TheCollector Interviews Artist Inna Levinson: From Paint to Pixels

Artist Inna Levinson uses the physical quality of her paintings to reflect on the phenomena of an increasingly digital world—soon on display in Berlin. Read on to discover her work!

Apr 25, 2024By Anna Sexton, BA Int'l Relations, BA Art History, MA in-progress
inna levinson artist interview
Photo of Inna Levinson, ©️Kai Glawe


Berlin is truly a hub of the latest and greatest in the art world. Artists from all over the world come to the city, ready to be intoxicated by the lively and bustling scene. One such artist began her career there around 2014, and ten years later, exhibitions of her work are as well-traveled as she.


TheCollector recently had the pleasure of speaking with Inna Levinson, whose duo exhibition at Galerie Georg Nothelfer in Berlin opens on April 26. Her practical application of paint onto burlap-covered canvas to convey a pixelated effect is entirely new and a perfect fit for an art world still figuring out how to deal with an ever-changing, ever-saturated, and ever-online society.


Born in Ukraine, Levinson moved to Germany as a child and studied fine art in Prague and Berlin, where she currently lives and works. Though painting is her current medium, she has experimented with all materials and is always open to trying new things.


inna levinson 2023
DF//180/150/CAT/W/BL/P/2023 by Inna Levinson, 2023. Courtesy Inna Levinson. Source:


You were born in L’viv, studied in Prague, and are now living in Berlin—how have these cities, or rather, the art in these cities, informed your artistic practice? Are there any other cities that have influenced you as well?


I only lived for a short time in Ukraine, where I’m originally from. I moved with my parents to Cologne, Germany, when I was ten years old and then to Berlin as a teenager.

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I actually applied to Prague just for fun with a friend who had wanted to study there. Ultimately, he wasn’t accepted, but I was, and that’s how I ended up studying for two years in Prague. I found that the art scene there was not very international, but the city was so beautiful and inspiring. I learned more at the art academy there than anywhere else. The program was very intense and academic, unlike other art academies in Europe. Though I learned a lot, I after two years, I decided I needed more. So, I returned to Berlin, where I continued my studies at UdK (Universität der Künste).


As you can imagine, Berlin is the most international city in Germany—it’s where the action happens, and is definitely the best place for artists.


Was becoming an artist always what you intended to do, or was it an aspiration that developed over time?


I have always considered myself an artist. I am the first in my family to be an artist–everyone else has “normal” jobs, if you will. However, I always knew I was an artist, though the question was in which domain. I had also considered going into acting at one point, but I always knew that I would go into something creative.


Visiting the Rundgang (open house) at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf when I was still living in Cologne was what made me decide to go into fine arts. There was this atmosphere, the smell of turpentine, and I loved it! I wanted to be there. I felt at home there. As a teenager, I found artists to be so cool, and I wanted to be just like them one day.


inna levinson rose period
PI/LI//180/150/HA/MA/BR/2020 (Rose Period) by Inna Levinson, 2020. Courtesy Inna Levinson. Source:


Much of your current art addresses the contemporary phenomena of living in an increasingly digital world using a very traditional medium (paint, canvas, burlap, etc.). What is your process of taking this concept and translating it into a physical piece of art?


I actually begin digitally! I do “scribbles,” which is what I call my digital paintings. I then translate what I’ve created online—everything, all the optical effects—onto the canvas. Sometimes, people ask me why I don’t consider what I’ve created digitally as finished art, but for me, it doesn’t exist. It’s on the monitor. For me, something has to exist in the material world; I need to be able to hold it in my hands.


Transferring it to a different medium is also more interesting because some unexpected and exciting things can happen during the drawing process. The way I put the color on the canvas, for example, can end up being totally different. I am a very tactile person, so I need to have something physically present.


I also think the digital world is something that evaporates, while the material world remains.


inna levinson 2019
CO//180/150/LI/G/P/SI/2019 by Inna Levinson, 2019. Courtesy Inna Levinson. Source:


Between ten years ago and today, how has your art developed and changed over time? What primary themes and mediums did you initially focus on, and do you still work with them today?


When I was first studying art, I experimented with all different mediums, aside from painting. I made plasticine reliefs, so they were pictures but with a three-dimensional element. It was a big effort, but I didn’t see much perspective there, so I changed to sculpture.


Sculpture was quite problematic for me, since it has to obey the laws of physics: it has to stand, it has to be stable—it’s not nearly as easy as it looks! I worked with silicone and steel—this was during my final year at the academy in Berlin—and I was not really happy with my work. So, I decided to improve it by painting it. I put the sculpture in my studio and began painting it to be the way I wanted it.


The great thing about painting is that you can depict anything, even what doesn’t exist in real life. There are no physical laws dictating the medium like with sculpture. So, I painted my sculpture in my studio as a still-life, which is how I came to paint as my current medium.


I currently use the technique of painting on canvas and then on burlap over the canvas. But who knows, I may return to working with sculpture in the future! I am always still experimenting.


It’s been said that your paintings are reminiscent of the pointillists, particularly Georges Seurat. Do you find that your art responds to that of historical artists? 


I have heard that people have made this comparison, but my art is actually not about pointillism. I’d compare it to pixelization. The burlap over the canvas creates wide gaps in my paintings, which is what gives them a pixelated look. I like the idea of the canvas looking like it is digital.


