"Despite that the world is changing rapidly, there is always a place for art in this chaotic world, you just have to take a little effort to find that place."
Prozzorrr is the moniker for the Ukrainian artists Vladyslav Prozorenko and Diana Tarhonii. Both graduated in environmental design at the Kyiv University of Culture and Arts in 2018 and are interior designers and contemporary artists. Vladislav and Diana come from different artistic backgrounds. While Vladislav preferred watercolours, portraits, and sketches, Diana had more experience in capturing Ukrainian landscapes with gouache and acrylics. After meeting at the university, they decided to merge their creative practices. For 6 years, they made many successful and less successful attempts to implement their varied creative ideas.
As designers, they always strived to create something modern and stylish, but most importantly: unique. This motivation prompted Vladislav to develop a new technique to create captivating compositions - using woodblocks as a painting medium. Over the past year, Vladislav and Diana have been perfecting the art of creating wooden pictures from different particles and letters. In their work, all wood pieces are painted by hand, and each work has a different arrangement of letters as well as a secret cube that makes it unique.
Q. Can you explain what does your artistic name Prozzorrr mean?
The meaning of our name is really simple, it comes from Vladyslav's surname and Diana's future surname. When we created our first artwork 'Mona Lisa', we didn't have a name yet. When the final stage of creation came, we realized we needed a name and decided to make it personal. But since we are designers, it was essential for us to make it look aesthetically pleasing on a metal signature under a secret cube. That's why we added some letters to PROZOR and got a new name PROZZORRR - which fits perfectly into the metal square signature.
Q. Both of you graduated recently from environmental design at Kyiv National University of Culture and Arts and are interior designers now. How did this part of your education and work experience contribute to your artworks today?
We can say that studying at the university gave us a basic idea of working as an interior designer and provided us with practical skills. We also learned many software programs that we now use to create sketches and draw exact drawings for the cubes and letters.
Our job as interior designers allows us to work with different materials and understand their properties. Because of that, we learnt the principles of working with wood and how to choose glue, primer and paint. And as interior designers, we also instinctively consider how the artworks will look in an interior setting.
Q. You both have started your creative journey from a young age with different mediums. Can you tell us how you work with each other’s specialities and combine your various talents?
Although our early-on creative activity was different, we started working in the same direction in the university. However, of course, the personal creative skills of young ages are still preserved.
As a teenager, I loved the creative chaos expressed in my sketches. Afterwards, I studied at the Kyiv College of Construction, Architecture and Design and gained much technical knowledge.
While Vlad was in college, I was in art school and an idealist in my artworks. Our character traits are now evident in the division of tasks in our creative process.
Exactly. Diana is more involved in the creative part, in which she does everything to make each cube look perfect. Sometimes she can mix the colours for hours to get the right shade. Her perfectionism means that we have to discard many unusable cubes. Now, we even have a big separate box with defective cubes.
In the meantime, Vlad is looking for ideas and the technical part of their creation, including the preparation of quality materials for our artworks. However, even though we have slightly different roles in our creation process, we often work together on the artworks.
Q. Painting on woodblock letters is really creative and refreshing, but how did you come up with this innovative idea?
Oh. It is a long story. We traveled a lot in Europe before the war and often visited various museums and galleries. We were very fascinated by the artworks from ancient times. The visit to the Louvre Museum and meeting with the real Mona Lisa impressed us the most. Then, she became our first muse on the way to our own style.
One day Vladyslav came up with the idea to make pixel digital art of the Mona Lisa. Back then, we used a font similar to the one we use today. At first, we liked the result and we did a few more such pixel arts of famous paintings. However, after they were printed on the canvas, we realised that this is not what we wanted. Then we started a new round of search for the right style.
We transformed the pixel art into a 3D sketch and were convinced that this was what we had long imagined. Then, we took a long time to search for the ideal materials and techniques to create the artwork physically. We fell in love with the woodblock idea and soon finished our first artwork with this technique - the recreated Mona Lisa. Since then, we are sure that we have found the right style and have been working on improving it in the past year. Now, we have so many more ideas for future creations that we have no time to realise yet.
Q. Can you elaborate on the concept and meaning behind using wood letters to form iconic images? What does it mean for you?
With these woodblock letters, we feel that we are able to interact with our viewers better. The whole process from them recognising the iconic images from afar to discovering the small woodblocks close-up is very fascinating to us. Sometimes, our viewers start looking for words in the woodblocks and eventually find some words that we don’t even know of!
