Hamlet Zinkovskyi (known as Gamlet) – a young Ukrainian artist who works in various media, famous for his street-art works in Kharkiv and other cities. In 2009 and 2011 Gamlet became one of the finalists of the PinchukArtCentre Prize, awarded to the most talented artists of the new generation. In 2013 he together with Zhanna Kadyrova and Nikolai Ridnyi represented Ukraine at the 53rd Venice Biennale – the main exhibition of a contemporary visual art of the world.
– Gamlet, please tells us when did you realize that art is yours?
– The fact that my father is a painter had very strong impact on me. And it was traditionally, if the father is a painter so the son is a painter for sure. Then in the school was a moment when I almost didn’t paint, and parents said that if you do not paint then go to vocational institution. To go to transport vocational institution which was located right next to our house – the prospect is so-so. And I realized that no. Let’s say, the art accompanied me all my life. There was no particular moment when I sat down and realized that this is it. This is a state which is always inside me and every time I open and find new reasons why art and nothing else.
– What art movements do you work in?
– Paintings, drawings, street art, photography, installation, performance, and I started to work very carefully with video art. It’s something new for me. But just three days ago, I contrived one thing and realized that yes, this is mine. After the interview, we will go with friends to film video in a field.
– Whereon did you make your first work and in what genre?
– On the first year studying in art school which is located at Ivanovka, beautiful urban district where located just factories and private sectors, there on the fence I painted Gagarin, the work was very funny. Then I haven’t heard anything about street art. It was the first street work. It’s in a super scuffed form but it still exists. Sometime later I made another 2 works although I didn’t sign them. I can, of course, go to renew them 16 years later (laughing).
– Do you consider your works as objects of art?
– Whatever I will answer anyway the answer will be bad (laughing). In fact, only time will show what is art. Because there is a crowd of French artists in the 18th century whose works filled half of the Louvre but there is nothing to look at. The king paid them money for it but the pictures were really rinky-dink. Just a historic period of tedious French painting. Thereat it was considered art but now looking at it, let’s say it’s a very dull, boring, similar, banal feat with rare exceptions. Once I was said “the time of Van Gogh’s gone” and it’s very much affected me. Now if you didn’t became famous during the life, the chance that after your death, all suddenly come to their senses of how good you were, is zero. Most likely, this won’t happen. You need to move all the time, exhibit the works.
– What is art for you: a way of earning, hobby or a way to escape from everything?
– To say that it’s a way of earnings – ridiculously, especially in our country to connect art with business – twice ridiculously. Therefore, what I do, of course, is not a way to make money. Yes, sometimes I sell the works and it allows me to exist, sometimes even go abroad to my friends, but very humbly. On the one hand art for me is a way of understanding the world and on the other hand street art which I do in Kharkiv is a dialogue with the city. I’m doing works that can’t be bought. I hope I will make a website, I’ve been doing this for a year. And then people who have never been to Kharkiv will be able to see the street art. It’s great when people find your new works just on the streets.
– You participated in many prestigious exhibitions and competitions. Perhaps your works became more desirable? Has something changed in your life?
– No. I sincerely hoped that after the Venice Biennale my work will get better and I will earn money but it didn’t happen. There is also a problem probably in my closeness. It would be possible to move in Kyiv and actively engage there because Kharkiv is paradoxical place. Here are a lot of very wealthy people who don’t buy pictures here, they rather will go to Kyiv. It’s funny but nevertheless this is our sad reality. We have several oligarchs who could easily open cultural centers, as did it Pinchuk in his time. Taking into account the number of oligarchs and their ability to open cultural centers, we could have in every major city the center of contemporary art and it’s normal. Because in Grasse with 300 thousand people, there are several contemporary art museums and in compare with our city Mariupol with 450 thousand people where for the entire city there is no even a bookstore. It’s terrifyingly. You might think that I’m complaining about it, no, it’s just a statement of the fact. It will take some time because we stuck in the Soviet Union and 25 years can’t get out. Only now there are some hopes, after the Maidan.
– Did you have a cult-figure who you imitated or looked up to?
– Of course, Van Gogh but at some point I thought that it was the time to cut my ear and I felt sorry for my ear (laughing). There were painters who I would like to imitate, for example, Picasso. He lived greatly. He did what he wanted. Now I’m far from that condition. I am interested in the life stories of some people and not even the stories of the painters, more like characters. My favorite now is Sisyphus, Sisyphean labor and the general idea of absurd. I think that I will do a project on this topic. Sisyphean task, we all plus or minus are doing the same. The meaning of his work: he pushes up the stone the whole day and it rolls down. That is our life. And I don’t see nothing sad, it’s even fun (laughing).
– You are not registered in any social networks. Do you use a computer, the Internet?
– I’m not registered in Facebook, Vkontakte, Twitter and all other social networks. I have iPhone but for me it’s a camera, notebook, weather, just e-mail and Skype. Skype is the only means of communication with people when I’m abroad, plus the European number. I find it easier to call. I know that life will ever make me to register there but it isn’t yet. Now people measure the number of friends on Facebook. And I realized that this is a kind of a race who is cooler. I don’t want to play in such world. I can’t afford to waste time on it. I understand that many working issues can be solved there but my job is not connected with Facebook. I sell paintings, buy them very rare, they are expensive, so Facebook won’t help me. I do not have time to read the book and social networks are out of the question. Better I’ll read books.
– What do you aspire in life? What are your priorities?
– There are some small things that would be damned enjoyable. It would be nice to know that people come from London to Kharkiv to look at the paintings and not only mine. It’s a small thing but I think over time it will come true (laughing). For me it’s very important not to lose the opportunity to help, encourage people. I have already done it for more than 10 people in my life. I took USB drive with their works, gave to the right hands, and the people were invited, they were noticed, and they began a new life. You can solve some serious problems due to the contacts. So I would expand contacts.
Globally, I would like global peace but it won’t happen. Always will be born small Putin, small Hitler or Stalin who will grow up. Perhaps now a lad walks here and you don’t know whom he will grow up. Despite the fact that I want everything to be good it won’t be good if you just want to. If you do something for it then there is a hope – not a guarantee.
– Do you plan in the future to work in the new branches of art?
– If it will be close to me and answer my some internal needs, yes. If there is something I’ll try it. In principle, the variety which I embrace is quite enough for me to reveal myself as much as possible and add something else is possible but not essential. My friends programmers periodically try to implant me a love for drawing on the tablet, and I don’t want. I explained them why I like to draw on paper. They tell me that we can take the texture of a ballpoint pen (I’m doing drawings with a ballpoint pen now) and it will be as a ballpoint pen. And I say: “And if coffee will drop on the tablet?” They answer – wipe it. I say if the coffee drops on paper nothing has to be done about it and it’s important to me. I am for live, tactile things that can be touched. About video, I take it easy. There are several videos that fascinated me so I want to make my own video.
– Gamlet, thank you for your sincere answers. The TKT wants to wish that your creativity won’t fade out and that you keep up the good work! Your example can inspire a lot of people!