They experience the war directly. With all its horrors and cruelties. But they do not despair. They want to give courage, hope and confidence. “Darkness and Lights.” Which also means: “світло v Темрява” – light in the darkness.
In the exhibition seven Ukrainian artists show their positions. From works created before Putin’s army launched the large-scale attack on Ukraine, it is clear – as in the surrealist paintings of Aleksei Bordusov – that even then they sensed the looming threat. When Russia’s preparations for the invasion were largely ignored elsewhere in the world. Works that have been created since Putin has been waging war on Ukraine show suffering and fear, drastic and expressive like Maryana Luchi’s leno cuts, reminiscent of Käthe Kollwitz. In the mysterious positions of Anton Hudo and the dynamic paintings of Oleksandr Grebenyuk and Vova Keno we see revolt, pride, and resistance. We find unbowed will to survive, caring cohesion and tenderness in the scenes of Julia Tveritina, who opens for us sensitively designed illustrations from her war diary. Dzvinya Podlyashetska meets us head-on, with charged emotions, showing power, submission and rebellion, fear and anger – anger which helps to overcome fear, to free oneself. The images are direct, dramatic, brutal, sarcastic, and yet colorful-optimistic. About this she says: “For me it is important to see light in dark days, I always try to find it. That’s why I paint dark things with light colors.”
To create and experience art in moments of greatest need, to overcome adversity, has always been a drive for people. To do this, art must be authentic, personal view and individual expression, reflection of one’s own life situation. “I have to realize again and again: What is coming at me is not some unreal anxiety dream, but a real tragedy. It is taking place, on the threshold of my own house,” says Julia Tveritina.
But we see in the pictures again and again moments of empathetic togetherness, warm affection and communal care, unbowed confidence. Artistic design and at the same time a call. “Nevertheless, say yes to life” as Viktor Frankl, psychiatrist and concentration camp survivor, put it. He described suffering, however, he even more encouraged people to nurture hope in adversity for again a good life in the future. This is exactly what art can help with.
Art that nourishes and protects one’s own identity and integrity. Art as a source of mental strength. “Drawing is not a weapon for me, it’s what keeps me alive”. – Anatolii Belov, artist.
“To time its art / To art its freedom” The sentence adorns Vienna’s Secession in golden splendid letters and applies just as much to us today. No darkness lasts forever. At some point, light returns. “There will be a painting that shows our victory, for sure” – Vlada Ralko, artist.