Maryna Kaminska is a Ukrainian visual artist and painter. She links the practices of hatha yoga and dance as existential and exploratory frameworks to help stimulate creativity, self-awareness and a better understanding of the world. Her artwork reflects themes of love and life as forms of resilience in times of war (specifically the conflict in Ukraine). She understands death as a crucial component of life and through its understanding, she is liberated. Kaminska highlights the circle of life and death not from a religious aspect but rather as a natural and inevitable process; comprehending this, she builds resilience and takes part in healing. 

Maryna Kaminska’s artwork resonates with several United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). One is Gender Equality by showcasing women's roles during war as life-givers and protectors, uniting families and communities through feminine archetypes. The goal for Life on Land is also evident in her work as she explores the deep connections between humans, their roots and the natural environment, which all reflect a shared memory and identity. Additionally, her commitment to Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions is portrayed through her art and activism; the former uses symbolism to depict the human psyche, and the latter draws attention to humanitarian life practices that support people in the army and victims of Ukraine’s war.

A person in a green dress in front of a painting

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From Kaminska's Inside and Out series. Image courtesy of Maryna Kaminska’s website.

Kaminska’s art seeks to communicate the uniqueness and richness of Ukrainian culture. Despite living through a war, she aims to represent Ukraine with dignity in the Western art scene. She feels that war seems distant to many in Europe and beyond because it does not pose a direct, tangible threat. In an interview with Arts Help, she said it is essential that art be capable of speaking a cross-cultural language: “I realized that my art is my weapon. Through it, I assert the strength of Ukraine.”

Kaminska's artistic style and foundation spring from a profound appreciation of life and love, which are the core inspirations for her creativity. "It is a certain state of joy because I exist and I want to share that energy within myself," the artist said. This idea is reflected in her style – paintings with a specific structure. She continued, "I love to see structures in life: structure in relationships, structure in personality, structure in nature. It gives me a sense of support and allows me to understand the object of my perception better." For Kaminska, the fragmentation of structures is a means to evoke a sense of freedom within an organized abstraction. Consequently, her techniques skillfully combine simple geometric forms and organic abstraction, merging with the "perfection of the human body and the eroticism of the human soul." This approach shapes the atmosphere and positioning of faces and bodies in her art, which appear outwardly empty yet are laden with symbolic, meaningful content, inviting viewers to uncover their own stories within the imagery.

A close-up of a painting

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From The Roots series by Maryna Kaminska. Image courtesy of Maryna Kaminska’s website.

Nature has a fundamental role in Kaminska's work. Understanding changes in nature has allowed her to understand the inevitable transformation of human beings. Kaminska is particularly drawn to the importance of adaptation — how everything dies and is born again when the time comes. In the interview, she remarked, "Observing how different forms of existence coexist on the same land, it's easier for me to understand the ailments of society, such as war." 

Although Russia's invasion of Ukraine in 2022 has garnered the most global attention, Ukraine has been locked in a state of war with Russia since 2014. According to the artist, a hybrid proxy war has been waged since then with the direct participation of Russian military forces, which has affected Kaminska and greatly influenced her art. Crucially, however, before 2022, her art never directly addressed war as a topic. Her works focused on family dynamics, using dynamic abstractions and figures to explore how family relationships shape individuals. “All living things have roots,” she says. “Every personality begins its formation in the family.“ The acrylic and canvas series of paintings of Birth of Demeter (2019), Roots (2018-2021) and Inside and Outside (2020) are an example of this.

The series Birth of Demeter highlights Demeter as the Mother Goddess and the patroness of fertility and all living things. According to Kaminska, that is transcribed in her work as a way to highlight the importance of women in times of war: “When you protect the weak, when you help those in need, when you support… you continue giving birth”. Therefore, these paintings show the feminine archetype from the woman’s containing, caring and protecting role. Likewise, the land’s colours, such as yellow, red, black and brown, play a crucial role in presenting the relationship between woman and earth. 

A painting of a person sitting down

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Birth of Demeter painting series by Maryna Kaminska. Image courtesy of Maryna Kaminska’s website.

