Oksana Berda: I think of abstract art as a language

Architerior spoke to Toronto based artist Oksana Berda about the importance of having a community and maintaining relationships as an artist, aswell as her wish to develop resources for other artists and creatives to support and contribute to their success.

Oksana, can you tell us about how you got interested in art?

I always loved art – as a child I loved looking at book covers, photographs in family albums, music videos, fireworks, painted tea cups which extended into endless hours doodling and painting. As a teenager I ended up getting into and going to an arts highschool in Toronto, where my major was Visual Arts. We studied Art History and had a studio practice learning different mediums and techniques. I would say that highschool was when I developed more of a refined taste and appreciation for the arts and started imagining myself belonging to that world. 

In short, what defines your art style?

My work can be classified into lyrical abstraction. I work a lot with colour, building atmospheric narratives.

Photo credit: Jen Aurich/ @jenaurich

What techniques do you use?

My work depends on a lot of experimentation. I use mixed media in my practice including acrylic, ink, watercolour and soft pastel. I think of abstract art as a language – I speak a lot with layers and intersection using different brushes to drag and push colour around. I use soft pastel as my dry element. It doesn’t like to be controlled so it creates a tension in the work. I am constantly trying to figure out new ways to communicate. 

Is there anything special outside of art that inspires your artworks?

I am inspired by stories and language, as well as the outdoors. I like feeling like I am fully immersed in something. With a good book or movie I find that immersion on a cerebral level. Spending time outside, hiking or swimming or paddling allows me to immerse my whole body, my physical life. I find inspiration in anything that can move me, emotionally, intellectually and physically.

What are you working on right now?

At the moment I am working on a series of works on canvas. I’m experimenting with raw canvas which allows me to work with layers in ways that paper can’t. Stay tuned!

Can you share one of your most memorable moments during your art career?

I’m about 2 years into my art practice as a full time endeavour, so everything feels so fresh and memorable. But this year I had something new and unexpected happen – my work was included into the redesign of a big hotel. That was very exciting. 

Photo credit: Jen Aurich/ @jenaurich

If you could go back to the beginning of your art career, what advise would you give yourself?

I try to constantly remind myself of the importance of having a community and maintaining relationships. Making art goes hand in hand of being isolated and working alone. It can become a bad habit, and I have been swallowed up by work before. So I am trying to be conscious of it and spend time with my family, connect with friends and support other artists in the community by attending their shows. 

Photo credit: Jen Aurich/ @jenaurich

You also hold workshops, can you tell us more about this?

When I had a full time job I used to have to be inventive with my time so that I could paint. I now teach a workshop a few times a year about sustaining a creative practice. I want to help people see that there is a way to make work no matter the time constraints and also give them confidence about examining their own work and finding their individual voice. The feedback I’ve gotten has been so wonderful – it seems to really help. I am planning to launch a version of it online for those who might not live in Toronto or have conflicting schedules to attend in person. As I progress in my career I want to continue developing resources for other artists and creatives to support and contribute to their success.