Chanel, a fashion powerhouse and a dream client of many artists out there. What was the project and how did the commission come about?
Well, they just e-mailed me! They have such a wonderful way of supporting artists, with total freedom creatively, they really get it. Which is such a great thing in the dream client. Now if only NASA get in touch, I’ll tick my dream two off the bucket list!
You’re almost as well known for your homemade tattoos. How did you get into tattooing?
My best friend is a tattooist, and watching him learn… I guess it’s very inspiring! And any medium that’s technically difficult and unforgiving… for some reason, I’m there like a shot! But I really love the dialogue tattooing has with decorativiaty, with jewellery and adornment – the tension between pain and beauty, folk art and subculture, community. Bigger ideas turned back onto the body. I think it just carries the best tension. And it’s such an amazing thing to do as an artist, to make works that people carry with them everywhere they go.
Rather than taking regular appointments, you only give tattoos as a form of trade with something. Why did you decide to approach tattooing this way?
That was a decision from day one. I’ve only ever really been interested in tattooing friends, and it’s just too much of an intimate, special thing to put a financial value on. So to trade talents, I think everyone just leaves feeling really happy from that. It’s never about what the trade object is, but just the idea of an alternative economy and gesture of it more than anything.
What is the most memorable experience you’ve had from trading your tattoos?
You know, it’s funny – I find it such an intimate thing, that it’s sometimes really hard to answer that question! I never let other people be in the room when I do it, just so it’s between me and the person getting it done, alone in my studio at night, good music and food and whiskey. There’s a lot of trust, pain, adrenaline and good chats. There’s a lot of vulnerability there, I guess. So even sometimes talking about it after the fact, feels so odd to share! But tattooing maps of big journeys, memorials, tattooing over surgical scars – the really big things your friends are going through, it’s so nice to be such a direct part of that. Those very intimate ones, those have always been the most memorable ones.
What are your next steps as an artist? Is there a project you’re working on at the moment that we should keep an eye out for?
Always! I just finished making a huge show, and started making notes and lists on my studio wall for the next projects properly. I was feeling really good and organised about it, but the more studio visitors I have by, the more I realise that it looks completely bonkers to anyone else looking at my future plans. Right now it looks like this ; “THIRD PLACE! TOKYO BAR! ISIS BRIDES! TEXT MESSAGES! SO YOUNG, CAN’T MARRY NO-ONE / HORSE PRINCESS / ELEGANT FREAK OUT. SNAPCHATS FROM THE FRONT. BLACK FLAG? ”. But I swear, it makes really good sense in my head.
Lastly, can you share with us your most recent source of inspiration?
I’ve been reading a book of interviews with Bridget Riley recently, and one of her answers truly changed my life : “I try to organise a field of visual energy which accumulates until it reaches a maximum tension.” The idea of pushing things to the limit of their sensibility, the very last point before they drop off completely. It’s such a beautiful idea. I wrote this out on my studio wall, it’s the one thing on there that makes really good sense!
Interview by Jay Kim
View all of Stanislava’s work