Interview with Kukula
June 8, 2024
Nataly Abramovitch, known by her artistic name Kukula, is a multidisciplinary artist based in the United States. Established as a Pop-Rococo artist, Kukula masterfully blends the inspiration of classical European art with contemporary pop culture in her oil-painted works.
The artist creates fantastic scenarios with a lively yet realistic approach, characterized by intricate and whimsical details. Her paintings often recall traditional portraiture, depicting doll-like female figures immersed in idyllic landscapes surrounded by objects with symbolic meanings that appear sometimes clear and sometimes mysterious.
The inspiration behind Kukula's works stems from her imagination and study of the costumes and fashion of past eras, nourished in equal measure by stories of princesses and real life, as well as her personal and lived experiences as a woman and mother. Through an undeniable and extremely accurate use of colors, shapes, and details, Kukula captures these experiences, generating a uniquely harmonious artistic symphony. 
Kukula offers a deeply feminine perspective, but in transforming her works into a dreamlike visual narrative, she includes androgynous forms that symbolize freedom of gender and self-perception.
Her art captures the gaze through fragments of joy and sweet memories, creating a world in which every nuance and compositional decision reveals the innermost secrets of a story. Her compositions masterfully reveal the complex relationship between the past and modernity, blending contemporary notes and historical whispers. Kukula's work resurrects the lightness of Rococo in a fusion of modern sentiments with the pulse of contemporary women's stories, creating a distinctive and precious enchanted universe.
Throughout her artistic career, Kukula has collaborated with luxury designers such as MRZ-Marziali in 2015 for a limited capsule collection and in 2016 with RED Valentino, creating one-of-a-kind items portraying her signature doll figures.
1. “Nocturne in Blue Minor" is an unprecedented collection. Can you share with us the creative process behind this exhibition and how it differs from your previous works? Also, where does the title take its inspiration from?
A nocturne is work of art dealing with evening or night, especially a dreamy composition for the piano. When I was younger I loved playing Chopin's pieces. A music piece can really express very profound and complex emotions. For this show I tried to reach a similar effect but through my own medium of oil painting. This collection of works aims to resemble the experience of sitting in a music hall, listening to a program of well matched compositions.
The color blue tends to create a certain feeling in the viewer and this is like the musical key of the show. That’s what I mean by the term “blue minor.” Blue isn’t the main color of the show but it is the key that establishes the show’s feel as, for instance, A minor creates the base of a musical composition. I find it interesting that the blue oil tubes tend to fall in the expensive 5 and 6 series of the brands, as if we need to cherish them as semi precious stones. I have a collection of blues, like a library of emotions.
2. Your art seems to intertwine contemporary romanticism with the lightness typical of the Rococo era. What draws you to the 18th-century aesthetics, and how do you integrate its elements into your modern narrative?
There is always a game between heavy emotions and playfulness in my work and in me as a person. I have strong feelings and can easily get melodramatic but I also love nonsense and see beauty in being silly. In each painting, I’m trying to convey the complexity of different emotions—for instance, the background could establish a serious, melancholy tone, but the figure in the foreground will have over-the-top, gilded, floral decorations and some fantastical animal companion.
3. Your characters appear to exist in landscapes beyond their time, oscillating between past and future. What feelings do they reflect from the present, and what message or emotions do you wish to convey with this temporal fluidity?   


Backgrounds are not less important than the main figure or character. The frame seem to restrict the scope of the picture but the landscape or color behind the figure implies a larger world that extends beyond the frames borders. The world is the figures story, it includes history as well as the present. Time is jumbled up. Elements from social history, art history, personal history are juxtaposed with images from the present that are really like modern icons. So theres a play between the passage of time and timelessness.  


4. You create a unique blend of Pop-Rococo and contemporary surrealism, diverging from its historical roots. How do you balance these two influences, and what aspects of historical Surrealism inspire you? How does your creation of a surreality diverge from that of the traditional Surrealists? 


Rococo and the classical arts were always a big love of my life since childhood. I grew up listening to operas and rewatched ballets on my VHS, obsessed with movies like Amadeus and Farinelli. Later on as a teen I discovered the surrealists and their unexpected use of images and composition. When I was twelve I asked my parents for a big Taschen Dali book for my birthday. The next year I asked for Magritte. I was drawn so strongly to both 18th century arts and modern surrealism that I made it my life effort to merge them into a thing of my own. They form the foundations of my aesthetic, along side with Japanese anime and other popular illustrationsMy style slowly formed into what it is.  

