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Artem Humilevskyi’s unfettered spirit
A conversation on nudity and identity with Ukrainian fine art photographer Artem Humilevskiy
I got stuck poring over the work of Artem Humilevskyi recently, a welcome distraction from the work I should have been doing, had I not been scrolling in a fixated state through Twitter, an occurrence which has never happened before or since, I promise. Suddenly my thumb stopped over an image of a corpulent nude man leaned up against a bare rock, hugging the wall of what appeared to be a mountainside, the image washed a in cold gray infiltrating what otherwise might have been a tender, loving embrace.
Clicking through to his profile and exploring his work, I got more of a snapshot of Artem Humilevskyi. I learned he is Ukrainian, a photographer and visual artist whose striking images have won awards and been exhibited in galleries and museums. His images feature himself as the subject, exploring a variety of ideas around identity and family. His various photo series, such as Roots and Giant, explore themes of heritage, home, and nature. His images are sometimes playful, often haunting, capturing a raw human spirit in a way that is evocative and stirring. They seem to tell a story that I can’t quite crack, each evoking a feeling of sacrifice, of journey, of place, or of connection.
Artem’s unique approach to creating images, and his willingness to be vulnerable in his art make a powerful statement. I was so drawn to his work that I felt compelled to reach out for an interview, and I was thrilled when he agreed to answer some questions. We discussed his creative process, the role of nudity in his work, and how his life changed and his art evolved in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which led to Artem fleeing the city of Mykolaiv with his family for the Ukrainian countryside last year.
I was pleased to learn that Artem has thought deeply about nudity in his own work. He’s quick to clarify, however, that he is not a nudist and does not live his life in the nude. Rather, nudity is a tool, a narrative device he employs to get closer to his audience. To me, that makes the bravery of his work and the truth of his ideas even more compelling. 🚀
There’s a powerful symbolic statement in the literal fact that you strip yourself bare for your art. Have you ever questioned the choice to put yourself front and center in your work?
I do all my work and projects on an intuitive level. I try to disconnect logic and reveal the level of reflection on the thoughts formed in my subconscious.
Your images explore themes of identity, spirituality, and family. Why is nudity a compelling tool for you as an artist exploring these themes?
For me, nudity in my work is primarily about honesty and openness to the viewer. With this gesture, I show that I have nothing to hide, and the viewer begins to believe my other statements subconsciously. It's like a curtain on a theater stage; until it opens, the viewer cannot look into the depths of the scene.
I’m curious about your method for creating an image. Is there research? Do you start with a concept? Where does the photograph begin?
In the Giant project, I researched myself while creating photos, and the creation process was a form of reflection and research. In the Roots project, I do the opposite. First, I try to formulate the concept of the idea internally for myself. Then, I think about the visual elements that can help me to reveal my statement. Only after that do I start the general visualization.
How has your work or your approach to your work changed since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine?
After Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, I stopped shooting photos for the Giant project and began to think of myself as a part of society, a part of the nation. The common misfortune awakened an unknown code in Ukrainians. Everyone, even in the remotest corner of the world, felt the call of their land, their identity, and their freedom. I wrote during the war about the spirit, the power of roots, and the connection between us.
How has web3 enabled or supported your work? Have you found success in the NFT space?
Yes I can say that the support of web3 was very great! And helped me raise some money to help. There is still a lot of interest in my work in Ukraine now.
Outside of art, does nudity hold some importance to you in your life?
Outside of art, nudity has no meaning to me. For me, it is neither good nor bad. It is simply a choice of comfort or condition for each person.
Anything else you want people to know?
I would not like nudity to be the main symbol of my work. For me, it is only a tool that I use to express my thoughts. In general, I support the anti-sexualization of the human body. 🪐
You can find more of Artem’s work and story on his website, humilevskiy.com, or elsewhere online at linktr.ee/humilevskiy.
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