Unfolding Landscapes 

Unfolding Landscapes: Homeless Ukranian Art on Tour

Unfolding Landscapes: Homeless Ukranian Art On Tour | Sergei Sviatchenko & Faye Dowling

Dear colleagues,

On the 29th of January the exhibition Unfolding Landscapes presenting major artworks by 42 Ukrainian artists opened at KunstCentret Silkeborg Bad, Silkeborg, Denmark. 

At that point no one could have imagined the situation the world would be facing just a few weeks later with the violent Russian attacks on Ukraine. As a result of this new war, millions of Ukrainian citizens have been forced to leave their homes. They are wandering the roads of Europe in order to find new places to settle—for the time being, or maybe for many years to come. 

Shortly after 1st May the exhibition, Unfolding Landscapes, is supposed to be shipped back to the respective lenders in Ukraine. However, given the present circumstances, many of the owners—artists and collectors—are unavailable, their homes are destroyed, they are hiding, fleeing or fighting, and hence the works cannot be returned for an unknown period. The exhibition is homeless, as are the thousands of Ukrainian refugees who will be inhabiting the cities of Europe during the next period of time. 

Art always reflects through the cleft lens of history, and therefore the exhibition that was conceived to represent a positive statement of hope for the future, current circumstances have completely shifted its immediate interpretations. Unfolding Landscapes was curated with the intention to explore Ukrainian culture through three different tracks:

1) Station to station—travelling through Ukrainian culture
2) Topography—abstractions and observations of changing landscapes, both natural and urban, and
3) Lost landscapes—studies of the old and the present landscapes of Ukraine. Now the inherent meaning of the exhibition themes and artworks therein have shifted dramatically. The blue and yellow colours are no longer symbolizing a culture full of potential and hope, but a culture under extreme pressure, a culture where hope is reduced each day that the war progresses. 

 + Unfolding Landscapes curated by Sergei Sviatchenko & Faye Dowling, 2022. Installation view.

We want to send this exhibition on a European tour as a statement that depicts Ukraine just moments before the collapse, and as an untouched capsule of Ukrainian culture seen through the lenses of influential Ukrainian artist of two generations, for the world to see and reflect upon. For the Ukrainians abroad and the immigrating hordes, the exhibition will define a space with a sense of home, a space to unite, meet, share, grieve, laugh, a place to remember and dream. 

 + NETRI (Slums / Suburbs) Taras Kovach, 2018. Installation view. etchings, flowerpot, glass and metal rod sticks. dimensions variable.

We will fundraise the transport of the exhibition to the first location and then the respective institution will fundraise the transport to the next venue and so on—until the war is over. The English texted exhibition catalogue can be printed in a larger quantity and will follow the exhibition on its journey. 

It is important to show that art also has a voice in war. Right now, we have the exceptional opportunity to share Ukrainian culture with the European population, and to create a space with a sense of home for the Ukrainians abroad and the Ukrainian refugees. 

Best from the touring team:
Sergei Sviatchenko (Artist, Exhibition Idea & Creative Director) 
Iben From (Exhibition Production, Director KunstCentret ǀ Art Center Silkeborg Bad) 
Christian Kortegaard Madsen (Art Advicer) 
Faye Dowling (Exhibition Curator, London) 
Igor Abramovych (Partner, Owner Abramovych Art, Kyiv) 

Review: Unfolding Landscapes | Charles Merewether
 + On Republic’s Monuments Yevgen Nikiforov, 2014-2021. C-Type photograph. 60 x 40 cm.

Review: Unfolding Landscapes

The country and people of Ukraine are in crisis. Unprovoked, they have been invaded by Russia and as result, thousands of innocent Ukrainian people have been wounded and killed or left homeless and displaced from their cities, towns and villages now destroyed. Until now, there is no end in sight, with the West and NATO unable to send troops in to support the Ukrainians who continue to defend themselves against a ruthless neighbor. This war has been going on since the Maidan Uprising (or Euromaidan) in Kiev and the Russian annexation of the Crimea in 2014. The Maidan uprising led a wave of protests and civil unrest across Ukraine, sparked by both the Ukrainian government's sudden decision not to sign the European Union-Ukrainian Association Agreement, and bowing to Russian pressure to reject it.

 + Volatility Zhanna Kadyrova, Helium-filled white balloons, nylon fishing line, plummet. Photograph of installation in Ukraine. dimensions variable.

Unfolding Landscapes, an exhibition of two generations of Ukrainian artists, opens in this context at the Kunstcentret | Art Center Silkeborg Bad in Denmark. The exhibition reminds us that Ukraine is a civilized country where culture and art are integral to its fabric and well-being. More than that it should remind us that Ukrainian art has been around a long time. Some of the most pre-eminent early modernists were Ukraine by birth. Many went to Moscow to study but returned home like Malevich. Some of the earliest modernist exhibitions were held in Ukraine or by Ukrainians, in 1908, an exhibition Zveno (The Link) opened in Kiev with a group of artists, including David Burliuk, Wladimir Burliuk, Aleksadra Ekster (Exter), Yevgeny Agafonov, Volodmyr Denisov and Oleksandr Bohomazov). Then, in 1914, Ekster, together with her fellow-Ukrainians, Vladimir Baranov-Rossiné, Malevich and the Burliuk brothers, exhibited at the Société des Artistes Indépendants in Paris and then, with Archipenko, in the Esposizione Libera Futurista Internazionale in Rome.

 + Portrait of a Glacier Ksenia Hnylytska, oil on canvas. 90 x 200cm.

The majority of artists included in Unfolding Landscapes were born in the 1980s, at a time of Chernobyl in 1986, Gorbachev and the Soviet collapse in 1991. They were active as artists at the time of Maidan, the majority having studied in Kiev but, were from all over Ukraine, including its major cities and villages. Two catalogue essays by the exhibition curator Faye Dowling and consultant and art historian Natalia Matsenko, introduce Unolding Landscapes. Dowling writes pointedly:

In Ukraine to be an artist is also to be an activist. Inherent in the practice of these artists is a unique paradigm of perception. An urge to protest and question space and its boundaries. A deep connection with the symbolic meanings of territory, of public and private space. And an innate understanding of the potential to change and evolve, to merge or to be reborn, and to flourish.

The exhibition includes 42 artists, who represent two generations working in painting, graphics, drawing, sculpture, installation and video. The work chosen is broad but offers insight into different movements and approaches. It includes artists who were founding members or members of important art groups and collectives. This includes the Kharkiv School of Photography that had begun as Vremya (Time), founded in 1971 by Boris Mikhailov, Evgeniy Pavlov and Yuri Rupin amongst others; or the REP (Revolutionary Experimental Space), notably Zhanna Kadyrova  and Ksenia Hnylytka (1984) and the multi-disciplinary collective Hudrada; or more recently, the New Wave movement that developed across Ukraine around 1990. The exhibition showcases powerful work, for example Oleksiy Sai, whose prints on paper and metal capture the destruction of the Eastern Ukraine, Yevgen Nikiforov whose work includes his series on the deconstruction of Communist monuments that were approved by the Ukrainian parliament in 2015; Tiberiy Silvashi, an austere post-conceptual artist or Vlada Ralko whose saturated palette creates an intensely expressive portrait of the Ukrainian landscape.

 + Sevastopol Oleksandr Hnylytskyi and Oleg Holosiv, oil on canvas, panorama (5 pieces). Installation view. 138 x 185 cm each.

Of course, the group of artists selected for this exhibition far from includes all of the most distinguished or significant contemporary artists now working in the Ukraine, but it gives us a rich glimpse of its breadth and strength as much as its ongoing value today.

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