Gold Reserve (2015)
by Aliona Naumenko
If you ask an Italian who Shevchenko is, he will answer you Andriy, the Ukrainian footballer (Golden Ball), winner of many titles in Italy, England and at home. But if you ask a Ukrainian, his immediate response will be Taras Hryhorovych Shevchenko, the country’s most famous poet (the equivalent of Dante in Italy or Shakespeare in England), but also an epic national hero.
by Anatol Stepanenko
Born a serf in 1814, and subsequently liberated by friends upon payment of a large sum to his master, Shevchenko openly defied the repressive policies of the Russian tsars in Ukraine. The author of Kobzar, considered the greatest work ever written in the Ukrainian language, he was severely punished for the harsh criticism of the regime contained in his poems and exiled to a remote region of the empire, where he spent ten long years.
by Andriy Sydorenko
Today, thanks to his story of literature and commitment, the cultural heritage of Shevchenko – who is also known for his drawings, paintings and engravings – is particularly popular in Ukraine. Because if it is true that culture and art set us free, the Ukrainians – who love to read, write (few remember that Joseph Conrad, for example, was born in Ukraine, in Berdychiv), recite poetry and paint – have always been free men, even when they weren’t.
Man VS Machine (2015)
by Bohdan Perevertun
A historic crossroad between the Baltic and the Black Sea, between Europe and Asia, Ukraine is a “borderland”, as its very name suggests. The many and varied cultural and historical influences that have crisscrossed its history are reflected in the variety of folklore and traditions that make Ukraine a cosmopolitan country today.
Still life (2015)
by Dmytro Korniyenko
Invaded by the Mongols, subdued by the Tsar of Russia, decimated by the Nazis, consolidated into the Soviet Union, contaminated by Chernobyl and now compressed between Putin and Western Europe, the Ukrainians currently number less than 43 million, compared to 51.5 million in 1990: a reduction in population that is due to the worsening economic and social conditions, and
the resulting massive emigration.
My free way (2015) by Gamlet Zinkivskyi
The conflict with Russia, a military opponent but one of the country’s main creditors, and the severance of ties with the other countries of the Eurasian Economic Union, have resulted in the closure of many companies and a sharp fall in industrial production in various sectors of the economy. Several international investors have halted gas related projects in the area and, globally, Ukraine has lost a fifth of its economic growth, with GDP falling by 23% since 2012.
by GAZ Art Group
Despite all this, the most recent of the European revolutions, albeit disastrously degraded into a civil war, has no intention of waning. The proud resistance of the Maidan movement, which takes its name from the square in Kiev where the protests began, has survived the shooting and, like Cairo’s Tahrir Square, has become the centre and symbol of a different Ukraine.
by Igor Pereklita
In Maidan there is an artists’ commune, improvised but full of hope, whose story is told in the 2015 documentary Lost in Revolution by two Italian reporters, Marco Grasso and Davide Pambianchi, in the company of one of the most well known figures of the revolution, Kyrylo Kostiukowsky, a composer and street pianist who plays a piano painted in the blue and yellow of the Ukrainian flag: an image that
is at once dramatic, surreal and poetic.
by Maria Pavlenko
It is a perfect symbol of the beauty of an art that does not surrender and instead mounts the barricades. This spirit is also reflected in the colourful murals that capture the attention of people passing through the square: an open-air gallery whose aim is to convey faith in peace and a better future.
by Nazar Bilyk
Then again, as this Imago Mundi collection dedicated to Ukraine also shows, the war has had a major impact on art and the sensitivity of the artists. But can artists do something to reconcile the conflicting parties?
The Portal (2015) by Oleksander Babak
Grad, a Russian gallery of art and design in London, in the heart of Fitzrovia – the ex-bohemian neighbourhood where Virginia Woolf, George Bernard Shaw and Arthur Rimbaud lived – tried to answer this question with its Borderlands exhibition in 2015. Together, Ukrainian and Russian artists exhibited works concerned with the serious conflict in Ukraine, trying, without rhetoric, to tread the perilous path that intertwines politics and aesthetics. Among the various works a piece of blackened wall stood out, fashioned by the artist Zhanna Kadyrova into the shape of the political map of Ukraine after the painful separation from Crimea.
Little Freud (2015)
by Oleksander Korol
The 2015 Venice Biennale saw Ukraine participate with a group show by young artists, staged in a temporary glass structure placed between the Giardini and the Arsenale, along the Riva dei Sette Martiri, aptly titled Hope!. A symbol of a new Ukraine, open to the world, the show tackled issues relating to the on-going conflict and the country’s recent history, giving voice to the hopes of its citizens.
by Petro Gronsky
In the Imago Mundi collection – 140 10x12 centimetre works by Ukrainian artists – many of the themes and subjects are also “strongly linked to current events concerning Ukraine and the changes Ukraine has undergone in the last two years. In particular, they refer
to the events of Maidan (the Ukrainian Revolution of Dignity), the annexation of Crimea by Russia and the war in the east of the country”, as the curator of the project, Solomia Savchuk explains.
In the Steppe (2015)
by Ruslan Tremba
For my part, I also think the question of identity – personal and national – powerfully emerges from these works that span the decades following the collapse of the Soviet Union. In reflecting on a society that is still reinventing itself, amid instability, ideological and social changes and cruel conflict, the Ukrainian artists are looking for new ways to reflect on history, assert their artistic freedom and become a critical voice in the country.
Walking Canvas (2015)
by Stepan Riabchenko
With a variety of styles and techniques ranging from optical effects to landscape sculptures and the magic of 3D, the individual stories of the artists become the creative fragments of a wider story of Ukraine today. Dramatic, of course. Sometimes slightly ironic, other times subversive; like every invention worthy of its name.