Ukraine House, Washington, D.C.
Lviv based Iconart Gallery approached several leading Ukrainian contemporary icon painters to create works for an auction “Icon saves lives – Ukraine” with raised funds to be donated to "Завжди Україна" (“Always Ukraine”) Charitable Foundation https://www.facebook.com/zavzhdyua. This project was realized by Ukraine House together with Artfira Gallery through an online art auction view auction results here and exhibition that was held at Ukraine House during February 2 - February 24, 2023.
Presented were contemporary icons created by 20 artists on boards that were removed from ammunition crates – real ammunition crates from real war that is going on now in Ukraine. These icons not only reflect on emotions of an individual witnessing the war but also represent the faith, hope and strength to overcome this calamity as a group – one unified Ukrainian nation.
The following artists have created and donated (100% donated to the cause) the icons: Lyuba Yatskiv, Uliana Krekhovets, Kateryna Kuziv, Yaroslava Tkachuk, Olya Kravchenko, Natalya Rusetska, Hlafira Shcherbak, Oksana Andrushchenko, Iryna Solonynka, Tetyana Skoromna, Ivan Dashko, Taras Keb, Roman Barabakh, Lidiya Yakobchuk, Khrystyna Kvyk, Alina Hrubets, Olga Kovtun, Andriy Kovalenko, Vlodko Kaufman, Sergiy Radkevych.
The artists explained what inspired them to create and donate the icons:
“With my work I wanted to help our army who is fighting for our victory. The board I used to paint my icon I reclaimed from an ammunition crate. It has a different aesthetics now but still the same function – help Ukrainian army win this war.”
“I really liked the concept of painting an icon on a board from ammunition crate. War is now present in life of every Ukrainian. Our faith can help transform something terrible into beautiful. This horrible war covered our lives with complete darkness yet this war also showed how much inner light is present in every person, how strong and unified we are. Unity with God, at this moment, is perceived completely different as at the peaceful times. Therefore, I painted the hand of Christ in a military uniform. He is not somewhere far. He is near. He is not leaving us. He is among us.”
“The main artefact in my work is the board that carries the vibes of a war and is its witness. The icon is a mere illustration of how a human being feels during the war. We are being protected by our ground forces and the heavenly forces.”
“When I had to leave Ukraine, it took me a while to grasp the reality. I felt like I was short of breath. When an opportunity came for me to start creating, I was painting flowers. It calms me down when I paint the flowers. During this process I realized that I feel like a flower deprived of soil, a flower that was pulled along with its roots from the Earth. This inspired the image of a flower with bare roots, image of our strength. No matter what we are alive and seek the light. Red circle in my work represents the sun and believe in our victory.”
“For me the board is the Christ. It is derives from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, a symbol of antagonism between God and Satan. We all have a choice which side to choose. I believe that truth always wins. Yet the price we pay is enormous. We remember suffering of Christ to save our souls.”
“On February 24 my icons, my pleasant images of God went to a training on how to defend our country. I have been creating sketches of war on a daily basis ever since. These sketches do not represent fine art, excellent drawing technique or style. This is my loud voice to the whole World, my message, my communication, my emotion expressed on paper with very basic tools – markers, pens and pencils. This is my contemplation on this absurd picture on how a dictator who is ruling miserable people wants to overtake territories of a free nation. The only choice we have is to pray to God and believe in our victory. My sketches transform folk icon into surreal reality of our time. In my subjects I combine images of saints from icons with everyday heroes who live among us – Ukrainians, who fight for our freedom. I often refer to children-angels with wings, which symbolizes souls of children who were killed during this war.”
“When I painted on an ammunition board that was brought from war, I felt almost like touching this other horrible reality. On verso I painted suffering and death. On recto I contemplated on a phrase: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.” I painted the cemetery with crosses on graves of soldiers who died defending our country. They sacrificed their lives for our life.”
“On my icon I painted the World as a paradise and a wild animal who attacks it. Metaphorically, this symbolizes our everyday life when everyone is trying to preserve and defend the most precious – our own paradise.”
“I was born and grew up in Kazakhstan. My grandfather had to leave Ukraine in 1941. I visited Ukraine for the first time in 1999 and Lviv – in 2008. I finally felt as if I am home. The feeling that my culture, traditions, relatives were stolen from me - disappeared. From the moment I took the board in my hands, I knew I would paint the Protection of the Mother of God icon. I imagined that the Mother of God will close our sky from Russian bombs. The cross on my icon resembles the cross on armory vehicles of Ukrainian army.”