French writer Jean-Paul Sartre once said, (the day) is given to us at dawn and taken away from us at
Based on Santre’s poignant undertone, the day may seem fleeting, but for those in dire living situations, a day given is a day of hope, resilience and strength. For the people of Ukraine, the rise of the pandemic becomes minor in comparison to their battle of life and war.
Many of us in safe environments may not ever experience the brutality of war, however, two Contemporary Ukrainian artists, Artem Volokitin and Maria Kulikovska, decide to invite us into their fragmented reality. With two distinct artistic approach, each is able to convey their displacement by the ongoing war. The artists narrate a familiar reality to them, yet distant for the rest of the world, for people an ocean away.
In a duo exhibition Resilience: Voices of Ukraine, artist Artem Volokitin, born in 1981 in Chuhuiv, northeast of Ukraine, introduces his ongoing series Multiple Refraction, which is filled with strong echoes and stylisation of Baroque art. With an academic background from Kharkiv State Academy of Design and Arts, Volokitin extracts the beauty, grandeur and contrast of Baroque style in his creations. Like the intensity and drama in the pinnacle of the Baroque period, similar tension followed the artist as he escaped to Germany with his family during the early days of the Ukrainian war. Cloud motif fills the surface, as if mirroring the reality of explosions, chaos and confusions of Ukrainian streets and houses. Across Multiple Refractions’, these close-up compositions of ‘landscape-paintings’ narrate the journey of warfare. In MULTIPLE REFRACTION, MULTIPLE REFRACTION 2 and MULTIPLE REFRACTION 3, darkness and ominous shades fills the dense clouds. Paired with light surrounding the clouds, the dramatic energy can be compared to classic Baroque paintings, such as Judith Beheading Holofernes by Caravaggio, and Bernini’s The Ecstasy of St. Teresa. Surrounding the clouds are intense light, perceived as streams of reflections that bounces across multiple surfaces.
Accompanied by the streaks of shadow, the stream of light can be referred to biblical references of hope and holiness, as well as contemporary reading of explosions by bombs and warfare in general.
As the dust settled, MULTIPLE REFRACTION 8 introduces a space of breathable air. The darkness of the clouds gradually subsided, with a gradient of gentle light penetrating the clouds and the sky; a symbol of a postwar country.
With each brushwork layered onto the canvas, each taking 3-6 months to complete, the artwork as a complete work of art can be noted as a griefing journal, a documentation of Volokitin piecing back fragments of his loss, the broken joy and peacefulness. Meanwhile, the completion of each work also entails another chance and another day of life, as an ordinary citizen and as an artist.
The other voice of Ukraine comes from Ukrainian artist Maria Kulikovska. Born in 1988, Kerch, Kulikovska works with paint and sculptures to explore themes of femininity, identity, corporeality and migration and fragility of life. GREEN FIGURE, a main feature of the exhibition is a replica sculpture of herself. Using epoxy resin, the artist found a sustainable way to record the changes to her body, as both a mother and an artist. Throughout her career, the artist migrated to multiple places, including Kyiv, Donetsk, Malmo, Liverpool, London, Munich and Stockholm in exile. The artist currently lives and works in Helsinki through the HIAP residency program. As a response to the ongoing instability, the artist began the 888 series, a collection of works on architectural paper that signifies her identity of being born in 1988, and her geographical notion of home.
As a double immigrant in exile, the artist highly values her role and impact as a feminist artist. Kulikovska wishes for a civilised conversation, and in response, curated and painted a set of tableware for the exhibition. The concept of dinnerware in an exhibition derived from her earlier exhibition My Body is a Battlefield in Austria 2022 at the Francisco Carolinum Museum in Linz. Indeed, this intimate presentation can also be recalled to Judy Chicago’s infamous installation The Dinner Party (1974-1979).
As duo exhibitors, both Maria Kulikovska and Artem Volokitin continues to express and maintain their resilience as Ukrainian artists and citizens. While the seemingly strong and earthly materials such as brick and stones may fall and collapse under the attack of war, their determination and strength to voice their rights and identity would rise and remain powerful amongst the smoke of chaos, until the dust settles.
RESILIENCE: VOICES OF UKRAINE
2023.3.16 – 4.22
DOUBLE Q GALLERY
68 Lok Ku Road, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong
About the writer
Jasmine is a freelance contributing writer for HK Artion. As an experienced fine art specialist, she has extensive working experience with blue chip gallery, auction houses and private institution in the APAC region. With a B.A in Art History from The University of British Columbia, she also takes on freelance bilingual translation and photography services, while building her own ceramics business Yan Tin Ceramics (ig: yantin_ceramics).