Using the 3D letters also add dimension to the artwork. Even in the darkness, we can see the artwork in very different way with some light sources. The play of light and shadow here is almost a magical performance to us.
Q. When you create these artworks and share them with others, is there any specific message you would like to bring across?
Definitely. As you may have noticed, we arranged the letter randomly and orientate them in different directions in all our artworks. At the same time, we also integrate the name of the artwork among the woodblock letters. By this, we would like to convery the idea that despite the world is changing rapidly, there is always a place for art in this chaotic world, you just have to take a little effort to find that place.
Q. Can you describe the artistic process of creating each artwork?
Yes, it is a very long but interesting process. First of all, after we developed an initial idea of the artwork, we will use a notebook to decide on the placement of each cube and letter. Our goal in this stage ensure that the number of each letter do not differ a lot and that same letter does not repeat in a row. Then, we create a 3D sketch to choose the colours for each of the pixelated cube. This allows us to visualise the final artwork. Then, we print out the 3D sketch in colour and assign each cube an alphabet.
Following that, the real creation process begins. We first select woodblock letters based on my previous plan and cubes of different thicknesses. Then we clean and grind them, before gluing them together. Before we start painting, a layer of primer will be applied. The painting stage is our favourite, even though it also takes a long time to do it as each block is hand-painted (not to mention the secret cube which we prepare separately).
Next, we need to put together the frame and the base of the artwork, before covering it with a layer of primer and paint. Then, we need to assemble our artwork like a puzzle and glue them to the base one by one. Finally, the artwork will be done after we placed the metal signature and the secret cube.
Q. Is there a reason you created multiple editions of the same image but with different arrangements of woodblocks?
We want each of our artworks included in the limited collection to be a little different from each other. Thus, each version will be unique because the arrangement of the letters will not be repeated in the next versions.
Q. We understand that you both are still living in Kyiv at the moment of this interview (June 2022). How have things changed for you because of the war in the past few months, both personally and professionally (as artists and interior designers)?
It's hard to talk about it. The war has changed a lot in our lives and continues to do it. Before the war, we planned future trips for spring and summer. We were looking for a bigger apartment where we would have our own studio. We worked stably as interior designers. On a normal day, we often walked around Kyiv, met with friends, and really enjoyed this life. But almost all of this was taken away from us by the war.
Now in Ukraine, interior design has lost its relevance for obvious reasons. Therefore, we had to change the direction and start working as international freelancers in product design, graphic design, and photography. We stopped dreaming about travelling because the only dream we have is for the war to stop - just like everyone else here. The search for larger apartments has also paused. But what the war could not take away from us is our creative activity.
In the first weeks of the invasion of our country, we were very lost. It was only shortly after we started creating the first three editions of ‘Frida’. At that time, we did not know whether we would ever finish them. But after a few weeks of living in the hallway of our house (it was the safest place), we realised that this depressed state was killing us and we needed to be distracted. Then, we decided that we would finish creating the ‘Frida’ editions despite the air sirens and danger. At the same time, we also adopted a cat from a volunteer - it was one of the happiest events since the war happened.
After finishing the Frida editions, we realised that the art creation process had helped in keeping our spirit up. Not only that these three Frida pieces are really special to us, we also decided to continue creating our art.
Later, we accidentally saw the ROA's Instagram post about finding new talent and sent them our portfolio. We were very excited when ROA's team appreciated our artworks and, despite all the difficulties, invited us to be a part of them. We really appreciate that ROA believed in us. This gave us an even greater desire to create something new, so we will soon have fresh new artworks coming up.
Q. Did this period of war influence your view of your art? Is there anything else you want to change or try out in the future?
Yes, of course. When the war in your country has been going on for 3 months, you stop being afraid to try something new. Though we were always full of new ideas, we were constantly postponing their implementation. The current situation in our country has shown that if you want to do something - do it now.
In addition, we have also begun to appreciate our national culture more. Some of our future artworks, which are currently in the process of making, will be dedicated to Ukrainian culture. With our artworks, we want to show how special Ukraine is. Therefore, in the future, we will create more artworks related to our country and its cultural heritage.
Q. Are there any challenges that you foresee in the future that might impact your artistic practice?
Now we don't see any challenges in the future. In the first month of the war, we had difficulty accessing the materials needed for the artworks. Finding an operational art supply shop and high-quality wood was difficult. But luckily, it did not last long.
In the future, we want to further develop and improve our artistic practice by experimenting with other materials to create artworks, but we are confident that this will be fun and not too difficult to carry out.
Q. Could you describe your work in three words?
Uniqueness - Relief - Geometry