Innovative exhibition aims to show war-torn Ukraine in new light

| September 30, 2014 | 0 Comments

Kids Fighting Friend acrylic and oil on canvas 194 Ðà 143 cm 2007For what seems like an eternity, the world has seen what appears to be just one side of Ukraine.

The bitter and bloody civil war which is, by the day, still unfolding in the former Soviet nation has been a constant feature of news bulletins.

But there is, of course, another side to this beautiful country, one which you might be forgiven for thinking never existed.

Now, a group of highly talented Ukrainian artists have come together in a bid to provide an insight into the country’s rich cultural heritage – and show that there is more to Ukraine than friction and war.

Ukraine, in fact, has one of the most vibrant art scenes in former Soviet Union and the artists in this exhibition have chosen very individual and unique ways to communicate; showing extraordinary commitment, energy, insight, resilience and talent.

An exhibition of their work is also particularly contemporary and highly topical as it undoubtedly reflects the challenges facing the country.

It also predicts, in an uncanny way, the growing challenges and questions concerning their nation’s future identity and stability.

Jointly organized by the Firtash Foundation, the expo aims to provide a broad introduction to the diverse and energetic nature of Ukraine’s art-scene through showcasing more than 160 works by 38 artists.

Entitled ‘Premonition: Ukrainian Art Now’, it is thought to be the world’s largest exhibition of contemporary art from Ukraine.

Lada Firtash, chairwoman of the Firtash Foundation, said: “Given that Ukraine has hardly been out of the news this year, much of the art on show undoubtedly reflects the challenges facing the country.”

The exhibition, which opens next week in London, features work that has been made recently, but mostly pre-dates the social unrest and upheaval that Ukraine has experienced during 2014.

However, as the title suggests, since the early years of the new millennium the work of many Ukrainian artists has tended to reflect burning issues now facing the country.

The event showcases an exciting group of artists who are relatively unknown outside their homeland. Some of the artists featured in the exhibition have established reputations in Ukraine, while others are recent graduates.

The work of these two generations of artists provides an arresting insight into the future of contemporary art in Ukraine and is set to play a key role in shaping our understanding of the culturally rich but complex environment in which they practice their art.

The exhibition, which runs from 9 October to 3 November and is co-curated by Marina Shcherbenko, Igor Abramovych, Oleksandr Soloviov and Andriy Sydorenko with advice from Vladyslav Tuzov and Natalia Shpitkovskaya at Ukraine´s Modern Art Research Institute and National Academy of Arts, is organised as part of a celebration of contemporary and traditional Ukrainian art, fashion, literature and music.

It forms the largest collection, to date, of Ukrainian contemporary art. It is the third in a series of exhibitions aimed at showcasing Ukraine’s unique culture and heritage to an international audience and part of a long-term partnership between London´s Saatchi Gallery and the Firtash Foundation announced in July 2014.

Lada Firtash described the potential of Ukrainian artists as “immense”, adding: “Premonition: Ukrainian Art Now is probably the largest and most profound collection of works by Ukrainian artists to date and the works in the show demonstrate many aspects of life in contemporary Ukraine, its spirit, energy and essence. We anticipate that the exhibition will enable the world to understand and appreciate Ukraine’s creative potential.”

Further comment came from Vladysla Tuzov, deputy director of Ukraine´s National Academy of Arts, who said: “Ukraine today has become a significant contributor to global culture. There is a growing recognition of contemporary Ukrainian art, with the participation of its artists in prestigious forums such as the Venice Biennale and in the international art market at Art Basel and FIAC.

“Modern and contemporary art has a comparatively short history in Ukraine. During the era of socialist realism between 1938, when the Union of Artists in Ukraine was founded, until the 1990s and Ukraine’s independence, any conceptual shows or abstract art were considered hostile. Photography, video art and performance were not recognised as art forms and some ‘non-conformist’ artists and underground art groups from Odessa and Lviv were prosecuted by the state.”

He added: “Gradually during the 1980s, unofficial manifestations of art began to emerge across the country’s cities and towns and, by independence, artists were finally able to express themselves freely through their work.

“With this history of restriction and harassment, Ukrainian contemporary art has had to make a sizeable leap in a short period and has attracted an increasing amount of international interest.

“Its strong folk roots and traditions of national iconography are the basis for its new art findings and unique contemporary vision. Despite the active and insightful social role that art can play, its practice is still considered to be marginal in Ukraine; conservative attitudes continue and young artists are taught to work with traditional media rather than thinking in new ways. To break free from this approach many artists work independently, creating their own methods and showing their work themselves.”

Nigel Hurst, chief executive of the Saatchi, said: “Our role is to bring contemporary art to the widest possible audience and make it accessible, wherever it is being made. The ongoing support of the Firtash Foundation allows us to work towards this aim by helping us to provide a high profile platform to bring new Ukrainian art to the attention of our international visitors.”

He added: “Premonition: Ukrainian Art Now presents a wonderful opportunity to provide a showcase for this exciting group of artists who are exhibiting their work together for the first time.”


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Category: A Frontpage, Arts, Conflicts, Crimea, Culture, Russia, Ukraine

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