Oksana Panchenko: I dreamed of being an archaeologist in order to become the first person to find the grave of Chinggis Khan

Oksana Panchenko

We want to bring your attention to an interview by Anand.B with Oksana Panchenko, a talented puppet master (doll-maker) from Russia, which was published on “http://ekhsurvalj.mn”.

– Would you please introduce yourself to Mongolian readers? As your works and creatures are currently on the top concern of Mongolian social networks users.

– My name is Oksana Panchenko. I’m an artist and a doll-designer. I have established a creative studio called “Oleloo” together with my husband Andrei Panchenko. He is also an artist, mainly works with special materials such as steel, wood and leather. We live and work in Moscow.

Oksana Panchenki

​​Oksana and Andrei Panchenko

– Photos of your dolls with Mongolian themes are gaining popularity on social networks.  It was also written on those posts that you have been lived in Mongolia. Would you share your memories in Mongolia with our readers, please?

– My father was a constructor, who has contributed many buildings and apartments in Mongolia. We have lived in Mongolia for more than three years, when I was a child. Our home was located in the central part of Ulaanbaatar, not far from the Circus. From my window, I could see Zaisan hills, beautiful bridges across the Tuul River. In winter times, we often see wild deers to come to our school yard from mountains.

I have been studied at the “High school 3”, which served for employees of the embassy of the USSR. Every wonderful moment of my childhood is connected to Mongolia. Even sometimes, I dreamt about Mongolia and about the places where I have been once.

My school and my class was a multicultural environment, where children from many different nationalities have studied together, and as far as I remember, only a third of them were Mongolians. I really loved and enjoyed reading Mongolian folk tales. I liked Mongolian museums, ornaments, and snow-white gers. I also liked to travel in the mountains and across the rivers and to get acquainted with livings of ordinary people.

As I remember, I even could spend a whole day by digging ground in the yard with a hope of finding some ancient things and played together with my friends. I dreamt of becoming an archaeologist and to become the first archaeologist to find the grave of Chinggis (Genghis) Khan. So, I tried to explore and read all the books about him.

Since then, 28 years have passed. But, I’m still reminiscing those days and missing Mongolia. Thanks to internet, it is getting possible to travel virtually around Mongolia. Even though, I really want to stay in this country where I have spent my childhood. I keep the photos of the places that are related to my childhood memories. Of course, some of them have transformed beyond my recognition as the city is growing and developing nowadays.

Oksana Panchenko dolls Mongolian

-When did you start to create dolls?  Why did you decide to master in puppetry?

– I do not exactly remember when I have started making dolls. My first dolls were made of different flowers, such as dandelions. Although, I exactly remember the moment when I have realized my will to become a doll-maker. I was 14 years old at that time. I became interested in testing different materials and tried to develop my own style. Also, I have researched and read about everything related with dolls.

Why did I decide to master in puppetry? I never thought that way. It is probably because I feel dolls are alive, and more spiritual comparing to other types of art. After all, it is wonderful to create a living art from such ordinary materials as cloth, clay, paper, thread and cotton. Every doll is different in its own way and each has its own story. Dolls can epitomize whole epochs and represent different history of peoples.

A doll does not leave its owner disappointed; it brings fantasy and transforms perception. During my exhibitions, I happen to tell doll stories to audience and they  often overwhelm emotions and tear up in their eyes. A doll is a wonderful world, when you touch and penetrate, your soul will remain there forever.

Oksana Panchenko's dolls

– How often do you organize exhibitions in your studio and  introduce your dolls to audience?

– I and my husband regularly participate in major exhibitions in Russia, as well as abroad. This year, we plan to participate in international exhibitions such as “Spring Puppet Festival” in Moscow in March, “NUKUKUNST” in Tallinn in May, “Summer of Puppets of Prejli” in Latvia in August, “International Puppet Show” in Moscow in October.

I will bring my collection of dolls with Mongolian themes in these exhibitions. Visitors usually welcome my Mongolian dolls with warm regards.

Oksana's dolls

– It is important to know history in order to create dolls related to historical topics. Can I ask how well did you investigate history of Mongolia?

– Of course. In order to create a doll on a certain topic, I usually start with collecting background information. I read encyclopedias, research scientific articles and look for related images and drawings. Generally, it takes a lot of preparatory work to complete a doll.

For one of my series, “Horde”, I have collected the necessary materials for a long time, and still continuing. I keep numerous old photographs and modern paintings that show Mongolian national costumes, utilities, hairstyles and different faces of people as a reference.

When creating a doll, I do not completely follow all the traditional canons, but sometimes convey own impressions and emotions for better illustrations of my imaginations about Mongolia. From the doll “Smiling little guys”, I want people to see not only some discrepancies, but the impression of a Russian girl, who loved Mongolia so much.

Oksana's dolls Mongolians

– Each nation has its own peculiarity in their life and culture. So, what kind of Mongolian traditions are closer to you and seem special and unique?

– Doll creating culture has a centuries-old history in European art. It is impossible to deny the influence of such culture to my works.

I want to tell about this issue to Mongolian audience. Because people often tend to argue, through my Facebook page, about differences between my works and traditions, customs, faces of the Mongols,European art and culture is multifaceted. On the other hand, Mongolian culture is very pure and sacred. You can compare it with drawing a portrait of Buddha.

– How do you get the idea of ​​creating a specific doll with a certain unique character?

– I do not imagine how the characters of my dolls will look like and I do not even draw a sketch. They appear immediately in my imagination with their appearance. For my dolls, I’m just a guide to this world; my hands are just a tool for creating them.

All my task is to work, to study some techniques, to read and to explore historical materials in order to understand all the beauty of this world. As my soul fills with happiness, the unique characters of a doll would appear in my imagination with a remarkable image by profound philosophical means.

“Beauty will save the world.” As you all know, this is the slogan of all puppetry masters.

Oksana Panchenko dolls

– What would you advise to young artists who decide to master in puppets?

– If you decided to become a puppet master, do not be afraid, follow your heart, love your creatures and devote yourself to all of your works. Believe in a fairy tales and miracles from the bottom of the heart. And then, your every wish will come true!

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