Another dominant aspect in the series Birth of Demeter is the concept of "The Security Triangle," which reflects safety issues for a woman with a child in times of war. It artistically elucidates the need to create 'three walls' with one's own body to protect one's child from harm. This concept is born of Kaminska's experience: "Despite the war, I experienced motherhood, understood the value of family and developed as a person." Love is more important to the artist than death, the most potent weapon. "I believe that a person who feels love has already conquered all wars and death," she said. Therefore, Kaminska's work reflects the importance of women's role in times of war and how they can experience the effects of war thanks to the gift of giving new life as the foundation of creativity. To her, it is a healing process, a transformation of pain through creation.

The series Inside and Out communicates the illusion of duality inherent in human beings. According to Kaminska, the world reflects the inner life of humans: "We cannot separate ourselves from external changes in the world; they affect and shape us." In her artwork, lines draw boundaries between what constitutes the inside and the outside of each piece. In this series, most pieces depict humanesque shapes. This dictates the shapes of their surroundings and vice-versa, reflecting how they interact with and influence each other.

A painting of a person sitting

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Art from the series Inside and Out by Maryna Kaminska. Image courtesy of Maryna Kaminska’s website.

The Roots was Kaminska's last series before Russia's invasion. Its vital element is to illustrate the power of the earth and the force in it that links human beings to their ancestors and how the thread of memory, identity and survival is nourished by love. She states, "To explore your roots is to know yourself."

The My Ukraine series was created during the artist's forced migration during Russia's invasion. In these pieces of watercolour and paper, she shows the internal and lived reflection of that war period in Ukraine. According to the artist, these painting series reflect the heritage and culture of a country outraged by war, where the use of the blue palette manifests the "feelings of people whose country is bleeding every day."

A painting of a person holding a baby

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Art from the My Ukraine series by Maryna Kaminska. Image courtesy of Maryna Kaminska’s website.

The Ukraine war has profoundly impacted Kaminska's life and art, inspiring her 2023 "Forced Migration" exhibition in Ukraine, which depicted the invasion that led her to flee to Germany. This experience deepened her understanding of death and gratitude for life. Reflecting on her experience, she said, "I think when a person comes face to face with their fear of death, they can discern the main meanings of their life." In 2022, Kaminska fled Ukraine with her family due to direct threats to their safety, relocating to Brunswick, Germany. Despite being far from home, she continues to express her Ukrainian heritage through her art, supported by Brunswick's vibrant Ukrainian diaspora, which helps keep her cultural traditions vibrant and aids their homeland.

Another recent exhibition was When the Sky Falls (2024), carried out in Toronto, Canada, in which she examined the profound traumatic effects of war on the body and the human psyche. “The sky falls relentlessly and the earth obediently absorbs everything and continues to sprout anew,” the series declared in its description. According to the artist, the vibrant palette of colours represents the intensity of human emotions under duress, seeking a thirst for life, renewal and love. Kaminska based this work on the idea that personal growth evolves from processing trauma and that the affirmation of life evolves from acknowledging death.

A person pouring tea into a bowl

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Maryna Kaminska shares cocoa in a traditional Ukrainian ceremony at the “When the Sky Falls” exhibition in Toronto. Image courtesy of Alejandra Jimenez/Arts Help.

Kaminska's recent artwork centers around the strength of Ukraine. The artist highlighted: "In my works, I tried to embody my pain, as well as dreams about the revival of Ukraine and the light that helps our people in the heroic confrontation in the dark times of war." Her blue watercolour works evoke deep emotions, helping viewers understand the trauma experienced by individuals. She has learned that these works allow one to realize the depth of sorrow each person experiences, which is "living through the trauma." Kaminska sees her artistic journey as a way to process this trauma, support her community, and reengage with her desires and responsibilities.

Maryna Kaminska's mission carries on. She works on supporting her friends in the military, assisting war victims and showcasing her vision of Ukraine through her art. She draws on themes of resilience in the face of conflict and finding inspiration in love and life, where the roles of women, community, and identity blend with the wisdom of nature. Her work fosters relationships, encouraging sustainable dialogues to navigate and appreciate life's complexities and marvels. 

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