I dont think Im truly a surrealist because I consider the elements in my work to be more metaphoric and iconic rather than unconscious or automatic, which was the goal for the original surrealists. But surrealism opened my mind to the understanding that everything is allowed in painting and freed me from the limits of the traditional 18th century work I love so much.  
5. Your new body of work emphasizes a profoundly feminine perspective, much like apersonal diary. Whose stories are we witnessing in these works, and how do your personalexperiences and emotions influence your artistic expression?
My work is always personal and rarely political. However I find the freedom of gender we have now very inspiring. Femininity is now limitless and belongs to all of us. I wanted to break my own rules of what I consider feminine and see where it will take me and how far can we stretch it. I had used historical clothing and wigs that were meant for men in power in historic painting on my characters that were always so soft and feminine and I wanted to see how will it empower their freedom. Maybe as a mother of a little girl I want the future to be hers without restrictions, teaching myself open-mindedness at the same time.
6. Your works are noted for their intricate and whimsical details, creating a fairy tale atmosphere. Can you discuss your approach to incorporating these elements and how they contribute to the overall narrative of your paintings?
I want to give the viewers the whole story, like a thick, detailed literary description of a person and their setting. I like to look at art as if it really is reality. It takes me to a different dimension in my mind, like what I imagine some drugs would do.
7. "Nocturne in Blue Minor" invites viewers into a dreamscape of historical whispers and contemporary emotions. What do you hope visitors take away from experiencing this exhibition, and how do you envision your art impacting their perception of reality? 


Im so happy this is how you see it because its resonates so well with everything I just answered. 

My goal is never to stay in a single time and place. I dont want to capture and document a moment like a photograph. Thats death and I want infinite existence. I want us all to enjoy a sense of immortality, which is how I feel when I experience art from the past. I want the past to be in the now. By mixing icons from the present with symbols and conventions we recognize from history, time becomes free form, fluid, a blur. 


8. How do you approach the use of color and light in your paintings to evoke the specific emotions and atmospheres characteristic of your style?Is there a primary color in your artistic production? A palette that reflects your artistic vision? How do you choose colors for your artworks, and what does the combination of pigments mean to you in relation to the idea and subject you're painting? 


I usually work first with very earthy tones and combine with rich blues to evoke a romantic mood. I love using Terre de Castle (warm dark muddy rich brown) and Gris de Paye (dark grayish blue with red undertones) as the base of the painting.  

I always start with a very detailed drawing on the board and almost never change it later. Then I start with some under paint and a full background. The more modern colors, rich reds and greens come at the end in a very small amount. I love using warm and titanium whites.  
9. What drives you to give each piece a predominance of one color with just accents of others?  


I never thought about it, but its such an obvious thing I do without noticing. I think first of all I dont want to miss on any color out there, but also I dont want all my work to blend into one thing. I want to make sure if a collector chooses to buy a painting they get something that is absolutely one of a kind, with a completely new approach than previous pieces. Unless of course Im making a set which is something I like to do as well some time. 


10. Can you talk about the significance of the larger scales in this collection? How does working on a larger canvas affect your artistic process and the impact of the finished piece? 


A large scale is always more impressive in the sense that it can overwhelm the viewer, which is what makes it possible for them to really enter the world of the painting. I used to paint very small, which can be great for phone screens, but I found that the details lost their power. The paintings felt more illustrative, the lines were thicker in proportion, the expressions felt limited and limiting. A large painting gives a proper respect for the details. It has special effect when seen in person. 


11. Your art seem to often create a "secret garden" that offers solace and escape. How important is the theme of escape in your work, and what personal significance does it hold for you? 


I think throughout my life I always felt like I didnt belong. It was always a dream to create my own space. In the beginning of Alice in Wonderland, Alice sees a glimpse of the queens garden, which seems so perfect, so she goes on a journey to get there and when she does she realizes it is not as perfect as it seemed through the little door. I think Alice always tries to escape one situation or another, seeking the perfect garden of her dreams, just like I try to find a place where I can ignore the world around me and find perfection and peace. But it is never really reachable, reality always sneaks in.  



12. How do you see the evolution of your style over the years, and what are the key influences that have shaped your artistic journey? 


When I started straight out of art school, where I studied illustration and design, my concepts were straightforward and raw without much subtlety. My influences were still too apparent and had not yet been made into a personal language. With time I worked on sharpening my own artistic language and technique. My inspirations and influences are much the same but I matured in my message. The shock effect I was painting as a younger artist seems childish to me and lacking awareness because it actually obscured the most important things I needed to say.  


13. Your portraits take inspiration from 1800s male portraiture, traditionally aimed at illustrating power and superiority. How did you approach transforming these elementssuch as the clothing, wigs, and posesinto a feminine form, and what ideas or messages are you aiming to convey with this transformation?And does this transformation mean to challenge traditional gender norms? 


When I do a research for a show, I go through my favorite paintersBoucher, Gainsborough, Reynolds, Nettier and so on. I was always a little afraid of the mens portraits, as if they were not made for me to explore too much. I thought maybe I should go back to my usual puffy dresses and bows, but this time I decided to understand the mens portraits more deeplythe poses, the backgrounds, the expressionsand why they made me feel this way. The outfits looks so much more comfortable than the womens corsets which I had started to grow bored of. The wigs are soft and rest on their shoulders. I actually didnt make too many changes but what I did changelike making the pants a two-piece with a garter, revealing the thighI used to show the power of the female body. A corset doest that, too, in a way but in a restrictive way. By leaving the body partially bare, vulnerable but unafraid and unapologetic, it says you have no power over me, I can take my own freedom.   



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