Masha Reva

  • Photography  Marie Déhé
  • Words  Anna Sanders

Orchestrated by fashion designer Anton Belinsiky, One Day Project is a celebration of Ukraine’s creative talents, set within the narrative of the country’s twenty-five years of independence. Coinciding with the anniversary, the project showcases a slew of creatives who are slowly carving out a niche in the fashion industry with work that marries national pride with protest, and nostalgia with a blossoming Kiev youth in a post-revolution aesthetic.

During the most recent presentation, housed in the Ukrainian Culture Centre in Paris, photographer Marie Déhé captured the sartorial designs and paintings of her friend Masha Reva. Reva, a Central Saint Martins graduate, is renowned as much for her elegant, elaborate collections as for her illustrations adorning both body and cloth, and for her second One Day Project, she continued this exploration with a collection of pieces informed by her experiments with body painting. Lines continued from hemmed neckline to bare nape, prints bled out onto skin in primary colours and primal execution – breasts circled, skin scored in paint. Clothing shapes were simple, familiar canvases to work upon: an over-sized trench coat painted monochrome to match eyes, a long red dress that covered the legs with new limbs applied. Fabric was chosen with the medium in mind, a biker jacket formed in vinyl coated wool in place of leather, its outline printed on, sleeves coloured in with cartoon strip scrawls.

The prints were created through heat transfer film by Italian company, Siser, who Reva previously worked with for her graduate collection. A quiet body of work which saw her create swathes of enclosing, protecting layers in reaction to the 2014 Revolution. The use of fabric for political means – flags made from tablecloths, linen painted in protest – inspired the folds and twists of cloth that draped in defiance over their wearer. 

This dialogue between fabric and fashion could be heard once more at One Day Project. A wool blanket, produced by Holland based factory E-Exclusives, was hung on the wall as a tapestry, connecting the elements of art, of history, and of fashion’s many guises. 

Throughout the presentation, Reva drew on four models with thick swirls and soft curves, to highlight eyes, carve out cheekbones, and connect clothing with flesh. The uninhibited act drawing aesthetic inspiration from her first One Day Project presentation which saw her collaborate with photographer Armen Parsadanov to create ‘Drawings On Kiyv Kids’, a selection of portraits of the decorated and adorned participants, their markings a visual expression of first impressions and spontaneous design. 

We spoke with Reva following One Day Project to discuss her unique melding of mediums, and the tenuous relationship between politics and art.

 

 

Fabric and flesh both act as a canvas for you throughout your work: how do your dual roles of artist and designer inform one another, or do you not differentiate between them at all?

My work is always somehow built around the human body. I find different approaches prevent me from getting bored, and as long as I can remember I’ve always loved to draw. It’s something that helps me to keep everything in balance, a way of meditation, a pure joy. I try to incorporate drawing into my work as much as I can, so that’s why I am normally in between various mediums. On the other hand, being a designer is the totally opposite experience; I have up and downs, and sometimes I’m not in the mood to be a part of the industry, as I know how intense it can be. I want to play by my own rules, and plan to produce a limited series of pieces. The world is so full of useless clothes, so if I am doing something I really think that it should be special.

You’ve collaborated with designers and artists previously – prints for Rachel Comey, a photoproject with Armen Parsadanov – do you find working with others, and exploring new creative outlets, important to you as a designer?

I feel very lucky to have the opportunity to work with talented friends and clients. Right now Kiev is a really amazing place to be in my opinion. I have a group of friends, and sometimes we work together, or sometimes we party, but it’s all about freedom. I can’t imagine working on my own, the team is everything; when I have inspired friends around me working on the same project it’s the best thing I could ask for.

 

Where do you find inspiration on a daily basis?

I always keep my eyes open. I love to observe and take pictures on my iPhone – like everyone I guess – and I love being in Kiev or in Odessa surrounded by my family; time at home really calms me down. However I love to travel, see exhibitions and friends, listen to good music, dance in the morning, be in love and spend time at our summer house by the Black Sea – all these things make me feel alive.

Do you feel the digital realm – social media in particular – has created an oversaturation of inspiration, and what do you feel the advantages and disadvantages of this are?

This question is so on point. I have two different states of mind: first is when I’m absorbing information and looking for new references, I’m seeking inspiration and I’m in love with Instagram, where I find a tremendous amount of ideas. In this state I don’t care where I find whatever it is I’m looking for, sometimes it’s happening unconsciously, it’s like loading your brain with visual food, like a computer.

The second state is when I’ve already produced something and the last thing I want is to be bombarded with visual content; at this point I normally want to get away somewhere and stay away from streams of information so I can analyse my recent work and get some space to find that desire to create something new.

I think the time we’re living in provides so many opportunities to be inspired, but you have to know the limit, know your way, and have something you believe in. 

Changing landscapes and political turmoil have influenced your work previously, what are your thoughts towards our current narrative of Trump, Brexit, and immigration, and do you feel this is written into your current work?

The Ukrainian Revolution in 2013 influenced me quite heavily. My final MA collection at Central Saint Martins is dedicated to this topic. It was a very emotional experience in all senses, and I couldn’t think about anything else at that point, so I produced work based on my observations of the Ukrainian society in a state of change. Normally I try to follow the news, but not too much – I’m too sensitive. What is happening right now is simply reflecting the condition of society; I feel very sorry for all my friends, however it’s a sign that they have to stand up for their rights as we did in Ukraine. I don’t think I am influenced by the political environment in the world at the moment, more in a state of observation.

What message would you want people to take away from your latest collection?

This collection is one hundred percent personal; it’s all about exploring body painting and the transition from it being on the skin to a print on fabric.

After my graduation from Central Saint Martins in 2015, I immediately felt that I wasn’t in the mood to work in fashion, and decided to focus more on what I have always truly loved, which is drawing. To my surprise I began to get freelance jobs and with that came a kind of freedom in what I’ve done over the last two years. I used illustration to get away from fashion design for a while, and now drawings are bringing me back to it with this small collection.

I don’t have any complicated concept, I love to do what I do, my friends inspired me to create all the body painting projects and now I feel that this idea deserves to become wearable.

What materials, techniques, and colours have you used, and why?

The starting point was our project ‘Drawings on Kiev Kids’, which I created with my friend, photographer Armen Parsadanov. We presented it during the first One Day Project in Kiev back in the summer of 2016.

For this collection, I came up with the idea of rethinking classical pieces such as a trench coat, biker jacket, shirt, and jeans, and I wanted all of them to be covered with my body painting-inspired prints.

I thought about using mostly a neutral colour palette for the background of the prints, like calico-looking fabrics, as I wanted fabrics to be reminiscent of white paper and a work in progress, so the pieces looked like I had actually drawn on them. In general I wanted to naturally develop the idea of drawings on the body, but this time my prints were built, not only around body shape, but also around the construction of pieces.

See more at mashareva.com, mariedehe.com