The Ukrainian artist harnessed the pain of cerebral palsy to persevere through the odds.
Words by Luis (@luis.hoa):
In the words of today's protagonist, YOU DO NOT CHOOSE PAIN, PAIN CHOOSES YOU.
Born in the city of Mykolaiv in southern Ukraine, Stanislav Krawczyk began life knowing very little outside of a hospital. Diagnosed with cerebral palsy, Stanislav spent most of his youth in and out of hospitals, undergoing rigorous treatments that he's characterized as "a horrible dream". It was during these different medical procedures that he completed art school, which helped him navigate through the physical toll of his condition and the feeling of an outlier that his peers instilled within him. Art provided him with the means to channel his suffering onto a canvas that later became a career. His bleak, black and white approach is a reflection of the pain that haunts him throughout his life, as evident in their blood-curling nature. Now decades later, Stanislav has amassed a variety of works that include a Beherit album cover, his own signature sterling silver ring with Intenebris, his own published book of sketches, and collaborations with Animvs, Christophe Szpajdel, Dominic Hailstone, Spirit Cage, Damnengine, and so much more. Needless to say, Stanislav's story is one of perseverance and determination.
To dive deeper into the art of Stanislav Krawczyk, we welcome him in conversation:
Art has served as a conduit for your pain. Your childhood was spent in and out of hospitals where you underwent treatment for cerebral palsy amidst the civil unrest in southern Ukraine. Through all of this, illustrating is where you found relief. At what point did you realize that art would be the avenue that would carry you forward?
Stan: Relief no, the dark art teaches you to abandon all compromises and search for bright spots in life. For me, art is not just a mirror, but a broken one that you will collect in pieces as sketches of pain, more as a way to survive. I was always on the verge of an abyss, then I was held back. The thought that drawing means fighting somewhat helped me.
And here you are, years later and still growing. You art defies structure and embodies a frenzied nature that exorcised the demons that haunt you. Does illustrating take a mental toll on you at all?
Stan: I think it seems to me that the image is especially dark. This is of course a labyrinth from which you need to find a way out. Sometimes, images of different demons haunt you again and again. Of course, this leaves an imprint in my mind, but I am more comfortable here than in another state.
You can say you've somewhat found a comfort zone from where to operate from. There was a point in your life where your unsettling approach to artwork drew attention from government agents, agents who thought you were dangerous in some way. Did this unjust assumption impact you in any way, especially since it occurred while you were still developing as an artist?
Stan: Unlike many artists of whom I knew and heard, I immediately realized that this was the end of my Ukrainian life in the sense that I was planning an escape. I understood that with my disability, it was either a hospital or my art would be banned in many ways. This pushed me to work harder and better.
You have to admire your determination! For those keen to witness your growth, your ‘Sketches of Pain’ book collects over 60 of your most powerful drawings, highlighting some of your most personal and heart wrenching works to date. Seeing as the book serves as somewhat of a reflection of your evolution, what have you learned from yourself over all these years?
Stan: I understood that everything that happened with me was a miracle and that the impossible is possible. In my case, the American dream worked with me 100%.
Great book, by the way. As you note throughout your socials, Raw Doll Steak serves as your muse. Your depictions of this muse have taken a variety of forms and hold a deep significance to you. When did Raw Doll Steak come into the picture and how has she impacted your artistic endeavors?
Stan: I have been working with my model for 3, 4, maybe 5 years because it seems that Raw Doll Steak was always with me and we have been working for ages. She is the heart of my studio and symbol of my dark art for me. In addition to 'Sketches of Pain', I also have a series of erotic drawings and one special exhibition in Switzerland in Zurich. I am planning to do another exhibition with Raw Doll Steak Europe or here in Hollywood.
Though the art you share across socials is mostly bleak and black and white, you’ve put together quite a menacing collection of colored illustrations and collaborations, the likes of which ‘Demon of my Pain’, ‘Color of My Pain’, ‘Black Dust’, and more. What determines your approach?
