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Flor formósa from Ukraine - Alecia, a young folk artist and our volunteer

Updated: Jul 12, 2021

Alecia Guseva from Ukraine, a young practitioner of Ukrainian folk art. Today she is an Erasmus volunteer at ARTE.M Cultural Association in Madeira Island.

Since September 2020, under the project “Art Connect” she has held several folk art painting workshops in our Art Center Caravel and one workshop in MUDAS. Museu de Arte Contemporânea da Madeira for adults and for children. At the end of 2020 Alecia has decorated the entrance of the gallery in Rua D. Carlos I 19A, in the Old Town nearby Rua de Santa Maria. So now we have bright Ukrainian flowers blooming at any weather in the streets of Funchal.

I asked her a few questions about her art and herself:

Why did you decide to come to Madeira?

Alecia: I never planned to come here, I was only looking for a project interesting for me in my new quality as an artist. The project by ARTE.M Association was exactly what I was looking for. Talking to my now mentor Sveta I felt this “click”, isn’t it just exciting to promote art and creativity?

Why did you choose folk art?

Alecia: I’m absolutely fascinated by the traditional art technique of my country, it is named Petrykivka. This art has ancient roots and symbolic meaning for Ukrainians. It’s very colorful, optimistic and life-enhancing. Petrykivka is always about imaginary floral patterns.

What is your background?

Alecia: I graduated from the faculty of Oriental Studies, majoring in Chinese Language. A year ago today I was working at a diplomatic institution of my country in Beijing, performing duty as interpreter at the Culture Department. But then something happened and I never went back to interpreting or translating again. Although, I think, life gave me a little hint that my path will lead me to Portugal - as a student, I used to live in one of the former Portuguese colonies in China, the city of Amoy (now Xiamen).

My first encounter with Petrykivka happened 4 years ago. While living in Beijing I attended a workshop organized by a famous artist from Ukraine, Halyna Nazarenko. It was love at first sight - with this painting technique and with Mrs.Halyna! She visited Madeira several years ago. Later, in 2019 I started taking Petrykivka courses in Kyiv taught by artists Lydmyla Bondarenko and Yulia Rozhkova, the most amazing teachers one can wish for.

Introducing Ukrainian culture to people is something I always did. Just the ways and the language changed, but not the purpose. Wherever I go, I know that I represent my country. I want to represent the best things about it, show Ukraine the way I see it, despite any stereotypes. There’s still a lot to tell.

What do you like about Madeira?

Alecia: Everything! Absolutely everything. Madeira is one of the most fantastic places on Earth my eyes have seen. The energy of this place is unexplainably peaceful. But the best thing about Madeira is Portuguese people, I can’t tell how much in love I am with Portuguese people.

Portuguese value kind relationships over material things. It is something to look up to. I love that Portuguese people are proud to be Portuguese, this is just so attractive to me - being proud of your roots, knowing who you are, loving your land. Have you seen how Madeirians decorate their houses? There are never too many flowers and flower pots, never too many azulejos - it’s just exquisite. The way local people talk about fado, bailinho, bordado, their landscapes - it’s always like a song to me. This love for your place is inspiring.

When I did Petrykivka workshops here in Madeira, the response of the participants was fantastic and we always had it full-booked an hour after announcing the workshop. How could I not be delighted about such interest to Ukrainian culture? I want to be the descendant who continues Ukrainian culture. I love the expressions on people’s faces when I show them Petrykivka artworks. Their faces reflect the shining nature of Petrykivka painting. I remember my first impression and I love to share this magic with other people. I just hope I can make this world brighter.

I believe that art is much more than a hobby, it’s a way of living. Art is where it all began. Practicing it changes our view to the world. It all started with creation, with the one who art in heaven. I believe the reason we come to this world is to learn noticing beauty and constantly appreciating it.

I’m halfway through my volunteering project now, but I’m already sure that this powerful mighty ocean I met in Madeira from now on will forever live in me, no matter where I go. I’m endlessly grateful to the ARTE.M Association for offering me a chance to discover this wonderful world of Madeiran art and culture and introduce my Ukrainian culture here.

Veronika Zhezhovska 13.01.2021

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