It is easy to recognize this effect when seeing my paintings live, but not so much in printed form, as the three-dimensional effect is then missing. The canvas in the background is painted in different colors, and then the burlap overtop is very raw and acts like a net. It has an interesting effect: the closer you get to the canvas, the less you see; the motif dissolves.


who am i exhibition
Exhibition Poster for Who Am I? Featuring works by Inna Levinson and Walter Stöhrer. Courtesy Galerie Georg Nothelfer, Berlin


Your upcoming exhibition at Galerie Georg Nothelfer in Berlin will be presented under the title Who Am I?, which is a very broad yet very important question. How does the work featured in the exhibition respond to this question?


This exhibition was a new concept for me. I’d say that the title is indeed a question, but there is no answer. The idea was to use the show to reflect on who we are as artists. My works will be shown alongside the works of Walter Stöhrer, a German painter who was active in Berlin after the Second World War and known for his gestural and scriptural paintings.


Stöhrer had a keen interest in Surrealist writings. The novel by André Breton, Nadja, begins with the question, “Who am I?”. Stöhrer made a series of works inspired by this book, which made the question “Who Am I?” the perfect fit for this exhibition.


The goal of the show is to explore the differing artistic influences experienced by our respective generations. Simply put, identity is formed both by innate character as well as outside influences, such as our family and friends as well as the political era in which we live. Stöhrer had his own inspirations, and I have mine, and the concept of the show came about by exploring these as a way to find our identities.


walter stoehrer leben widerruf
Mein Leben auf Widerruf, in den sehenden Händen anderer Leute gehalten deren und meine Unmöglichkeiten (Frank O’Hara) by Walter Stöhrer, 1983. Courtesy Galerie Georg Nothelfer, Berlin


As you mentioned, your art will be presented alongside the works of German painter Walter Stöhrer (1937-2000). When was your first encounter with his artworks? Was there anything about them that struck you the most?


I was not familiar with his works until the show! Although I perhaps had heard his name as a German Postwar artist beforehand, I had yet to learn his art.


I am very happy I was able to learn about his works, as they are now also a source of inspiration for me! I really appreciate his courage. Stöhrer painted in huge formats; you can see his energy reflected on the canvas. The bigger the canvas, the more you must physically bring your body into the process. You can see this movement, and there has to be courage to be able to create such expressive lines.


I find this really inspiring and would like to incorporate it into my own work, but we are totally different. My approach is much more methodical—I go layer by layer with the painting knife, which is quite the opposite of his expressive style.


Installation View Galerie Georg Nothelfer. Photo: Katrin Rother
Installation View Galerie Georg Nothelfer. Photo: Katrin Rother


For duo exhibitions, the works of the two artists tend to play off one another in some way; they need an element that either unites or juxtaposes. For the Who Am I? exhibition, will your works be more of a contrast or a collaboration?


The juxtaposition of our works was exactly our plan! When Vera [Ehe, Gallery Manager] first suggested the exhibition, I think she was afraid that I would perhaps be against the idea, but I immediately said yes. I am open to experiments and wanted to see what would happen and how she would bring our work together.


Though I have, of course, never met him, I have heard that Stöhrer could be harsh, as a person with a lot of inner struggles. You can sort of see his abrasiveness in his paintings, but at the same time, you can also see a sensitivity. Seeing these qualities together is very interesting for me, especially since I don’t have such emotions in my paintings. My painting is calmer, and my color palette is entirely different—it’s softer.


The contrast between our paintings also brings to light the dichotomy of his masculine side and my more feminine side. For example, how do we handle sexuality or pornography? Stöhrer lived in the pre-Internet era—there was not even PornHub! His generation had, of course, access to pornographic magazines, but they had totally different impressions of porn and sexuality because it was more hidden. Today, everything is much more present and out in the open, to the point that it has become not that interesting anymore.


Installation View Galerie Georg Nothelfer. Photo: Katrin Rother


While Stöhrer uses his paintings to express a rebellious form of postwar individualism, your paintings expose how fleeting and shallow contemporary individuality can be. Do you think your contrasting perspectives stem from living in different eras—some fifty years apart—or from something else entirely?


Coming from different generations is definitely a significant factor—Stöhrer is from the generation of my grandparents! We also simply have different backgrounds and ways of thinking, which is reflected in our paintings. Stöhrer’s generation faced different problems. Today, everything is, as you said, shallow because of our society being chronically present on social media.


I sometimes think I’m a bit like AI because I sublimate information, synthesize it into one collage in Photoshop, and then transfer the image onto canvas. Stöhrer, on the other hand, focused on himself since his generation had a very individualistic outlook caused by the experience of the Nazi dictatorship, thus putting his own impressions onto the canvas. I would say our approaches are, therefore, quite different.


inna levinson double faced
Double-Faced by Inna Levinson, 2024. Courtesy Inna Levinson. Source:


Aside from this exhibition, do you have any other exciting projects coming up?


I have a solo show in the Czech Republic at one of the spaces of the Gallery Klatovy Klenová, the White Unicorn Gallery, in Klatovy, which will open on June 7. The gallery has a beautiful and huge space. I am excited about what I’ll do there and I am really looking forward to the show.


I also have a few more very exciting and important projects, but since nothing is official yet, I’m not allowed to share! However, you can follow my Instagram to stay updated on what is coming.

Author Image

By Anna SextonBA Int'l Relations, BA Art History, MA in-progressAnna holds a BA from the University of Washington in Art History and International Relations and is currently based in Strasbourg, France. She has worked in several museums and art galleries in the Seattle area as well as abroad. She is currently completing her Master's thesis on the spoliation and restitution of Nazi-looted art in Strasbourg. When she is not writing & researching, Anna enjoys dancing ballet, learning languages, doing crosswords, and drinking tea.