Last year Ukraine celebrated two decades of the state independence. During those two decades Ukrainian art scene flourished, turning into a buoyant sphere of the nation’s existence. Ukraine with its culture, political history and the history of its society provides an impressive number of resources to artists who intend to present history on the macro scale by telling micro stories. Stories of the life of individuals are intertwined with the complicated and bumpy history of the Ukrainian nation. Common experience of living in a post-communist state can become a perfect starting point for a discourse about how universal the language of art really is. Below we present the bios of artists from Ukraine who delved into personal stories or the history of cities and regions, treating them as an input to create interesting artistic forms.
Taking into account that the independence of Ukraine in the coming years is under threat at the moment, we should all consider supporting its citizens who have been active on the artistic scene as well. Why not read Ukrainian literature, watch Ukrainian films and support young artists born, living and working in this country?
Born in Odessa, currently a student at the Pedagogical University of Krakow, which is the city where she lives and works. Her pieces are of very different styles and registers – she works with digital art, tattoos she designs herself and creates using the handpoke technique, embroidery and handmade paper. She also organizes happenings and performances. The artist often focuses on the planet and nature in her creative activities. When the first wave of the pandemic hit Poland, Mariia stayed in Krakow and made paper that contained seeds which sprouted later on. Currently her project entitled “Krajka” [woven sash] can be seen at Bunkier Sztuki in Krakow, presented as part of the exhibition “A Man’s World No More”. The object refers to the sash which is a constituent part of the Ukrainian folk costume. The artist made this piece very personal. On the fabric she embroidered 31 family names of her female relatives. The handwriting style of embroidered letters imitates the handwriting of Mariia’s grandmother, Lydia Kulikova, who is the oldest living member of the clan. Mariia placed the letters and names on a colourful woven sash in order to commemorate her female ancestors. Apart from that, by presenting individual figures, she tells the story of the part of Europe she grew up in. The embroidered family names indicate various communities living in the region and prove how times have changed. As the artist wrote herself, the project was an attempt to record, materialize and hand the crucial family code down on others.
Olha Kuzyura (b. 1990)
Lives and works in Lviv. She graduated from the prestigious Ukrainian National Forestry University in Lviv, established in the 19th century, where she majored in design. Later she gained a doctorate at the Lviv National Academy of Arts. Olha is a painter and graphic artist, but working with paper is what really sets her apart. She creates installations utilizing paper with various impressed artefacts, such as old tiles, architectural details or furniture. What all her paper structures have in common is the past time – impressed objects come from the past, are defective, thrown out and belong to the world which already disappeared. Their paper copies resemble death masks. Combined together, they make up a story presented on a palimpsest, in which the present mixes with the past. The focal point of Olha’s recent project entitled “Shared memory” is an apartment inhabited by Jews in the past, which is located in a modernist tenement house in Lviv. By placing her paper objects in the apartment, the artist brought back the former residents who became victims of the Holocaust. The “Shared memory” project is currently being presented at the exhibition “Modernism for the Future” in Kaunas, where the focus is placed on modernist architecture and its social aspects.
He is a Ukrainian artist who lives and works in Lithuania. He studied in Vilnius, Łódź and Munich and is currently working on his PhD thesis at Lithuanian Culture Research Institute on common elements in photographs taken by Ukrainian, Lithuanian, Latvian, Polish and Czechoslovakian photographers in the period from the 1960s to early 1990s. He is mainly interested in social, political and historical topics, which he attempts to elaborate on using the abstract language of photography. His efforts are clearly visible in his “Surveillance” project, which enjoyed great renown. In these photographs the artist presents peepholes installed in doors in communist prisons – the KGB prisons in the Baltic states and in Ukraine, Stasi prisons in East Berlin and the UB security service prisons in Poland. Thanks to close shots the photographs look like abstract pieces of art. At the same, time the objects in the pictures look aesthetic, despite being tools of oppressive and violent regime in real life. In some way the project presents what the histories of states in the Central and Eastern Europe have in common. When Valentin works on his projects, he devotes a lot of time to research, meticulously studying the historical and political context related to objects he photographs. As a result, the projects are spare when it comes to the means of expression, but they are definitely rich in content and symbolism.
She graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow where she studied photography at the Intermedia Department. She is a photographer who creates photobooks and digital pieces of art. Her works reflect her interest in everyday life and the world which surrounds us, as well as depict her deep reflections on anthropology. In the “Yellow-blue boom” project she uses photographs to analyse the relationship between the inhabitants of Ukraine and its national colours. In her simple and perfectly arranged photographs Anastasiia shows how fences, pavements, bus stops and plant pots turn into a love letter addressed at the national flag. Because this is a continuing project and the artist has been taking photos over many years, she manages to record how the relationship just mentioned has changed. She shows us paint peeling off the surface as well as wet paint that covers various surfaces right after subsequent attacks on the state independence. Anastasiia’s digital drawings are also worth seeing. They are colourful and display many features of naive art, but they accurately translate the Ukrainian folk art into the language of today.