Ohii Katya is an Ukrainian visual and performance artist, born in 1993 on the outskirts of Kharkiv city. Previously working as an engineer and 3D character animator, she made the decision to pursue a career in art at the end of September 2019, after relocating from Kyiv to Rome, where she currently resides and works.
Her artistic practice encompasses installations, performances, videos, and sculptures, all of which delve into the depths of intense, sometimes even violent, processes of metamorphosis, as well as the allure of the strange and unfamiliar.
Inspired by natural forms, the continuation of lines, and perpetual motion, she skillfully translates her background in engineering and 3D animation into an artistic expression. Through her work, she captivates viewers by exploring the constant process of spiritual and physical transformation, while also interpreting mythology and archetypes through a contemporary cultural lens. Despite being primarily self-taught, Ohii Katya is a visionary artist who demonstrates a remarkable level of precision and allure in her sculptures. One might assume that there is an extensive and specific study behind her creations, making her self-education all the more surprising and impressive.
Can you tell us about your journey into the world of art + performance? What initially sparked your interest in this field?
I have always been creative, but never considered it as a career pass until the end of 2019, almost 4 years ago, after moving from Kyiv to Rome. Before making art I studied engineering and then worked as a 3d animator for a while.
I did not know how the world of contemporary art functions, no art education, and no friends who would pursue art as a career.
But there was a desire.
At first, I painted motley and ambitiously huge canvases. At that time I thought that I would probably continue with painting. However, I’ve never gotten proper satisfaction from the process, something was missing. Until one morning I woke up with the idea of making a sculpture. I had no sketch or knowledge about materials. But somehow everything turned out great, which never happened to me in painting. Moreover, my body was in motion all the time while working on the sculpture, a kind of dance came out, I constantly slid around the work, never being static.
Along with sculpture came an interest in performance, installation, and video.I want to span them all into one whole world.
How would you describe your process aesthetics and the overall vision behind your art?
I perceive my works as nonlinear fairytale chapters that tend to evoke an underlying tension between eroticism and abjection.
Nature, constantly changing, mutating, and taking on bizarre and sometimes grotesque forms, is a main source of inspiration for me. It’s so familiar, but at the same time inexplicable and often frightening. There is something uncanny in it, as well as in the body, that you can’t really describe.
All these shaped a central topic in my practice - metamorphosis and the allure of the odd.
Can you elaborate on the inspiration behind a few of your previous projects and the themes you wanted to convey?
I want to highlight two of the recent projects. They are not linked to each other directly, but both have a side reference weirdly rooted in Christianity and were out one after another the same year.
With the first, Cannibal Buffet, I was exploring the vore fetish.
It showcases the ritual of consumption, erotic and disgusting at the same time.
We step into a bizarre mystical world in softly cold colors, where the cruelty rooted in human nature reigns.
A grotesque story unfolds on the altar of an abandoned monastery. The choice of place was not random; the well-known tradition of eating the body of Christ in Christian churches, nowadays symbolic, is an echo of ancient pagan rituals associated with cannibalism.
The second is Feast, an eerie fairytale told through performance.
It aims to portray a hybrid human-insect creature undergoing the process of metamorphosis.
Often in pagan and Christian rites of transition, feast represented entry into a new hypostasis and inclusion into a new role. Eating food was the symbolic act of absorbing the new, and oneness with it.
How do you approach the process of researching for a new installation? Can you walk us through your creative process from the initial concept to the final visual?
When I start a project, I get into an obsessive state, close to mania. It feels necessary to make the work. It becomes all-consuming, even dangerous, but always invigorating, white-hot, and enlightening.
Usually, It begins from having in my head a kind of fluid image, always in motion, or some kind of vague narrative, or even a word, stuck to the tongue like nougat, which triggers a number of hallucinatory images.
Then I listen and concentrate on what the project needs, cutting off unnecessary, and keeping only required. Despite my installations being baroque, often claustrophobic, and overdosed by elements, every small detail, surviving till the end, is a necessity and influences the whole atmosphere of a piece.
The characters and materials chosen for the project not only visually adapt and harmonize with the architectural structure of the chosen place or landscape, but also have a conceptual connection with them.
Identity + aesthetic visuals are becoming increasingly important in art. How do you incorporate these values into your work?
Identity in my work is always fluid, never stable. I work a lot with transforming bodies.
Performances, together with sculptures and installations, form an odd fictional realm, where fear and the lure of the unknown are evoked, where the characters undergo grotesque transformations in search of their identity and place in the world.
I work hard on the visual quality to create the best possible presentation that fits the conceptual needs of the project. Each time I want to make the best show, the most visually and conceptually striking. I draw my inspiration from opera and theater to sharpen, exaggerate, and ignite every sense.
What role does collaboration play in your work? Have you collaborated with other artists, and if so, how has that influenced your creative output?
In such a complex media, like installation, collaboration is sometimes a necessity.
I often collaborate with directors of photography and sound artists. It helps me get expertise I do not have enough straight from the professionals.
There is also a community-building element, sharing ideas and emotions with the artists you appreciate, is one of the best activities ever!
My recent favorite collaboration is the live performance and immersive installation, Feast, that took place at Como Contemporanea (CoCo), a former silk factory, where I was transformed into a human-insect hybrid creature, carousing on a baroque 100kg still-life hanging from the factory ceiling. The sound for Feast was composed by the music duo from Milan, Grotesque (Alessandro Vignati and Simone Chiodini).
Another collaboration is the video work, BALIA, directed by Finn O’Hanlon, and featuring my same-name live performance, showing a creature with silicone-glued eyes awakened inside a makeshift womb, shaped like the body of a huge woodlice.
Last but not least, I collaborated with the Italian band Archivio Futuro for their music video Deserto Giallo, directed by Leonardo Parata. For this project, I created the masks Volto and Venetian Devil, and an installation IZBA.
How do your background culture and environment influence your work? Are there any specific elements of your roots that inspire you?
In my opinion, surroundings shape you day by day, not with a specific element, but with its routine, and a wide range of small unnoticeable things.
Probably, living near the fairly large mystical forest, bold and uncanny in winter, baroque blooming during summer, a forest as a place of change, a place of the unknown, clearly emerges through the external outline in my practice.
What are some of the biggest challenges you've faced as an artist, and how have you overcome them?
Well… I would say that challenging for me was a period in my life before art.
I had an office job, very well paid and quite creative, but I was feeling emotionally drained, fitting in someone else's skin, which didn’t suit me at all. With the decision to make art, I finally feel in the right place. I am not trying to say it is easy, art is one of the most difficult careers to build if you are coming from a working-class background, because it needs much investment, especially at the initial stages.
But making art also turned out to be my true passion, which makes challenges not so frightening and fun to overcome.
What advice would you give to aspiring creatives who are just starting their careers?
Do not be afraid of anything. Experiment. Fulfill the craziest ideas, they are the funniest.
Looking ahead, what are your future plans? Are there any exciting projects or collaborations on the horizon?
I am currently working on several new projects. They will span together sculpture, installation, performance, and, maybe, film. The narrative will take place in a fictional realm divided into reigning and subaltern castes: Voyers and Executors.
We will be plunged into a dystopian society obsessed with the desire for persistent transformation and craving for unexplored sensations.
A letter to your future self. What would you write?
Go to the furthermost limits, be perseverant, keep evolving and changing, carry about the people around you.