Pinchuk, 31, has been on the road for as long as she can remember. Australia to New York, back to Oz for 48 hours, Sarajevo for a few days, then Rome, Florence and now Milan, before heading to Venice tomorrow. “Shit dude, it’s been a long week,” she sighs, when we meet at a cafe in Milan’s Chinatown. Wearing a black slip dress with layers of fine gold pendants skimming her collarbones, she is make-up free, save for a vibrant splash of red lipstick. Resting one elbow on the plastic floral tablecloth, Pinchuk takes a sip of her Americano coffee. “I’m not good at being in one place,” she says. “I find routines a bit scary. Maybe it’s being one person between many cultures. This hybrid, you know?” Since moving to Australia from Ukraine at age 10, Pinchuk admits she’s never felt rooted to one particular place, instead preferring a nomadic lifestyle. “I’ve never had a strong sense of home, even where I was raised. But I’m lucky, because growing up like this made me feel at home anywhere in the world.”
Living in Tokyo in her early 20s, Pinchuk started hammering maddeningly precise, intricate pinholes into white paper as a way of documenting her journeys around the city. When Ukraine was invaded in 2014, Pinchuk’s practice morphed into a wider exploration, mapping sites of trauma and conflict across the world, from Fukushima to Chernobyl – meticulously detailed yet vast ephemeral maps.
Before long, both the art and fashion worlds began paying attention. In 2010, the National Gallery of Australia started collecting her works, making her one of the youngest artists in the gallery’s collection. Forbes magazine included her in its 2018 “30 Under 30” list. Ignoring “old school gallerists” tut-tutting about her foray into fashion, Pinchuk has worked with an array of luxury brands including Nike, Tiffany & Co., Louis Vuitton and Chanel. When Neuw Denim commissioned her to hand-paint a series of leather jackets for Gigi Hadid, Cara Delevingne and Kendall Jenner, among others, Pinchuk was not so impressed by the celebrity clientele, but excited by the prospect of “being able to paint tattoos my friends wouldn’t let me do on them”.
For the past decade, Pinchuk has tattooed mates at her studio with a sterilised needle and pot of ink, creating delicate constellations, tiny dots and lines. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but I seem to be fixated on mediums that are punishing, painful, totally irreversible and unforgiving,” she shrugs. “But in the same way as my [art], I’m mapping back onto their bodies –living, breathing, sweating.”
Don’t bother trying to book an appointment, though: Pinchuk trades her designs only in exchanges with friends. “It’s a way to give my friends artworks they hold onto forever. Alternative economies help us recognise the ways we can support each other with kindness and community.” Homemade jam, help with her taxes, Arabic lessons and songs by Florence Welch and Sam Smith are just some of the trades she’s made. “When you open up a system of generosity, what you get back is so enriching. I couldn’t come to your nonna’s house and have dinner, even if I had all the money in the world. [Trading] has been the most rewarding thing I’ve done.”