3 viral Instagram artists explain what lies beyond the hype

This might sound all too familiar: you wake up, you look at your phone and before you know it, you’ve lost track of what day it is. Let’s face it, working — or procrastinating — from home is challenging, and getting more so by the day. Our attention wanders, nine times out of ten redirecting straight to our phones. There are no museums to physically walk through for inspiration and travelling is indefinitely restricted. Fortunately, an arsenal of new artists have come to our rescue. Call them Instagram artists, call them DIY queens, but the common denominator is that they’re brightening up our feeds with some brilliantly absurd creations. Stumbled upon the gummy bear nail polish yet? The strawberry vagina? Or the one phone filter everyone’s using right now? Hanne Zaruma, Tamara Obukhova and Lisa Litovka are the three people behind these weird but clever creations, each with their own speciality. i-D spoke with them to put their art in context. Hanne Zaruma, Ukraine Remember those sweet days long before the advent of Instagram? Back when playing boring games like Solitaire and Minesweeper was the ultimate fun, and when screen time was still managed by our mum? For 21-year-old Hanne Zaruma, these memories are the driving inspiration behind her art. “When I was a child, all these old phones and computers were just entering the market,” Hanne says. “Now it’s old junk but I remember they all looked so new and magical to me, like something completely unexplored.” Back then she dreamt of having her own computer and phone. She wasn’t allowed them, but her father did let her play games on his. “I always wanted Santa to put a telephone under my pillow but it never happened,” she says. “All my classmates already had one except for me.” Nowadays, however, she’s managed to get her hands on a huge collection which she has upcycled into contemporary art pieces. From underwear crafted out of phone relics to sliders made from an old keyboard — Hanne blurs the lines between analogue aesthetics and modern technology, often using her iPhone display to incorporate digital messages into her pieces. Hanne never defines her artworks or even titles them, she’d rather have viewers attach their own meaning to it. “I just do what I feel and want to make the viewer believe in magic,” she explains. “I want you to escape your daily routine and see the beauty in ordinary things.” With the latter, she refers to her works surrounding cotton swabs and a prehistoric USB stick. She takes inspiration from the feedback she gets from her community, by their love for her creations. “All the good ideas seem to come from nowhere and often happen quite fast,” she admits. “When I have one, I can no longer concentrate on anything else until I put it into reality. I always want to do more. For me, a good piece of art is a pure idea, when you give yourself completely to it.” Perhaps it’s time to dig out your cracked old phones! But do bear in mind that it’s totally fine to not feel creative in the uncertain times we currently live in. “I thought with more time I could do more art,” Hanne says. “But now I’m a little tired as every day seems like the previous. Don’t expect too much from yourself. It’s OK to do nothing.” Tamara Obukhova, Czech Republic Kazakhstan-born, Czech Republic-based artist Tamara Obukhova is constantly going viral on Instagram. Remember her coin bag bra? Or that teapot one? Her smoking hot candle fingers? One look at her account @toucheconomy and you’re guaranteed to tumble down a brilliant rabbit hole full of her clever creations. According to the 20-year-old artist, every work is imbued with multiple meanings and one item will never serve just one purpose — instead, it evolves over time. Take, for example, her spiky series: first adorned across a beautiful rose and the next day transformed into a braided spiky hair look. Under Tamara’s watch, all objects enter a cycle of evolution.Take her love of classic white porcelain teapots, for example: in Tamara’s art, they’re suddenly incredibly versatile. You can drink tea through your sleeve, your nose, and if you’re feeling really fancy during your next Zoom meeting, use your own personalised tea bag. “As a child I used to love Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, especially the storyline with the March Hare and The Mad Hatter,” says the artist, which definitely explains her obsession. “Inspiration can be found anywhere, at any time. Sometimes it’s a first-try idea, sometimes it’s reborn into something else during the process of its realisation. One of my principles in art is to create as many ideas as possible from the same things or materials.” Even though Tamara’s art lives on Instagram and she heavily feels inspired by people’s reviews of of her work, she doesn’t cite the internet or social platforms as hugely influential to her creativity. For her, it’s all about the things in her immediate vicinity: “I try to create something from the materials I already have at home. Even the most habitual things and everyday objects can be inspiring. You can just look at two nearby objects, combine them and create something new.” Lisa Litovka, Ukraine Lisa Litovka aka @floweirdy doesn’t just dress feet, but it’s evident that they’re her go-to body part. “I haven’t figured out yet if I decorate my feet because I like them so much or if I don’t like them and therefore do it,” explains the 29-year-old artist. “But my feet are always with me, they take me anywhere in the world or even let me escape from it.” For Lisa, shoes are the base of every outfit — the crazier the better. And crazy really means crazy. The best example is her viral toilet paper heel which was shared by thousands of people on Instagram. But that’s not all of it. If you ever wondered how to upcycle your burnt pancake attempts, have a look at Lisa’s perfect crêpes. Same goes for nail polish: why not use some gummy bears as a popping colour next time? For Lisa, there are no rules except one: “I try not to ponder over an idea for a long time, and instead be present.” Every piece of art begins with a feeling of excitement. “Sometimes you see nothing, and sometimes you see something that has never been there before,” Lisa says. “It’s also a matter of faith that you can give the idea a chance to materialise.” But her works are also about channeling the right amount of humour you need in order to cope with the world. Particularly during the time of Covid-19, when the majority of people are forced to stay home, working with what already have can force you to find inspiration and start appreciating the little things in life again. “The limited resources can be motivating,” she says. “What is missing suddenly becomes an additional value. In a situation where you are limited by your own apartment, you can finally learn to dig deep — in your own creation but also in your wider life. It is generally accepted that it’s useful to be in new places to create. That’s easy. But it’s also good to feel new in an old place; to stop and look at things differently.”
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