Stan: For me, the main and basic element in the drawing is the transmission of emotion, pain, fear, horror, and all those fragments of which dark art consists of. If in the expression of darkness I add a reflex of red, it adds more life to the art.
You’ve even had some creative approaches to icons such as Pennywise from the ‘It’ franchise, Freddy Kreuger, and Leatherface. You of course partnered with Spiritcage on these. Is collaboration something you embrace?
Stan: Yes, cooperation is for me one of the favorite elements of work. This is a way of communicating from artist to artist. My first work was with my friend Paul Komoda, legend of dark art who worked with Giger in his studio, and then there were a number of other artists who are dear to me. When I can, I might make a special book of these works, like something I already did with legendary lord of the logos Christophe Szpajdel on his book, 'Archaic Modernism'. I have joint cover for that book with Dominic Hailstone.
The collaborative projects definitely bring a new element to your own art. Speaking of collaboration, music artwork is not in your usual line of work yet you found yourself illustrating the album cover for Beherit’s ‘Bardo Exist’ (2020), a truly dark and disturbing record. How did that come together?
Stan: Nuclear Holocausto was the idol of my childhood and probably a number of Beherit albums formulated the foundation of my dark art. 'Electric Doom Synthesis' (1995) is one of the significant albums that I can listen to all the time. I said that I wanted to dedicate my art for the album and create a number of drawings, so my dream came true.
Seeing as you normally illustrate to fulfill your own artistic needs, do you see yourself taking on other music related projects and commissions in the future? Or was this one of those rare occasions where you just couldn’t turn down someone like Beherit?
Stan: I think that metal, and in particular black metal, is the language of dark art. I think that my drawings are closely related to metal and other genres in which the energy of pure darkness is present. To be more precise, when we started a series of collaborations with the legendary Lord of the Logos, we wanted to mix metal and dark art. Before that, I did a number other bands like Tomhet. I'm also a big fan of dark techno Axkan, so new metal covers will be in the future.
We'll keep our eyes out for that. Speaking of bands and music overall, it’s been a great time for new releases. What’s on your current rotation?
Stan: All the time and especially during Covid-19, I'm in my studio and constantly concentrating on new works. On my rotation, I have Mayhem's 'Daemon' (2019) because the incredible cover of Daniele Valeriani and Mortiis' 'Spirit of Rebellion' (2020). If we talk about a personal list, it will look like this: Von's Dark Gods: Birth of the Architects (2017), Gorgoroth's 'Quantos Possunt ad Satanitatem Trahunt' (2009), Death's 'Live in Eindhoven' (2001), all Beherit albums, and all Possessed albums.
Quite a selection! Jumping back into the collaboration aspect, another notable one of yours was with Animvs. His gold detailing and intricate linework met your bleak depictions, creating one fantastic set of images. Artist partnerships such as this one is not something that is commonly seen. What did you take from this experience and how would you describe the process of seeing your art under a new perspective?
Stan: Dark art is still a rock with an endless ascent. It is very difficult to through this long journey and collaborations like the one with Animvs breathe a new life into old and sometimes forgotten works. It's an incredible feeling of friendship and brotherhood. I really appreciate such moments, especially when you work with your idols like Venien and Von. It's always amazing like a dream.
Definitely. Your art is deeply ingrained within suffering, serving as a reflection of the inner struggles you’ve faced throughout your life. People have their own coping mechanisms and for you, the arts have served that purpose. In closing, what would you say to those struggling with their existence and to those who lack the motivation to push forward?
Stan: The idea of my book was a motivational example because for me, all the other advice just did not work. My approach is to accept your pain as much as possible. You have to adapt and go further, even after the tests, and continue to fight. On the back of my book, there are my words - YOU DO NOT CHOOSE PAIN, PAIN CHOOSES YOU.