Sergei Supinsky. Video by Ihor Schvydchenko, Sergiy Volsky
Zhanna Kadyrova, an artist from Ukraine, felt that her work was worthless when Russia invaded Ukraine.
“What can your art do to stop a tank?” She said nothing, as she sat in her Kyiv art studio.
She changed her decision after galleries from around the globe bought up her works inspired by war and raised funds for civilians as well as soldiers.
The war in Ukraine has generated a great deal of interest and artists today are exploring ways to bring attention to the horrors that the country is facing as well as its future.
Kadyrova noticed large stones polished by the river, which resembled Ukrainian bread loaves.
She sliced and shaped the wheat and placed it on a table, creating an installation she named Palianytsia.
Numerous jokey memes have been created around the name of this loaf. Non-Ukrainians find it difficult to pronounce and this is a way to identify Russian spies.
“This project was conceived in less than a second and exceeded my expectations. I’ve had around 40 exhibitions. Kadyrova: “I just came back from India. I have been to Thailand, Taiwan and America.
“And of course, my disappointment in the art world disappeared after that.”
She spoke openly about the financial benefit, too. She has used money to support artists and soldiers, and she has travelled to frontline zones to distribute aid.
She said: “I’ve never been able to make so much money before.”
We spend all the money that we receive from Palianytsia to the army.
In a Kyiv gallery, she is displaying her “Anxiety Series” — tapestries that depict kitsch cats and flowers. She over-embroiders them with air raid warnings.
The tapestries portray “the opposite of warfare”, she said.
“When I add to this the inscription, ‘Air Alert’, I get an interesting contrast. This is the reality.”
Outside the National Opera of Ukraine (in central Kyiv), an image of a ballet dancer printed on bullet casings plays with similar juxtapositions.
Visitors take selfies in front of the “Unbroken Project”, an installation.
Nadiya said that it was important to remind the public of the ongoing war.
The work was created by Felipe Jacome of Ecuador, who used an UV printer to transfer the image of his Ukrainian collaborator Svitlana Onikko, a 26-year-old ballerina currently based in Holland.
Onipko was dancing at the National Opera of Ukraine when war broke out.
Jacome stated that the photographers sold smaller versions of their photos to raise money for orphans, war supplies and front line equipment. They have raised “over $50” Jacome.
He watched a couple of men in their mid-twenties pose before the piece, one of them holding a cigarette.
He stated that the message was immediately understood.
He said the artists wanted their work to be displayed “in different locations in Europe and the United States…to further shed light on Ukraine’s situation”.
Maksym Khodak, a 21-year old Kyiv resident, was part of a group show in the PinchukArtCentre Gallery.
The video artist convinced two TikTok bloggers who are prolific to accompany him to Kharkiv, a war-torn city in eastern Ukraine.
They spent a couple of days there, in October. There was constant shelling, and the electricity and internet were intermittent.
Roman and Viktoriya were bloggers who came from the west of Ukraine. They had never seen such intense fighting.
You’re not cool. Roman said, “As you lie in bed, you start to get paranoid and think that there will be shelling soon.”
Three screens display the video created using the TikTok application.
The memes are constantly being streamed, including the ex-British Prime Minister Boris Johnson dancing to a lightsaber or games that shoot Russian “orcs”.
The group stayed in an old building, which was home to avant-garde Soviet authors and artists who experimented in utopian thinking and were eventually killed during Stalinist repressions.
The building was bombed in March of last year.
Khodak stated, “I started thinking about what the new language of politics can be — basically to speak to my generation.”
He encouraged twenty-something bloggers, to speak in their own words about the future Ukraine.
Viktoriya called Ukraine’s co-dependence with Russia “toxic”, while Roman compared it to “a toxic old ex” who was “triggering you”.
“We do not want to go back to the old days,” he declared.