Author: Kseniya Goncharova
25 Aug. 2021

Iryna Onopenko: “My winning formula is talent and high performance”

The artist's image is always associated with a slightly overwhelmed person who sees nothing besides the easel. Iryna Onopenko, our heroic character today, breaks these stereotypes completely. She loves painting most of all, but in addition to her favourite work, she has time to be a successful business woman, a caring mother of four children. Besides, Iryna finds time to attend and take part in the international exhibitions and biennials, manage the gallery and have a tremendous look. This can only be a true for Lady MIlLLION.


 Iryna, you had all chances to become a successful lawyer, but deliberately chose a more thorny and difficult way concerned with art. When did  you realize that you have to throw in with painting?

It was not just about chances, I did have successfully worked in this field for rather long period of time. But the fate decided otherwise. I liked to draw since I was a child. I wrote poems and stories, attended art classes at the District Pioneer House and took part in the children's drawing contests. I was very creative child.

But in my family absolutely all are lawyers. So there was no any chance of choosing a different profession and during family meeting, everybody unanimously decided as to my future profession. During classes in the institute I painted  teachers and students. And after the law faculty of the Institute of International Relations, I graduated from the correspondence department of journalism.

Do you remember the moment when you decided to radically change your life and open the gallery? What inspired you for this step?

There were no artistic institutions behind my shoulders. I chose a contemporary art school at the Institute of Contemporary Art. I was interested in the practical orientation and atmosphere of the initial process.

I came to painting consciously. It is the essence and content of my life.

How long have you been writing pictures, and do you exhibit your artworks only in your gallery?

Some pictures I write within one day, others – for a few months. This is a continuous process. I stop working on the picture only if I am completely satisfied with the end result. I can write several works simultaneously. The very process of creating a painting in the workshop is the most important to me.

There are large exhibition halls in my art space, where my works and works of my colleagues are presented.

Now Ukraine is going through turbulent times. How are galleries working now? Is it difficult to popularize Ukrainian art?

The main function of the gallery is the dealership, and the artist's prestige is created by public activities and exhibitions. To sell pictures is an art; therefore, dealers are engaged in this process. I'm 100% committed to the creative process. Dealers bring customers. For many years I’ve manage to acquire my own clients and fellows. They give me a stable income and connections in the artistic environment.

The galleries are trying to exhibit  artists whose works people do already buy. Everyone wants to make money. The artist and his work should be in demand, which increases the status of the artist and the price of his paintings.

The curator is an important figure in the international arts system. It is the curator who decides on the relevance of a topic, helps the artists to realize their ideas and projects. Today it is impossible to get into the field of art, if you do not promote yourself.

I was lucky to meet my curator; and now we are going to the Venice Biennale under her auspices.

How much time do you spend in the workshop and does your family support you in your creative work?

It takes me a lot of time and effort to create a picture. I’m totally focused on the creation of new works. So I spend almost all my time in the workshop and I’m very grateful to my family for their support, faith and inspiration.

Your works are very different. You write landscapes, abstractions, portraits ... Which style or genre is your favourite?

As an artist, I was in a long creative pursuit, mastering various techniques and trends. Today I work in different genres and do experiments constantly. At this stage, I like contemporary art – an actual art that goes beyond the traditional characteristics.

What famous artists are exemplary for you? Whose pictures do you like the most?

Artists who inspire and I’d like to align myself are William Sasnal, Eric Zener, Andrii Tsoi, Borys Firtsak, Mikhailo Levchenko, Vadym Demydov, Sergii Belik, Victor Sydorenko, Marlene Dumas, Mark Rothko and Gerhard Richter.

What pictures, in your opinion, are sold in Ukraine better than anything? What is understood and well bought by domestic art-buyers and collectors?

Today’s art has a very wide context. The artists rely on the viewers. They give him the will to invent content by himself. A modern artist should be modern not in the technique of performing work, but in methods of thinking as well. There is no clear answer to this question, because someone likes one direction, the other – another. So many men, so many minds.

Do Ukrainian young artists have a prospect for popularization and successful self-fulfilment in Europe and the United States?

The works of many Ukrainian artists are popular outside our homeland. For example, Maksym Mamsikov, Arsen Asadov, Oksana Mas, Gryts Erde and others are well-known abroad. The art market is actively developing. There are new art spaces, the exhibitions are held in.

Also Ukrainian artists are supported by galleries and auction houses, such as Karas Gallery, Voloshyn Gallery, Mystetskyi Arsenal, PinchukArtCentre, Sky Astra Foundation and others. The purpose of all these institutions is to popularize culture via art projects.

What inspires you to create stories of your paintings?

I like to visit exhibitions and watch over the creativity of other masters. It inspires for creation of new works. Also I’m inspired by travelling. I love yachting and warm hearted companies.

What is your winning formula?

It is the presence of talent and high performance.

What are your plans for the nearest future?

To work, develop, visit residences and popularize art outside our country.

You are very beautiful, young, successful Lady MILLION. What can you advise women who are unsure of themselves and who are still hesitating whether to start doing their favourite things or not?

Embrace your dreams! Being totally immersed in the creative process, I found myself. Beloved things calm us down, fill with energy and give vitality and joy. I feel myself a woman in harmony who works and inspires other women by her own example!

Photo: Oleksandr Serbinov
Filming & editing: Vlad Pustovit, Artem Kupchynskyi
Location: Art-Studio Irene Onopenko
Translation: Global Translation Services 1+1
Production: Million production
Jewelry: Fabergé Boutique Kiev, Helena SAI
Makeup: Irina Krasij
The dress: ST Gallery
Stylist: Tatiana Nikolaychuk

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