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Białystok: “Vlada Ralko. The Phantom of Liberty. Version” – exhibition

August 29, 2019 - October 10, 2019



The Human, in Interiors

Artificially imposed norms have undermined our
understanding of normalcy to such a degree that
normal human phenomena have come to be viewed
by many as ugly, pernicious, heroic or insane.1

Ukrainian artist Vlada Ralko operates with momentum. The depths and spaces of her expressive large-format paintings, home to hybrid figures composed of people, animals, mannequins, objects, and the unspecified, are claustrophobic – yet also engaging, ironic, tying in with the current political situation, sexuality, and culture. They constitute a separate expression, one moving away from the metaphorical founded on conventional associations, yet remaining very close to everyday experience. They are an original commentary on the condition and events of Ukrainian contemporaneity, awash with the totalitarian heritage of the USSR, Ukrainian-Russian conflict, and antagonisms separating average people – e.g. elderly women – and representatives of those in power/ oligarchy – e.g. black suit wearers. Vlada Ralko escapes publicist unambiguity. Her paintings send out a signal of humans/ bodies entangled in the external, in circumstances wherein they preserve shreds of empowerment while losing agency. This is no story told by a matron or finishing school girl – roles recognised as acceptable and trouble-free. This is an account blending in non-commoditised feminine/ human sexuality with repressed social issues with empowerment, rooted deeply in the Soviet system. This is a language of transgression, of excess, of reflecting on the sources of what one considers regular. To the artist, feminine corporeality has become an analogy to the marginalised position of the human, submitting to an individuality-depriving system.


[1] Vlada Ralko, ‘The Phantom of Liberty (one’s own, mine, alien, shared, free)’, translated by Iaroslava Strikha, in: Влада Ралко, Привид свободи [Vlada Ralko, The Phantom of Liberty ], ЧервонеЧорне, Київ-Канів [ChervoneChorne, Kyiv-Kaniv] 2018, pp. 17–18.